Kittens are not hard to look after but they do have some special requirements.
What do I feed a kitten?
Kittens usually start eating solid food at around 4 weeks of age but still suckle on their mother. Ready made cat foods that can be bought in the supermarket usually contain a balanced diet for your cat or kitten. There are many brands to choose from and many manufacturers make specific kitten food. Cat food can be bought in cans, rolls, packets etc. Choosing premium brands is not always necessary but you can be assured of total cat nutrition if you stick to the big name brands. Check the packaging for wording such as ‘Total nutritional requirements for cats and kittens’.
Supplement your kitten’s diet with chopped or minced fresh meat, fish or chicken but remember fresh meat or fish alone does not supply your kitten with all the nutrients it needs.
Give you kitten a variety of foods changing what you give him regularly. Kittens can become very bored with same food day in day out and they may refuse to eat. It also helps guard against raising a fussy eater!
Throw away uneaten food. Don’t put it back in the fridge to give the kitten later as it could be contaminated by bacteria.
Don’t feed your kitten dog food as the nutritional requirements of dogs and cats are very different. For further information read this article: Cats are different
Kittens can begin eating dry cat food from an early age and most find it quite enjoyable. There are supermarket brands and there are brands that are only available from your vet or pet food store.
Supermarket Brands are fine to feed to your kitten. Most usually contain total required nutrition.
The brands that are available from the vets are premium brands such as Hills and Eukanuba which are scientifically formulated to meet recommendations of veterinarians and nutritionists.
I recommend that Dry food is available to kittens (and adult cats) at all times regardless of any other feeding. A bowl of dry food will allow your kitten to be able to ‘snack’ whenever it feels hungry.
Your kitten needs fresh water available at all times. Try not to use plastic bowls as they tip over easily. A heavy china, pottery or porcelain dish is preferable.
Should I give my kitten milk?
Do not give cats or kittens cow’s milk as many kittens are lactose intolerant and it can cause tummy upsets and severe diarrhea. Specially formulated milk for cats and kittens is available from your supermarket. You certainly don’t want your kitten to have diarrhea when you are trying to house train it.
More details: Should a kitten drink milk
How often do I feed a new kitten?
Young kittens are like babies, they need to be fed several times a day. Kittens younger than 6 weeks ideally should still be with their mother.
As a rule of thumb kittens aged between 6 weeks and 12 weeks need four or more meals a day. Their stomachs are very small and they can’t eat a lot at a time. At about 12 weeks they should be fed three times a day and by the time they reach 6 months they can then go on to twice daily feeding.
Of course the frequency of feeding depends on many factors including the lifestyle of the owner. A working owner will not be able to feed the kitten at such regular intervals as a stay at home carer and it is not always possible to leave food out for a kitten for a variety of reasons. One reason could be because of climate.
In hot or tropical areas it’s not possible to leave moist cat food out all day as it will spoil and attract flies. Ants are also a problem in some areas. Another reason could be that there may be other pets who will eat the food that was left out for the kitten.
For the owner who is not at home all day there are solutions to work around these problems such as leaving dry food out on a permanent basis so the kitten can ‘graze’ as he wishes throughout the day. Wet food can also be left frozen in hot climates so it will be thawed out later.
If a pet dog is likely to gobble the kitty food a solution could be to put the food in a room such as bathroom or laundry with a baby gate across. The kitten can get through the gate but the dog cannot.
Where will my kitten sleep?
You must provide your kitten with warmth. This is especially important in cold climates. Your kitten is used to snuggling up to his mother and litter mates for comfort and warmth. There are many different cat beds available in all forms and sizes and in a huge range of prices. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a bed as your kitten will be perfectly happy in a cardboard box lined with a blanket, baby quilt or lambs wool cover. The important thing is that he has a warm place to sleep and cuddle up in. If the weather is really cold put a hot water bottle under his blanket. Try to make your kitten’s bed snug. Cats and kittens love to curl up in snug areas.
Kittens are heat seekers and you are a good source of heat for them. That is why they love to curl up on your lap and they will seek you out in your bed not only for company but for warmth. If you don’t want your cat sleeping in your bed for the rest of it’s life it is best to let your kitten know what you expect from him from the beginning. Put his bed in a quiet place away from busy areas and encourage him to sleep there and close your bedroom door when you go to bed.
On the other hand you may like your kitten to sleep with you and that’s OK as long as you realise that he will probably share your bed for life. Cats are well known for their bed hogging abilities. They can have you clinging to the outer edge of your bed while they are comfortably sprawled out, full length occupying nine tenths of it. With a cat sharing your bed you may have no need for an alarm clock as they will diligently take over the responsibility of waking you in the morning with a friendly purr in your ear or a pat of a paw to your face. Of course, like all cats, they have their own best interests at heart and by waking you they hope to secure an early breakfast.
How long does a Kitten Sleep?
Kittens can sleep between 15 to 18 hours a day!
Should I get one kitten or two?
Burmese KittenA kitten is a great pet and a wonderful source of endless companionship and entertainment for his owners. Two kittens double the pleasure of kitten ownership. They will romp and play together supplying you with hours of entertainment. It also takes the pressure off you having to keep up with their sometimes demanding constant playtime. When they are tired they will curl up and sleep together. If you work full time having two kittens keeping each other company can alleviate some of the guilt you feel by leaving them alone at home all day. Having two kittens also solves bedtime problems if you don’t want to share your bed with them. They are more likely to be happy to snuggle up together in their own bed rather than yours. Kittens brought up together usually form a lifelong bond and as adults will enjoy each other’s company.
Having said how wonderful it is to own two kittens it is just as acceptable to own just one. Your kitten will bond with you and offer you a life time of pleasure. Cats are solitary creatures by nature and do not crave companionship of other cats. In fact it can be very difficult to introduce a new kitten into a household where an existing cat has already established itself.
Introducing new kittens to other cats
Litter Box Training. How to house train your kitten
Teaching your kitten to use a litter box is not difficult. Cats are instinctively clean and fastidious and toilet training your kitten to use a kitty litter box or to toilet outside is relatively simple. There are a few basic requirements such as a litter box and some kitty litter and a little time and patience.
Read more about how to house train your kitten
Read more about how to clean cat urine
Kittens and Rough Play
Kittens play aggressively because that’s what comes naturally to them. Many people get a kitten believing that they are sweet cuddly little pets but be aware they have their moments. Kittens can be all teeth and claws! You have to remember that kittens have an instinct to play rough. It is part of a normal kitten’s development to play aggressively because they are learning the predatory skills that a cat in the wild would need to know for survival. On a reassuring note, most kittens grow out of the aggressive stage and grow into adorable, sweet natured cats who would never dream of biting or scratching you.
Read more about aggressive kittens who bite and scratch
A kitten needs a scratching post
One thing is absolutely certain. You will never stop a cat from scratching but you can divert his claws from your sofa, furnishings or carpet to something more appropriate. It is relatively easy to stop your cat scratching your furniture.
Read more about how to stop your kitten scratching the furniture
Unless properly vaccinated, your cat runs the risk of contracting one of several, possibly fatal, infectious diseases. These include Infectious Enteritis (Panleucopenia), Leukaemia and ‘Cat Flu’ (Infectious Respiratory Disease).
Read more about Cat Flu
The vaccination regime can vary in different countries so ask your vet about the right schedule for your kitten.
Parasites – Worms and Fleas
You need to keep your kitten free from worms and fleas. Fleas can make your pet very uncomfortable and a heavy infestation of fleas can kill a small kitten. Parasitic worms such as tapeworm, roundworm and hookworms can make your kitten ill with symptoms such as weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, poor coat condition and a pot bellied appearance.
How often do I de-worm my kitten?
Usually you will need to treat kittens three times at 2 weeks apart and then every two months till they are 6 months old. From then on, worm every three to six months. Ask at your vets for suitable worming medication. Usually a consultation isn’t necessary and they will sell worming medicine to you over the counter. Worming medicine comes in paste, top spot or tablet form.
Read more on de-worming a kitten or cat
Read more about how to give a cat a pill
Problems with fleas
Fleas can be a problem in especially in warm humid areas. As soon as you bring your kitten home you should deal with any fleas that he may have. If you don’t address the issue immediately you could soon have a flea infestation on your pets and in your house.
Read more on how to kill fleas on very young kittens
Read more on how to get rid of fleas on your pets and in your house.
Toys for your kitten
Cats are very playful animals. Kittens spend most of their waking hours playing and an adult cat of any age will still enjoy a silly moment or two and will enjoy playing with cat toys. There are many cat toys on the market but you needn’t spend a lot of money as kittens love playing with homemade toys just as much.
Read more about Cat toys to make and buy
Grooming your kitten
Shorthair kittens require little more than a once a week brushing. Use a brush with soft bristles that will not harm the kitten’s skin. Use soft gentle strokes and make it enjoyable for the kitten. Longhair cats require a daily combing to avoid matting of the fur. For this, use a comb with wide-teeth that is specially designed for cats. Brushing your cat’s fur on a regular basis will help keep their coat shiny and healthy, and will also give the owner and the pet some bonding time together
Cats can develop hairballs. While an occasional hairball is no cause for alarm, if your cat is vomiting up a hairball more than once or twice a month, it’s time to think about a plan of action.
Read more about Cats coughing up hairballs
Neutering and Spaying
It is strongly recommended that you have your kitten neutered or spayed. Un-castrated male cats will roam, get in fights and spray pungent smelling urine around the place. They are prone to injuries and abscesses from cat fights incurring veterinary expenses for you.
Read more about Cats spraying urine
Female cats can come into season as early as four months of age. Female cats that have not been spayed come into heat every few weeks. When they are in heat they can be very noisy and try to escape at every opportunity. They are at risk of picking up serious life threatening infectious diseases from mating with unknown cats.
Read more about a Female Cat in Heat
Spaying or neutering your cat will take it’s mind off reproducing and make it a far better, affectionate pet for you.
With all the unwanted cats and kittens that are euthanized in the world today there is no need to bring more of them into the world. Be responsible.
Male cats are usually castrated at six months of age and females can be spayed at four months. Some vets neuter or spay kittens at a much younger age.
Love your kitten
Love your kitten and and treat it well. Give it plenty of kindness and affection and you will be rewarded with a loyal companion for many years to come.