Raising a Kitten

Welcoming a kitten into your family is exciting! We are here to help ensure they are happy and healthy and ready to live a well adjusted life.

APPOINTMENT
Kittens bring so much joy…they’re playful, adorable bundles of fluff. They’re also constantly learning and exploring the world around them. So, kittenhood is a great time to help your new furry friend develop good habits for adulthood.
Below we’ll discuss what to do to prepare for a new kitten and how best to welcome them into your home.

When Can Kittens Be Adopted?

In the first few weeks of life, newborn kittens are dependent on their mother. They’re born with their eyes closed, and they spend most of their time crawling, sleeping, and nursing with their littermates. Kittens’ eyes open by 1-2 weeks of age. They start learning to walk at about 2 weeks and start playing by 4 weeks. By 8 weeks, kittens are old enough to be separated from the mother cat and adopted. Though adoption commonly occurs between 10 to 12 weeks of age.

Preparing for Your Kitten’s Arrival

Before your new family member comes home, it’s important to get the right supplies for them, including:

  1. Kitten food.
  2. Food and water bowls. If bringing in more than one kitten make sure to have 2 food and water bowls in different places.
  3. A litter box with 1-2 inches of cat litter. If bringing in more than one kitten make sure to have at least 2 litter boxes.
  4. A bed or soft blanket for sleeping.
  5. A scratching post.
  6. A safe spot or hiding place (such as a cat tower, a carrier with the door left open, or under the bed).

It’s also good to have cat toys on hand. Just be sure to supervise your kitty’s use of string toys or any toys with small pieces that could be swallowed. Additionally, make sure to kitten-proof your home by putting electric cords, plants, medications, and other items out of your kitty’s reach.

Bringing a Kitten Home: The First Night

Your new kitten is going to settle into your home and appreciate the food, shelter, and friendship you provide, but it may take some time. When you first bring your new buddy home, they may act a little shy. Don’t worry…this is totally normal. There’s a lot for them to take in, including all sorts of new sights, sounds, and smells. This can be intimidating and overwhelming for a tiny kitten.

Give your kitten some space, and allow them to hide if they want to. Most cats prefer to explore new surroundings in private and to have a safe spot to hide. So, start by keeping your kitten in one small room with all of their supplies, including fresh water, and no other pets or children. Then, allow them to explore one new room at a time. We recommend adding a Feliway Pheromone Diffuser to your home, at least in the area the kitten will spend the most time. Multiple diffusers can be placed around the house.

As long as your kitten is healthy and eating normally, there’s no need to rush into things…let them come to you for attention when they’re ready. Once your kitten has explored their new home and feels comfortable, you’ll start to see their true personality come out. They’ll start to play, explore, and seek cuddle time with you, and before you know it, they’ll be your new best friend!

Bringing a Kitten Home: The First Night

Your new kitten is going to settle into your home and appreciate the food, shelter, and friendship you provide, but it may take some time. When you first bring your new buddy home, they may act a little shy. Don’t worry…this is totally normal. There’s a lot for them to take in, including all sorts of new sights, sounds, and smells. This can be intimidating and overwhelming for a tiny kitten.

Give your kitten some space, and allow them to hide if they want to. Most cats prefer to explore new surroundings in private and to have a safe spot to hide. So, start by keeping your kitten in one small room with all of their supplies, including fresh water, and no other pets or children. Then, allow them to explore one new room at a time. We recommend adding a Feliway Pheromone Diffuser to your home, at least in the area the kitten will spend the most time. Multiple diffusers can be placed around the house.

As long as your kitten is healthy and eating normally, there’s no need to rush into things…let them come to you for attention when they’re ready. Once your kitten has explored their new home and feels comfortable, you’ll start to see their true personality come out. They’ll start to play, explore, and seek cuddle time with you, and before you know it, they’ll be your new best friend!

Tips for Raising Kittens: Settling In, Training, and Health Care

During the first few weeks and months, there are some important things you need to do for your kitty.

Veterinary Care

Growing kittens need vet visits every 3-4 weeks until they’re at least 16 weeks old. At these checkups, your kitty will receive vaccine boosters and parasite prevention. Click the link here to see the vaccine schedule that we use for kittens based on age.

If your kitten gets ill or if your vet has other recommendations for your individual pet, you may need additional visits, but this schedule works for most kittens.

Litter Box Training

Fortunately, potty training is pretty easy for cats. It’s instinctual, so chances are good your kitty will use the box without any training at all. If you do run into any trouble, be sure the box is convenient for your kitten to find and step into, and try placing your kitten directly in the box after meals.

Introduction to Other Cats

If you have other cats in the home, it’s best to separate them from your new kitten initially. Once your kitten has had their first vet visit and been tested for leukemia, introduce your cats slowly. Let them sniff one another on either side of a closed door for a few days before letting them interact together directly. At first face to face interaction have food bowls set up on either side of a room and let them start by eating some yummy food.

Petting & Handling Your Kitten

Once your kitten is comfortable in their new home, try to pet them, pick them up, snuggle with them, and touch their paws and ears often. This human contact will make your kitten more comfortable with being handled and will make things like nail trims easier both at home and at the vet.

Socialization

Socialization means introducing your kitten to new experiences. Introducing them to new experiences early in their life will help them grow into a well-adjusted adult cat. They’ll be less stressed or fearful when faced with a new situation.

To socialize your kitten, introduce them to new sounds like music, objects like cardboard boxes, or situations like short car rides. Offer treats or extra attention and praise for anything that might be new and scary to help them see it as a pleasant experience.

Kitten Development: The First Year

Kittens grow quickly in their first 6 months of life. Growing kittens under 6 months of age will weigh approximately their age in months. So, a 2-month-old kitten should weigh approximately 2 pounds, a 3-month-old kitten should average 3 pounds, and so on. Then, they continue to grow at a slower pace, reaching their adult size between 9 to 12 months of age. While growing, kittens should receive kitten food rather than adult food…it contains extra protein and is designed to nurture healthy development. Your vet will let you know when to switch to adult cat food. Often, this will be around 9-12 months.

Your kitten’s growth may be affected by many factors, including genetics, nutrition, parasites, illnesses, surgeries, and other variables.

So, how do you ensure your kitten is growing at a healthy rate? Try these tips:

  1. Feed your pet kitten food, not adult food, since kittens and adult cats have different nutritional needs.
  2. Use the feeding guidelines on your kitten food packaging as a starting point for how much to feed and adjust over time as your kitten grows (and adjust again as their growth slows down).
  3. Feed several small meals per day, rather than one big meal.
  4. Don’t add supplements or vitamins unless specifically instructed to do so by your vet. It’s possible to have “too much of a good thing,” and excesses of certain nutrients can cause health problems.
  5. Monitor your kitty. Their weight and body condition will be checked at each kitten visit, and you can always call your vet’s office with questions between appointments.

What if my kitten is losing weight?

It’s always best to err on the side of caution and talk to your vet…especially if an underweight kitten also has symptoms of illness.

Kittens are still growing, meaning their immune systems are not fully developed and they’re much more susceptible than adults to parasites, viruses, and other infections (this is why it’s important to vaccinate your cat). Plus, they can become ill very quickly so it’s best to check with your vet ASAP.

Can kittens be overweight?

Yes, this is possible. Common causes include overfeeding, overindulgence in treats or table scraps, a sedentary lifestyle, or changes in weight after a spay or neuter surgery. Being overweight as a youngster often translates to obesity in adulthood, and all of the associated health risks like arthritis, diabetes, or heart and lung conditions. If you feel your kitten may be overweight, don’t restrict their food right away. Instead, talk to your vet about the best weight management plan for your fur baby, and schedule frequent weight check-ins.

Now that you know the basics of properly nurturing your kitten’s growth, you can help your kitten grow into a happy, healthy cat.

Can you tell how big a kitten will get?

Unlike dogs that can vary in size from Chihuahuas to Great Danes, cats don’t have huge variations in size between breeds. Still, though, there is some variation. Some cats can be more than twice as big as others, depending on their genetics and other factors. An average adult cat weighs 10 pounds, but some petite cats can weigh closer to 5 or 6 pounds and other equally as healthy cats can tip the scales at over 25 pounds. Get to know what’s normal for your unique pet. That way you’ll notice if your cat is gaining or losing weight.

Sexual Maturity and Spay/Neuter

Kittens can reproduce as early as 4 to 6 months of age.

As they reach sexual maturity, kittens may also demonstrate hormonally-driven behaviors, such as spraying, yowling (for females in heat), or trying to escape the home to find a mate. For all these reasons, most vets recommend spaying for female cats or neutering for male cats at 6 months of age. This procedure prevents breeding and undesirable hormonal behaviors, and even decreases the risks of certain health problems.

Enjoy Your Time Together!

Kittenhood is a really fun time, but it will go by fast. Be sure to spend quality time with your new family member and enjoy your new friendship. Your bond will strengthen with each day.