Beginners Guide to Kitten Care
In the UK the love for our feline companions runs deep, with a staggering 26% of households proudly owning a cat. That equates to an estimated 10.8 million adorable pet cats gracefully prowling our homes and capturing our hearts.
If you’re thinking of buying a kitten, it’s important to research their needs to ensure they can thrive. From environmental factors to nutritional information, in this kitten guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know to care for them.
Key Factors to Consider Before Getting a Kitten
Before you embark on the delightful journey of bringing a kitten into your life, there are several crucial factors to consider. Feline companionship is a rewarding experience, but it comes with responsibilities that extend far beyond cuddles and playtime. Let’s explore the key considerations before welcoming a kitten into your home:
Raising a kitten requires a significant time commitment. Kittens need social interaction, playtime, and proper supervision. Consider your daily schedule and whether you can allocate sufficient time for their care and companionship.
- How much is a kitten: The average cost of a kitten in the UK is starts around £150. Beyond this, you will need to pay for vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and microchipping. You’ll also need essentials like a litter box, food dishes, cat toys, and bedding, make sure you budget for these expenses.
- Ongoing Costs of owning a cat: Factor in the recurring expenses for quality cat food, litter, routine veterinary visits, and potential emergency care. Kittens, like any pet, come with ongoing financial responsibilities.
- Living Space: Assess your living situation. Make sure you have enough space to accommodate a growing cat. Consider your home’s layout and whether it’s safe for a curious and playful kitten.
- Existing Pets: If you have other pets, especially other cats, consider their reaction to a new kitten. Sometimes a gradual introduction will be necessary to ensure the welfare of the new kitten and existing pet.
- Litter Box Maintenance: Kittens need a clean and safe place to do their business. Regular scooping and litter box cleaning are essential to prevent odours and maintain their hygiene.
- Grooming: While kittens are generally good at self-grooming, you should be prepared to help when needed. Trimming nails and regularly brushing your kitten will keep them healthy and comfortable.
- Essential Supplies: Prepare supplies for your kitten like a litter tray, cat carrier, water and food bowls, scratching posts, and toys. Having these items in place before bringing a kitten home will make their transition smoother.
- Safe Hideaways: Kittens need safe spots where they can retreat when they need a break. Consider providing cosy hideaways like cat beds or cosy corners.
- Allergies: Ensure no one in your household is allergic to cats, as this can be a significant health concern.
- Lifestyle Changes: Consider how a kitten might impact your daily routine and any upcoming travel plans.
- Long-Term Commitment: Cats have relatively long lifespans. You need to be ready to make a commitment that can last for 15 years or more.
Make sure you take your time to contemplate these factors. Make an informed decision and ensure your home is prepared for the arrival of your new pet.
How to look after a kitten
Most kittens leave their mothers and move to their forever homes between 8 and 12 weeks of age. By this time, the kitten should have been weaned and have started eating a high-quality kitten diet. Give your kitten the best chance of becoming health and well-behaved by starting training on day 1.
A kitten’s diet needs to be energy-dense, rich in protein and highly digestible. Look at the nutrients offered in their diets, and ensure they include calcium to support their rapid growth and development.
Establish a regular feeding schedule, typically 3 – 4 times a day for kittens. Ensure fresh water is always available. Avoid feeding your cat human foods as some of these can be harmful to cats. Once your cat becomes an adult, you can feed them less regularly.
Most kittens start on a wet food diet, although you can start introducing kitten-friendly dry food. There are two types of kitten foods – complete and complimentary. You should give complimentary cat foods alongside protein-rich foods such as meat. Complete kitten foods are an all-in-one solution and don’t require any additional accompaniments.
In the early weeks of their lives, kittens are like sponges. It’s a good idea to expose them to different people, animals and experiences to help boost their confidence. Bond with your kitten through interactive play sessions, this will help to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Toys like feather wands and laser pointers can be great aids for interactive play sessions.
Get your kitten used to being handled, this will help with human interaction. Your kitten will be handled over it’s lifetime for grooming and healthcare purposes. Introducing handling early on reduces anxiety and helps to kitten to become more confident in these situations.
There are various training techniques that we’d recommend starting as early as possible. Litter training is essential for hygiene, and most kittens learn to use the litter box quickly. Accidents will happen, but if you’re patient and consistent with your training this will help your kitten to learn quickly.
You may want to start teaching your kitten basic commands like “sit” and “come”. Use treats and praise for positive reinforcements this is highly effective for training your kitten. Make sure you provide scratching posts to discourage your kitten from scratching your furniture.
Handle your kitten with care, especially in the early week. Support their body and avoid sudden movements to build trust and prevent fear. When picking your kitten up, make sure to support their chest and hindquarters. Don’t hold your kitten by the scruff of the neck as this can be uncomfortable and distressing for them.
Establishing a consistent schedule early on will help your cat to settle. Create a daily routine for feeding, playtime and rest. Cats thrive on predictability and may become anxious when routines are disrupted.
Create an enriching environment with climbing structures and cosy hiding spots for your kitten. By creating a cat-friendly environment you reduce the risks of damage to your home as well as ensuring the safety of your kitten.
Healthcare for Kittens
Ensuring the well-being of your new kitten extends beyond the cuddles and playtime. Regular veterinary care plays a pivotal role in keeping your feline friend in the best of health. In this section, we’ll explore the essential components of veterinary care, including health checkups, pet insurance, and vaccinations.
Health Care Checkups:
- Initial Examination: After bringing your kitten home, schedule an initial health checkup with your veterinarian. This visit will help identify any potential health issues and ensure your kitten is off to a good start.
- Regular Checkups: As your kitten grows, schedule regular checkups with your vet. Early detection of health concerns can make a significant difference in treatment outcomes.
- Dental Care: Dental health is crucial for cats. Discuss dental care and cleaning routines with your vet to maintain your kitten’s oral health.
- Parasite Prevention: Consult your vet about preventative measures for parasites, such as fleas, ticks, and worms. Regular checks and preventive treatments can keep your kitten parasite-free.
- Why Consider Pet Insurance: Unexpected medical expenses can arise at any time. Pet insurance can provide peace of mind and financial support when faced with unforeseen health issues, accidents, or emergencies.
- Policy Selection: Explore different pet insurance policies to find one that suits your budget and coverage needs. Consider factors such as annual deductibles and coverage limits.
- Start Early: Consider enrolling your kitten in a pet insurance plan as early as possible. This can help you avoid potential pre-existing condition exclusions.
- Kitten Vaccinations: Kittens need a series of vaccinations to protect them against common diseases. These typically include vaccines for feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia (FVRCP), as well as feline leukaemia (FeLV).
- Vaccination Schedule: Work with your vet to establish a vaccination schedule. Kittens often receive a series of shots every 3-4 weeks until they are about 16 weeks old. Booster shots are administered at specific intervals as well.
- Rabies Vaccination: In many places outside of the UK, rabies vaccination is required by law. Ensure your kitten receives this important vaccine at the appropriate age.
- Annual Boosters: After the initial series, your cat will require annual booster shots to maintain their immunity. These appointments also serve as an opportunity for your veterinarian to perform a general health check.
Remember, maintaining your kitten’s health through regular veterinary care is a fundamental part of responsible pet ownership. It not only safeguards their well-being but also enhances the quality of their life, ensuring many years of joy and companionship. Don’t hesitate to discuss any questions or concerns with your veterinarian—they are your most valuable resource in keeping your kitten healthy and happy.
Common Illnesses in Cats & Kittens
Cats, like all animals, can face health challenges throughout their lives. Ensuring proper care and regular vet checkups can help prevent and manage these common illnesses. Some issues may affect any cat, whilst others are at higher risk of certain conditions. Here are some of the health issues that cats may be prone to:
1. Dental Issues:
- Plaque and Tartar Buildup: Cats can develop dental problems such as plaque and tartar buildup, leading to gingivitis and periodontal disease. Regular dental care and cleanings are essential.
- Tooth and gum disease: As cats get older, they’re often plagued with gum disease. This can cause pain for your cats and lead to further problems such as kidney or heart disease.
2. Skin Problems:
- Allergies: Cats can suffer from allergies, which may manifest as skin irritation, itching, and hair loss. Identifying and addressing allergens is key.
- Fleas and Ticks: These external parasites can cause skin problems due to itching and allergic reactions. Regular flea and tick prevention is crucial.
- Roundworms: Transmitted through contaminated soil or prey, they can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and a potbelly appearance.
- Tapeworms: Typically acquired through ingesting infected fleas or rodents, they may be visible in faeces.
- Worming Treatment: It’s important to establish a regular worming schedule to prevent worms. Whilst they are treatable in most cases, they can make your cat very sick, so it’s better to prevent infestation.
- Overactive Thyroid Gland: Hyperthyroidism is a common condition in older cats. It can lead to weight loss, increased appetite, and other health concerns. Medication, surgery, or radioactive iodine therapy are treatment options. Read our guide to Hyperthyroidism in cats for more information.
5. Cat Flu:
- Respiratory Infections: Cat flu, often caused by viruses like feline herpesvirus and calicivirus, can result in sneezing, nasal discharge, and eye issues. Good hygiene and vaccinations can help prevent it.
- Type 1 diabetes – This is caused by the lack of the production of insulin
- Type 2 diabetes – This is when the body is resistant to insulin
7. Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV):
- Viral Infection: FeLV is a contagious disease that affects a cat’s immune system. Cats can contract it through close contact with an infected cat. Testing and vaccination can help prevent its spread.
8. Feline Parvovirus (FPV):
- Viral Infection: This highly contagious disease can cause severe gastrointestinal issues, including vomiting and diarrhoea. Caused by a parvovirus, it is often spread through infected fleas.
- The virus lives on bedding and clothing and is easily spread. This disease attacks your cat’s immune system and the heart. Kittens suffer more serious symptoms compared to older cats.
Regular vet checkups and maintaining a clean, stress-free environment for your cat can significantly reduce the risk of these common illnesses. If you notice any signs of illness in your cat, such as changes in behaviour, appetite, or appearance, consult with your vet promptly. Early detection and proper treatment can make a significant difference in your cat’s health and well-being.
Time to get your Kitten
Now you know everything you need to help a kitten thrive, you can enjoy your time with your new pet. If you’re about to welcome a new kitten into your home, then feel free to browse our website for the best cat food, accessories and medication. Get in touch with our team for any advice and additional help.