Welcoming kittens at home? Here’s a guide

Bringing home a kitten can be an exciting yet daunting task. Whether you are an experienced pet parent or a novice, it is always best to go for research to know the basics of kitten care. Here are some fundamental steps...
Let your kitten be alone
The best way to care for your cat and develop a happy and harmonious relationship is to allow the cat to express her natural behaviours and instincts. Allow your cat to spend time alone if she chooses. Cats like enclosed areas, cardboard boxes or commercially-available cat beds, where they can rest and retreat to. Play is particularly important for young kittens. It assists in teaching both social and hunting skills that will be necessary in adult life. Allow your cat to hunt its ‘prey’. It does not have to be a real life bird or a mouse, it can be exchanged for a commercially available cat toy.

Growing up is energetic business
Kittens grow very quickly, so their appetite and need for food increases, too. Make sure that you increase the amount of food accordingly. Growing up is very energetic business and the young kitten needs up to four times as many calories per kg of bodyweight compared to an adult cat! On the other hand, the kitten’s stomach is much smaller than that of a grown-up cat (initially not larger than a human’s thumb nail!). Kittens should be offered as much food as they can eat, and food and fresh water should be available at all times. A good rule of thumb is to leave the food out for 20 to 30 minutes and then to dispose of the uneaten portion at the end of this time.

Male kittens grow faster
Generally kittens gain 100 gm per week. Neonatal kittens should gain 10-15 gm daily on an average. By 6 months, most kittens reach 75% of adult weight. Male kittens grow faster than females, for eg., by 6 and 20 weeks old, males are 7% and 21% heavier than females, respectively. Feeding your kitten isn’t as simple as it seems. The simplest way to ensure your cat is properly fed is to buy branded food formulated for kittens. By the age of 12 months, your kitten can be gradually introduced to a food designed for adult cats. Make sure the kitten has her own feeding and water bowls and they are kept clean, and separate from the family’s dishes. Fresh water should always be available.

Find a good vet
Regular visit to the vet is a must at least for the first few months of a kitten’s life to complete vaccination, deworming, fleas control and other preventive care.

Be sociable
If you choose to give your cat access to the outside world, it is wise to ensure that she has had 2 or 3 weeks to get used to her new environment. Kittens should not be permitted to come into contact with strange cats until they have completed their course of vaccinations.
Grooming your cat offers you an excellent opportunity to check her skin for lumps, rashes, discharges or any other signs that your cat is not well. If your cat is dirty, you may use a clean, damp cloth to wipe her down. Wet the cloth with warm water only; don’t use any soaps.
You can expect your cat to live between 10 and 15 years, or even much longer, provided you can avoid accidents and disease.
The writer is a well-known vet

Gear up on your training tricks
Communication via scratching is very important to cats. Scratching also leaves a visual message at the same time, and helps to keep the cat’s claws nicely sharpened. Providing a scratching post is the best way to avoid having your favourite piece of furniture ruined. A variety of scratching posts (soft, hard, etc.) can be purchased.
Cats are naturally clean animals, for them litter tray training is usually a relatively simple procedure. Kittens should start to use a litter tray as soon as possible. Ideally, the day that you bring your new kitten or cat home, you should make her aware of the location of the litter tray. The tray should be kept in a quiet place but not near the cat’s feeding bowls, since cats do not like to soil the area near their food. It is best to provide a plastic litter tray which suits kittens.

Did you know?
1. Ailurophobia is the fear of cats. Julius Caesar, Henry II, Charles XI and Napoleon all suffered from this and would nearly faint in the presence of a cat
2. The penalty for killing a cat, 4,000 years ago in Egypt, was death
3. A group of kittens is called a kindle
4. Abraham Lincoln loved cats. He had four of them while he lived in the White House. Lincoln’s cat, Tabby, was the first of several White House cats
5. Cats are the only domestic animals that walk directly on their claws, not on their paws (Source: petcarefoundation.org)

By: Dr Umesh Kallahalli

Are you a proud pet parent? Have a cute cat story to share? Maybe your guinea pig is giving you trouble? Whatever is your creature companion, we are here to listen to you. Send your photos, queries and stories to [email protected]