Nothing is more exciting than welcoming home a new bundle of joy, especially when that bundle is furry and four-legged. While kittens seem easier to care for than puppies, since they are simpler to house-train, they still require specialized care, to ensure they grow up happy and healthy. If this is your first kitten, or your latest in a long line of feline friends, brush up on the basics for starting them off on the right paw. Our answers to some of the most common questions that new kitten owners ask will help.

Question: What should I feed my new kitten?

Answer: Regardless of the food you choose for your new kitten, ensure you feed a quality brand product. We recommend the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s Global Nutrition Guidelines for more detailed information on nutritional choices. Cats are obligate carnivores and must be fed an animal protein-based diet to receive the proper nutrients they cannot create in their own bodies. The first ingredient listed in your kitten’s food, whether you choose a canned or dry diet, should be an animal protein. That being said, it is not necessary, or recommended, that your cat be fed a grain-free diet. Cats are desert animals, and tend to stay in a perpetual dehydrated state, so canned food is an excellent way to encourage water intake. Leave food out only at meal times, rather than all day, to prevent future obesity. And, although your cat may seem kitten-like for their first several years, we recommend switching to an adult cat diet after spaying or neutering, which is usually around 6 months of age. An adult diet will also help avoid weight gain after your kitten is mostly grown. The appropriate diet for your kitten will go a long way to ensuring a lifetime of health and well-being, so ask our team at Country Valley Veterinary Clinic for recommendations based on your pet’s needs. 

Q: What toys should my new kitten have?

A: All of them. Alright, you don’t need to fill your cart up with kitten toys, but a variety of fun objects designed to appeal to your feline’s natural instincts will provide excellent environmental enrichment. Cats enjoy toys that mimic prey movements, such as feather wands, fishing poles, and robotic mice. These toys allow your kitten to stalk, pounce, and “kill” the prey item, satisfying natural hunting desires. 

Other items your kitten should have include climbing trees, lookout towers, and scratching posts. Cats need furniture that offers a safe hideout where they can relax in comfort, and providing vertical space fulfills this need. However, place scratching posts near furniture you’d like to save, such as your couch, from your kitten’s sharp claws, because kittens are notorious for sinking their hooks into the nearest piece of furniture.

Q: How do I teach my new kitten to use the litter box?

A: Fortunately, kittens pick up on litter box-training fairly easily from their mothers. Your new kitten may need some guidance to ensure proper elimination when first arriving home, which you can accomplish by keeping them confined in a small room with their necessities. To encourage your kitten, scoop the litter box twice daily, and wash with a mild disinfectant once weekly. Most cats prefer a fine litter and a large, uncovered box, but you may need to experiment to find your kitten’s preference. 

Q: How do I groom my new kitten?

A: Whether your new kitten is shorthaired or has a luxurious flowing coat, regular brushing is a must for healthy skin and fur. To teach your kitten to accept grooming tasks, pair each session with a tasty treat, such as canned baby food, spray cheese, or tuna. Begin with a soft brush, to help disperse healthy oils, remove baby fur and dirt, and prevent matting. You should also use treats to accustom your kitten to nail trims. Trim sharp nail hooks every four to six weeks, since your kitten, and her nails, will grow quickly at this time. Once your kitten reaches adulthood, you may be able to stretch nail trims to every other month. If you are able to do so, daily dental care is a helpful part of your new friend’s routine. Gently rub your kitten’s gums with your finger to accustom them to the sensation. Once your kitten’s adult teeth are fully erupted—between 4 and 6 months of age—you can use a soft finger toothbrush to gently rub the upper gums and outer teeth surfaces. Ask a staff member to show you how to safely brush your cat’s teeth at your next visit. 

Q: What veterinary care does my new kitten require?

A: As with all young pets, routine wellness care is essential for preventing illness and disease. Your new kitten will require a vaccination series for protection against life-threatening diseases, such as rabies, panleukopenia, and feline leukemia. We will also recommend a deworming protocol, and the best parasite preventive options. With regular preventive care for your feline friend, we can build a lifelong bond to establish normal baseline health markers, and quickly spot changes that may indicate underlying disease. Catching illness in the earliest stages allows us to treat your pet sooner and more successfully, granting many more years of memories. 

Have you welcomed a new kitten into your home? We’d love to meet your new furry friend! Call us to schedule an initial wellness visit and start your kitten on the right paw.