Kitten Care


Congratulations on your New Kitten!

Kittens are super fun, loving, and entertaining. There is a reason why the internet is so full of kitten and cat pictures and videos! The focus of kitten care is on acclimating the kitten to its new family, and providing for the kitten's physical and well being to support healthy development.

There are many phases of a kitten's life, and it is important to understand how their needs will change as they grow.

Remember that proper kitten care also requires an examination from a cat-friendly veterinarian, vaccinations, deworming, and other forms of care that support development throughout the various phases of kittenhood.

Taking Care of a Kitten - The First Six Months

Some basic tips for how to take care of a kitten in the first six months of its life are as follows:

  • Under 4 Weeks of Age: Kittens are considered newborns from 0-4 weeks of age. During this time, newborn kittens are just developing motor skills and coordination, and are also learning how to regulate body temperature. At this time in their life, they count on their mother for warmth. If the mother is still with the kittens, there is very little required for human caretakers besides a warm, safe environment, good nutrition, and veterinary care for the mother. If for some reason the mother cat is not able to care for the kittens, then a fair amount of care is required to help the kittens grow and thrive. You should plan an immediate visit to see us with the kittens so we can review their needs especially relating to feeding and monitoring their progress. This includes bottle feeding kittens every 2-4 hours, keeping their environment warm and safe, and helping the kittens to urinate and defecate.
  • 5-11 Weeks of Age: By this time, newborn kittens should be weaned off of their mother, or bottle-feeding, and feeding on a high protein, energy-dense diet. During this stage, their motor skills and coordination should also be progressing. How to take care of a kitten at this age includes proper supervision in order to ensure that your kitten's newfound sense of adventure and bravado doesn't lead them into dangerous situations.
  • 2-4 Months of Age: This is a period of rapid growth in kitten development. You should expect your kitten to have a lot more energy than an adult cat. Taking care of a kitten during this phase includes both a lot of bonding-based playtime, and also feeding kitten them 3 or 4 high-protein meals per day.
  • 4-6 Months of Age: Your kitten is reaching an age of adolescence and therefore, sexual maturity. This will result in an increase of energy and at times, behavioral changes. Taking care of a kitten during this phase includes continuing hands-on bonding-based playtime, with the addition of behavior modification, if necessary. There are many ways to enrich your cat's environment, which is especially important for indoor kittens.

Nutrition Tips for Kittens

Feeding kittens the right food in the right amounts, and at the right times throughout the day is essential for happy, healthy, and growing cats.

As we briefly discussed above, proper kitten nutrition includes modifying their diet to ensure you are feeding your kitten what they need during each stage of growth:

  • The mother should be feeding kittens during the first 4 weeks of life, or you should use a special commercial milk-replacer formula every 2-4 hours if the kitten has been separated from its mother
  • From 3-5 weeks of age, feeding kittens involves offering milk-replacer formula in a shallow dish to encourage weaning from a bottle. You can also add a moist, easily chewable diet consisting of a mixture of warm milk-replacer and high quality canned or dried kitten food 4-6 times a day
  • By 5-8 weeks of age, your kitten should be able to chew its own food, and you should provide a protein-rich and energy-filled diet, with feedings taking place 3-4 times daily. A combination of canned and dry cat foods is usually recommended
  • After 6 months of age, kittens should be fed 2-3 times per day

Socializing your Kitten

A huge part of kitten development is socializing your kitten with both human family members, as well as any other animals in your household.

Proper interspecies interaction and overall behavior requires hands-on, responsible, and sustained social development, including:

  • Litter box training
  • Frequent petting and cuddling
  • Toy introduction
  • Exploration with boxes, paper bags, etc.
  • Rewarding good behavior with treats
  • Time outs for bad behavior
  • Redirection from biting or scratching
  • Introduction to new people and animals in a controlled environment
  • Weekly combing, grooming, and handling

As you can see, kitten development is filled with fun, but requires you to be actively involved in the process. It is critically important that you consider the time commitment necessary to do your part and ensure proper kitten development.

Things to Look Out for in Kittens

Some warning signs to look for with newborn kittens include:

  • Not accepting food, especially for younger kittens who have been abandoned by or separated from their mothers
  • Motor skills and coordination delays or difficulties
  • Lethargy, diarrhea, or vomiting

Kittens older than 4 weeks will have moved passed the more delicate stages where feeding requirements and body temperature maintenance are of paramount importance.

During this next phase, you will still need to be aware of the above warning signs, but should begin to be more concerned with behavioral issues such as:

  • Litter box usage
  • Signs of aggression and play-biting
  • Fears and other behaviors that we want to address while they are still impressionable

If you observe any odd or concerning behaviors during your kitten's development, don't hesitate to bring your kitten in for a visit with us!

Preventive Care for Kittens

Preventive care is important in ensuring your kitten is given the best opportunity to live a healthy life, and begins with finding and working with the right veterinarian to implement a sound checkup, vaccinations, and preventive maintenance schedule.

As experienced veterinarians, we are able to pick up on subtle signs that something may not be quite right with your kitten. Between a thorough discussion with you, and a physical exam, our veterinarians will be able to identify health or behavioral issues that your kitten may be experiencing.

Intestinal Parasites, Fleas, and Heartworms in Kittens

All kittens need a regular deworming program which includes medication to kill most intestinal parasites.

In addition, we will want to check your kitten's stool for more uncommon, but potentially serious parasites. In addition to intestinal parasites and worms, cats can contract heartworms. If cats develop heartworm disease, there is no treatment. Therefore, we recommend heartworm prevention for all cats.

One of the most common and annoying parasitic dangers is fleas. A discussion about your cat's lifestyle, and proper flea and tick control, is an indispensable component of kitten care.

Kitten Vaccinations

Vaccinations are essential to proper kitten care, and should be started soon after you get your kitten. We recommend starting the vaccination program between 6-8 weeks of age. Boosters will follow at one year, and we can help you understand a long term plan for the rest of your cat's adult life. Kitten vaccinations are given to prevent feline leukemia, rabies, and distemper. These infectious diseases are devastating and completely preventable with simple vaccinations.

Spaying and Neutering

By 5-6 months of age, kittens are reaching a point of mature adolescence.

Reasons for spaying and neutering include:

  • Avoiding unpleasant habits like territorial scent spraying
  • Avoiding unplanned litters
  • A decrease in the chance of mammary or testicular cancer later in life

Schedule an Appointment for your Kitten today!

Call us directly or schedule an appointment online.

 

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