Kitten Care for a Healthy Start

Deciding you want to bring a kitten home to share in your life is a wonderful and exciting thing to do. You would likely give some careful consideration before inviting a complete stranger to come and live in your home for possibly the next 16 years; so you should spend some time thinking about what you want in your new cat. 

Selecting Your Kitten

The first few months of a kitten’s life will have a great impact on their future personality.  Likely you will want a cat that enjoys human company and wants to spend time with you. A kitten that has been handled by humans, met other pets, and been exposed to the sights, sounds and smells of a busy home before 8 weeks of age will shape them to accept these things as a normal part of life. Feral or stray kittens will never regain this time to learn about human affection, they will remain frightened of the unknown, no matter how much love you show them in subsequent years. 

The Right Time to Bring Your Kitten Home

Most kittens are rehomed between 9 and 12 weeks of age, earlier than this is not recommended. Where possible it is best to see the litter with their mother in the environment where they have started their young lives. If you can meet the mother cat, and if possible the father, then you may glimpse the future temperament of your kitten. A friendly mother will show her kittens how to be relaxed around humans, as well as passing on aspects of her personality in her genetics.  Handle your kitten to see how they respond to human contact, this will let you know how well they have been socialised. 

How To Choose A Healthy Kitten

A new kitten requires a considerable investment of time, money and love, therefore it is best to be selective over which kitten you choose. It is easy to allow sympathy for the scrawny timid kitten to sway you, but consider this may lead to a large vet bills and a cat that does not enjoy being around humans.

Look for signs of ill health, in kittens, these signs often include a runny nose or eyes, dirty ears and having flea dirt in their coat.  For more detail on how to spot the signs of fleas you can read our guide here

Prominent ribs and bones are a sign of poor nourishment, this may be due to lack of intake, they may be bullied by other kittens, or may be too weak to feed. Inability to absorb the nutrients in their food due to a worm burden or gut disease may also cause a kitten to be underweight. Diarrhoea may cause food to pass through quickly, not allowing time for absorption. 

A wet tail or skin sores around the back legs will indicate frequent diarrhoea. Be wary of taking home any kitten that does not appear bright eyed and playful, purchasing from bad breeders simply encourages them to repeat these bad practices. 

What Information Do I Need From The Breeder?

Know what your kitten is being fed and purchase at least a week’s worth of this food. You can then slowly transition your kitten from this diet to your preferred choice. Sudden changes will lead to vomiting and diarrhoea in young animals as their guts need time to adapt. Buying the same type of cat litter to the breeder can also help with their transition and toilet training. Again slowly combining and phasing out the old brand in favour of your own will help to prevent any problems. 

Vaccinations

Ask if the breeder has had the kittens vaccinated. You may want to find a veterinary practice that uses the same brand of vaccine so you do not need to restart their vaccination course. A first vaccine is more likely to have been given by a pedigree breeder, or a shelter, accidental matings by moggies are less likely to have been vaccinated. 

What Flea and Worm Treatment Do I Need For My Kitten?

A breeder that is knowledgeable about flea and worm treatments is a great sign of their interest and commitment to doing the best for their cats.  A queen can start to pass worms to her kittens in her milk, there are worming protocols to reduce the changes of this happening. Kittens should be wormed every 2 weeks until they are 12 weeks old, then monthly until 6 months old. Speak to your vet about the most appropriate products to use for your young kitten. 

Flea and Worm Subscription Box Service

The best protection against fleas is the consistent regular application of an effective product. Once your kitten is 8 weeks old, and weighs more than 2kg, they can sign up to Protect My Pet. This will ensure they are always protected from the effects of fleas.  It is advisable to treat your home environment to remove any developing flea eggs, larvae and pupae that may be lurking prior to the introduction of a new kitten. 

Read our blog “What Flea and Worm Treatment Do I Need For My Kitten?” to ensure your new kitten, your family and your home stay protected against fleas, ticks, and worms.

Cat with happy owner

Written by Lindsay Rose MA VetMB CertAVP CertVBM MRCVS

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