Most cat companions or parents will excitedly tell you about when they first met their furry family member. If you are lucky enough, you may be able to adopt or find a kitten in its earliest stage. Sharing experiences with your kitten from an early stage helps you build a solid connection with your cat, to the point they may view you as a strange yet integral part of their cat family.
If this is your first time with a kitten, you should get ready for loads of love, energy, and adventure. But in order to make the most out of your new relationship, you ought to know how to take care of a kitten.
Know Their Age Development Stages and Needs
Similar to our care for young children, which differs from teenagers or adults, kittens also need special care compared to older cats. The best place to start answering your questions about how to take care of a kitten is by knowing what development stage your kitty is in and what they require during that stage. There are four vital kitten development stages.
- Kittens under the age of 8 weeks are best left under the care of their cat mother and littermates. At this age, kittens are so tiny, lack total vision, and require other kittens and their mom to regulate their body temperatures and provide milk. In case a kitten has no option but to be adopted and fostered at this age, they will require round-the-clock special care where you’ll bottle feed them at least every two hours and help them relieve themselves on the litter area.
- Kittens around eight to eleven weeks have now been weaned and are ready to venture into dry or wet kitten formulated food. At this stage, your kitten will be a movement junkie, running, jumping, and constantly playing if they’re not asleep. It is also an important stage to set boundaries and show your kitten what is permissible and unacceptable, so plan on supervising her plays and movements.
- Once your kitten is two to four months old, expect to notice major physical changes as the kitten rapidly fills out its body. At this stage, your kitten’s energy levels can be up to three times more than that of an adult cat. Feeding them a protein-dense diet is crucial for their growth and energy needs.
- Kittens at the ages of four to six months experience adolescence as their bodies reach sexual maturity. At this stage, your kitten may start developing signs of being in heat. If you don’t plan on breeding your cat, we suggest you spay or neuter them to avoid cat heat-related behaviors that are often not so great.
Feeding Your Kitten
When transitioning a weaned kitten from milk to kitten formulated food, expect them to be excited as they explore the new flavors and textures. Kittens are only meant to eat kitten formulated food that is either dry or wet but can also enjoy some homemade meals.
Kittens under four weeks and without their mother should be bottle-fed gently on kitten milk replacer as regular milk may be poisonous. In case your kitten does not grasp suckling the bottle, be patient and gently put them on their forehead. Do not rush or force the kitten replacer milk down their mouths.
The transition to kitten food should be gradual as some kittens may be hesitant about these new types of meals. A great way to transition the kittens is to mix kitten formula with dry kibble or wet food, gradually increasing the latter’s size on the plate. The slow transition allows your kitten’s digestive system to adapt and digest the food well.
When feeding your kitten, always ensure you have fresh water available at all times of the day. It would be best to refrain from free-feeding your kitten and set a schedule for meal times depending on their age.
- One-week-old kittens need to be fed every 2 hours
- Two weeks old kittens need to be fed every 3-4 hours
- 3-5 weeks old kittens can be fed every 4-6 hours
- Kittens older than six weeks can be fed three to four times with meal times 6-8 hours apart
Remember, kittens cannot have adult cat food as part of their diet, as you risk them missing out on essential nutrients for their development. Proteins should be a primary part of their diet to boost their growth. Fats help supply your kitten with energy, while minerals such as calcium assist in making their bones strong.
Your Kitten’s Hygiene Care
Cats are very fastidious cleaners, and kittens would learn this trait from their mom early as she grooms them. However, your weaned kitten may still count on you to keep them clean when they get into dirt or food messes. Regarding your kitten care, owning some kitten care gear helps you stay on top of their cleanliness.
- Having at least one extra litter box for the number of kittens you have is recommended for healthy living. When picking a litter box, consider what your kitten prefers and its size. As a cat parent, get ready to clean or scoop the poop out of the litter box each day.
- Brushes and comb are also crucial to keeping your kitten’s fur clean and free from entanglements. Brushing is also a way to bond with your kitten and a way to relax them.
- Scratching posts are primarily seen as scent soakers for cats but, they also provide an area for your kitten to care for their young claws. Having scratching posts placed at various points keeps your kitten’s nails trimmed and makes them feel more at home.
Socializing and Rewarding Good Behavior
Cats are animals that thrive on your attention to certain behaviors. One great way to each condition your kitten is by praising and rewarding them for good behavior. As your kitten learns to associate their particular behavior with a reward or praise, they will do it more and more.
Rewarding good behavior and socializing your kitten at an early age determines how your kitten will interact with other people and animals as they grow older. Controlled exposure of your kitten to fears such as loud noises, new people/animals, or being in the carrier helps your kitten adjust to such situations early.
Rewarding behavior or positive reinforcement is also crucial in training your kitten, e.g., with clicker training. For instance, if you want your kitten to learn its name, you may call them, and every time they offer a response whatsoever, quickly make the clicker sound and offer them a treat. Doing this repeatedly only when they respond helps them associate the particular name to getting a treat, and as such, will respond when you call them.
You can socialize your cat through positive reinforcement, playtime, petting or cuddling, grooming their fur, taking them for walks on a leash or carrier, giving them new random objects to explore, and including them in social situations at your home.
Playtime is crucial to keeping your kitten physically healthy and robust. In addition, it offers a healthy way to release pent-up energy, which they may redirect to unwanted behavior in case of zero playtime. Have different toys for your kitten and set out play sessions for the mornings and evenings.
Owning a kitten can be a fulfilling experience if you know how to take care of a kitten. With the above guidelines, we hope to inspire you into a loving and caring relationship with your kitten.