7 Things You Should Know Before Going to Buy a Kitten 1. They are not unlike fast growing babies. They start off lying in your arms looking at peace with the world but before you know it they're at the "toddler" stage and running up drapes and under rugs! 2. They are fussy eaters. Even the smallest kitten will spit out everything it doesn't believe to be the very best available -- oh and "the best" is very subjective, it depends less on the price/brand and more on the cat's likes and dislikes! 3. Which brings us onto number 3, your kitten will grow into an opinionated cat with strong likes and dislikes. It won't care if that's your chair, your child's bed, an antique sofa or fragile houseplant. If your cat likes it, it's his! 4. If you have friends and family who don't like -- or even better, are allergic to -- your kitten from a very young age will see these as their new best friend and insist on sitting on their lap! 5. Don't believe what your cat tries to make you think -- it is possible to train a cat to do certain things. Just take potty training as an example, you can train a cat to use a litter box, so it follows a cat is capable of learning. Unfortunately an ability to learn does not automatically mean a willingness to learn, especially in a cat! 6. A kitten will grow, and grow fast. Remember this as you think it's cute to have that tiny ball of fluff curled up next to you on your pillow at night! Pretty soon that little kitten is going to take up all the pillow, and not be happy when it suddenly finds itself on the cold floor in a property fight over whose pillow it is! 7. A kitten will quickly worm itself into your heart and stay there -- so make sure you only take enough money to buy one or you could end up bringing two or three home because you couldn't choose between two of them, and then the third one looked so lonely! What Equipment Do you Need When First Buying a Kitten? Brining home your young kitty is very much like bringing home a newborn baby from the hospital. They both have very simple requirements. Both of them need to have the following basics covered: food, a place to sleep, and love. Food is the first thing that you need to consider, and one way of quickly adjusting your kitten to his new home is to feed it. Make sure that you have a few days supply of whatever food the kitten is used to eating so that there's no break in nutrition. Once kitty is settled, he'll eat other things, but one way of providing security and showing that not everything has changed is by providing him with the same food he's used to eating. Once he's content enough to eat, then you can relax a little because he's feeling secure. An insecure cat will not usually be so keen on eating in a strange place. Apart from the actual food, kitty should also have his own tableware! A dish for his food, another for water/milk and something for chopping his food up with is usually the minimum. If you are buying canned cat food, then you should also buy a plastic top for the can as in the early weeks there will be several meals in one can, and so the can will be stored in your refrigerator. For a cat, a place to sleep can be anywhere! Once it's feeling safe, it will wander around the house and eventually chooses a spot or two that it prefers and you'll often find him in one place or the other. For a physical bed, there are many types you can buy from beautiful wicker baskets of various sizes to beanbags and quilt type igloos, but a cat is a very independent animal with opinions about all things and so when first bringing your tiny kitty home you could consider just having a large box that it can't escape out of without help, and placing a blanket that has his mother's scent on it inside the box. The last thing your kitty needs is plenty of love! This attention isn't just to bond with your pet, but also to help it feel secure in his new home. Once your kitten is secure he'll eat properly, sleep without mewing and even have less "accidents" as it will be easier to "potty" train him. As you can see, it needn't take a lot of money to kit your kitty out, but it does require a little bit of thought before you bring him home. Cover his basic needs and he'll soon settle into his place as head of your household! Why should you Consider Buying Two Kittens Together? You aren't likely to get two for the price of one, and when it comes to kittens it's not cheaper to buy them in bulk when it comes to food and kitty litter either, but there are some compensations that make it worth thinking about. Aside from saving you the initial indecision of whether you want the smart talking black and white kitty, or the cute fluffy ginger tabby, buying two kittens together can actually make sense. Taking a kitten away from its mother can be traumatic for the kitty. Suddenly, everything is strange. There's a stranger person fussing it and it's not fun anymore because it can't see its momma. The siblings aren't there and they are sitting alone in a box, in a place they don't recognize, and they're terrified! Buying two kittens from the same owner should mean that you are buying siblings, or at least two kittens that have been in contact with each other during their first wobbly weeks. Aside from creating this security blanket of familiarity, the next best reason for buying two kittens is that you're less likely to turn your home into a cat war zone! Instead of waging war against your sofa, rugs and drapes to relieve the boredom, the kittens will chase each other. Ok, so they may chase each other up the drapes, but that'll soon wear off (about the time they get too heavy to hang there without gravity pulling them downwards) and it'll be fleeting as they run around the room rather than literally hanging there looking for the best vantage point to view the birds outside! The kittens will play fight and then they'll snuggle up together. They'll both vie for your attention, and yet maintain a united front as they stalk about your home and yard daring other intruders to enter. They'll share a dish of milk and food, but fight over the same toy. Two kittens may require more money to keep than one, but they provide twice as much love and amusement, and great company for each other which is the best advantage of all if you're out at work most of the day. Where Should Kitty Sleep? Finding somewhere for your new kitten to sleep is a basic requirement when you first bring kitty home. It also needs to be something you give a lot of thought to before you go to pick the kitten up! Many people have very strong ideas about this. They don't want the kitten to sleep anywhere but in its own bed -- perhaps a basket that's been bought especially for it. They certainly don't want kitty finding its way into bedrooms or sleeping on sofas/armchairs. Then there are other cat owners who have no intention of segregating their kitty from its human family and allow it to choose where it wants to sleep. There is no right or wrong decision on this, the only right decision is what's right for your family. What you do need to do however is make the decision, and the preparations prior to introducing your kitty to its new environment. If you decide that you want the kitten to sleep in its own bed -- either in your bedroom, or in the kitchen or other part of the house -- then you need to ensure you give adequate thought to this. You are bringing into your home a baby cat, a kitty who has just that day been taken from its mother. It may well be happy to play and be fussed over when people are around, but once everyone goes to bed, kitty's going to feel very much alone and scared. If you have a blanket that his mother had been sleeping on and still has her scent, place this in his sleeping basket and it will give him a little security. Unless you want to give the kitten the idea that it's ok for it to sleep on your bed, you shouldn't bring it to bed even on the first few nights when it's mewing for its momma. That would be setting a precedent that you will find hard to break once he gets into a habit of sleeping beside you. Instead you need to think about camping out on the floor next to his bed for a few nights until he gets used to his new surroundings. Should you decide instead that kitty is welcome to sleep in whichever bed he prefers, then you need to take a few safety precautions to ensure that he isn't suffocated or squished during the night. Arrange pillows or rolled towels around him to act as a buffer between and him -- or if he has a small basket, see if there's a place this can sit on the bed without being in danger of being kicked off! Wherever you think the kitty is going to sleep, be prepared to get up and find him somewhere else! Cats in general have a tendency to be opinionated and do their own thing regardless of how it fits into your plans, so accept this from the get-go, and then if you try to get kitty excited about where you want him to sleep and fail, find a compromise that you can both be happy about! Small Kids and Kittens The smaller your child, the more interested he will be in the new kitty. It will be his baby, his companion, his toy : .only the kitten isn't a toy and that's something that you need to make very clear about right from the get-go. Even a toddler can understand that they are not to pick kitty up if they are told firmly enough. Your child is fragile against the outside world, but the kitten is fragile even against a small child and can easily be hurt by simply being loved too much! Young kids have a habit of wanting to hug the kitten tightly, and this can be fatal as it's easy to restrict cat's air supply. Picking up the kitten in a rough way, or by its legs can create the need for a visit to the veterinary where you and your child (if there) will be admonished for ill treating the kitty. It can also create internal injuries on a young kitten that doesn't have much body fat to protect its internal organs. The best way to bring young child and kitty together safely is by first not allowing your child to pick up the kitten until you are sure he can do it in the correct manner, and by teaching him to fuss the kitty while the kitty is on your knee. The kitten will soon follow your child around if he feels safe, and within no time at all you'll probably find you have two "kittens" crawling around the floor as your child becomes the kitty's shadow! By first teaching the safe way of fussing, and then playing, you decrease not only the chances of the kitten being unintentionally, but seriously, harmed -- but also the chances of your child being scratched by a fearful cat who is being held too tight. Pedigree or Moggy -- which Kitty's for you? Having made the decision to add a kitten to your family, you then need to think about what kind of kitty would be best. There are so many to choose from, and not all of them will be a perfect match for your home. Once you know that you're in the market for a kitty, you need to decide one of two things -- pedigree or moggy. If you want to buy a moggy, that is a kitten that isn't of any particular breed, or perhaps a cross between two specific breeds, then you will find them most places. Small ads in local newspapers, on grocery store bulletin boards, or asking at your local veterinary clinic if they know of anyone who is looking to sell a kitten should locate you a choice in your local area. All you need to do is go and take a look at what's available and choose the one that seems to reach out for you! Moggys are generally friendly. Unless they are cross-breeds with one or other of the parents being a known temperamental breed, you can assume they'll be good with kids. They also should be easy on your pocket book. Pedigree cats on the other hand are harder to locate, especially if you have a specific breed in mind. If you have children in the home, read up on the breeds you are interested in and discount any of them that have known issues with kids! Some cats are very temperamental and have zero-tolerance with children. Whereas a moggy, or even a different breed, will have no problem being dressed up in a doll's clothes and being pushed around in a stroller, a breed such as a Siamese or Burmese will usually take great offence at this and will scratch and claw its way out -- not the best choice for a home that has small children. You should also be aware of which breeds are prone to illnesses, and which of them have relatively short life spans and take all this information into account before finally deciding what kind of cat you want. Having chosen the breed that seems to suit your family and lifestyle, the best place to get your kitten is through a reputable breeder. Check on the Internet for any breed associations, or ask at your local veterinary clinic for recommendations, and you'll find breeders who specialize in the kind of kitten you're looking for. Make sure that your pedigree cat comes with all of the paperwork so that you're sure of getting a 100% healthy pedigree kitten. You should research the "average cost" of a kitten in your chosen breed before making your purchase. A kitten will be with you for many years so take the time to find the perfect match for your family. Sometimes a breed with a recorded pedigree going back feline generations will suit your needs best, and other times, a moggy kitten born from the cat next door will be just perfect. Consider the options and choose which one is right for your home. Neuter your Kitty Sooner Rather than Later Many people have a strong opinion as to whether or not they should neuter their kitty. There are those who have kittens who think it's a dreadful idea to take the possibility of having kittens away from their kitten -- or can't begin to imagine why they have to consider something like that about a tiny little kitty. Then there are those who don't have cats and think all cats should be neutered and so get a reputation for not liking cats. The truth of the situation is that unless you want your kitty to have, or father, kitties of its own, you really need to consider neutering your kitten as soon as possible. Many people think that they have to wait until their queen kitty goes through her first "heat" cycle. This isn't the case. She'll be just fine if you get her done as soon as her system is mature enough to cope. Usually this is around 5 months old. If you wait and she has that cycle, be prepared for the loudly serenading "beaus" who come "calling" at 2am! Neutering your kitten early means that they are less likely to have much reaction to the operation at all -- as with humans, the young are more adaptable to their situations. Within a couple of hours of surgery, a neutered kitten is likely to be back on his feet and wobbling in the direction of his supper! He will wash and wash at the stitches until you are terrified that he will wash them out, and you'll take some preventative measure to ensure that nothing happens to them overnight! By the next day kitty should be swinging once again from your curtains. Although most cat owners can see the advantage of neutering their queen, not many realize that by neutering a tom, they not only stop him from populating the local area with off-spring, but they will take that "tom cat" smell away. The urine of a neutered tom cat usually smells less intrusive that that of a non-neutered one. Regardless what some people may think, neutering your kitten isn't a negative thing. If anything you are liberating your cat to go out into the world, confident that it's not going to be helping to populate it! Knowing When to Take Kitty to the Vet You should always take your new kitty to the vet as soon as possible after you bring it home. This acquaints you with the veterinary clinic you'll be using and the procedures for getting an appointment there, and also let you meet the veterinary, and the veterinary meet your kitten! It also means that your kitten can have an initial examination and get treatment for any kitty ailments that it might have -- if you've bought the kitten from a pet store or farm then it's possible it may have worms or ear mites that can be easily treated. Depending on the age of you kitten it may also be time for any shots that haven't already been administered before you took over ownership of the kitten. One of the basic things that the veterinary will tell you at this visit is whether your kitty is a boy or girl -- don't automatically assume the original owner got it right, it's not always easy to tell and it is easy to get it wrong! Knowing when to take your kitty to the vet outside of a normal annual examination however is trickier. Rather like when you are sick but unsure whether you are sick "enough" to warrant a doctor's time, it's hard to ascertain if your kitten is sick enough to warrant a veterinary's time -- not to mention the expense! A good rule of thumb is to remember one very important fact -- a kitten's health can deteriorate rapidly -- within a few hours even -- so making a decision to "think about it" can't mean putting off for a couple of days, you are looking at 24 hours maximum, and if things don't improve with kitty's health then you make an appointment and tell the reception how old he is, how long he's been sick and what the symptoms are. If he gets worse before 24 hours are up, contact the veterinary clinic immediately and talk to the reception staff that may be able to connect you through to either the veterinary or clinic nurse who can discuss whether or not it sounds dangerous enough to require immediate veterinary help. Knowing your kitty is part way to knowing when he's feeling off-color. By performing a regular informal examination of his movement, eyes, ears, mouth, and general appearance you can see when he's not "himself". It may be that he's limping or scratching himself more than usual -- or it could be that a usually active cat is sleeping more than he normally does. These are all signs that something is amiss and need you to start paying attention. A kitten that is sleeping all of the time, or has a temperature should always go straight to the veterinary, as he should if you notice he has problems or blood with his urine. For the most part, cats are quite healthy pets and by learning your kitty's "normal" appearance and traits, you can soon pick up on when he's not feeling well, and a quick phone call to the veterinary clinic can reassure you that he's almost certainly going to be ok to monitor for the next day or so, or whether you should bring him into the clinic that day. Should You Train Your Kitten to Use a Litter Box? The short answer to this is YES! Even if you are going to allow your cat to be outdoors whenever it wants, you need to be sure that if ever there was a time when it couldn't get outside for whatever reason, it's already potty trained and can use the litter tray whenever necessary. It may not be happy using the litter tray but you probably don't care about that should you find yourself in a situation where allowing your kitten outside isn't an option. It could be that you need to be out of town for a few days and you don't want to leave your cat door unlocked for security reasons, so your kitten needs to kept indoors. It could be that it's too cold, especially at night in the winter, so you want to keep him inside so he doesn't come to harm in sub-zero temperatures. It's even more possible that at some time in his life, he will need a surgical procedure that will result in him being kept indoors for at least 24 hours. If you have trained your kitten to use a little box, the cat he grows into won't have a problem if he finds himself locked inside with no means of getting out. When you first bring your kitten home, have a litter box ready for him to use. You won't be letting him out for those first days when he's tiny, so use this time to "potty train" him. Use a shallow tray that he can easily get into and put a layer of kitty litter into it. As he grows, always have a clean litter tray available, even if he doesn't use it he'll learn where it is and when the day comes that he finds himself lock inside, he'll know where the "bathroom" is and how to use it. Kittens Just Wanna Have Fun! One of the most adorable things about kittens is the mischief they are capable of getting into -- adorable in someone else's home anyway! In your own home, where it's your stuff that the kitten is rolling around the floor, ripping to shreds, or chewing to death, it's not always as funny. But what's a kitty owner to do? Well the first thing is more of a "what not to do" -- don't yell at the kitty! Count to 10 and calm down, and then firmly take hold of your kitten, say "No" in a firm clear voice and put the kitty either in his bed -- or in his safe zone if you've created one and he's still using it. The next thing is to identify why your kitten has gotten into this particular mischief -- is he bored, did it offer too much temptation, or is he pandering his hunter genes? Usually it's a mixture of boredom and practicing his hunting skills that gets a kitten into the most trouble around the house! The boredom leads him to find things like trailing plants, or apples that roll, and they tempt him to playful mischief. A cat loves to hunt however, and so occasionally he will "kill" the odd cushion! Buying a few cat toys will help teach your kitten what is acceptable to play with and what's not. A soft ball, not necessarily a small one either -- some kitties are quite happy to push something that's about half their size but not too heavy around the house -- is a great toy. A ball made out of scrunched up newspaper is another good way of getting your kitten to play -- but make sure that you scrunch it quietly because loud noises will probably scare him. Any toy that has been filled with catnip -- some kind of dried herb that cats go crazy over -- is destined to keep him amused for hours, but often the most entertaining of all for kitty is a box with large holes cut into it that he can jump in and out of. A kitten getting up to mischief can often be frustrating, but given the right toys, he'll not only entertain himself, but he'll also keep you entertained watching the antics he gets up too. Remember, he's not intending to be mean when he does something he shouldn't, he's just bored, so find something to occupy his mind! Introducing a New Kitten to your Existing Cat Cats and kittens in the same household can be the best of friends, or the worst of enemies, and occasionally, both at various times of the day! One of the main problems is that cats are very territorial and if one cat thinks that a particular part of the room is his alone, he will soon show his displeasure if the kitten should dare to walk anywhere near it. On the other hand, a kitten will sometimes do just that in order to get the older cat's attention. In some ways, kittens are not unlike small children! To ensure that your cat and new kitty get off to the best possible start socially, you need to go against what your heart intuitively wants to do. Really, this is in kitty's best interests even though it may make you feel heartless at the time! Bring the new kitty into the room and leave it in its travel carrier for a while. Allow your cat to wander around the carrier and get accustomed to the new kitten's smell -- stand nearby and monitor the situation so that the cat doesn't try attacking the kitten through the bars! Talk gently to your cat about the newcomer. Tell him that it's a playmate. Reassure him that the kitty isn't going to take his place in the household's pecking order. When the cat finally stops pacing around, and perhaps even stops any verbal complaints he has, bring the kitten out of the carrier. Keep a hold of the kitten but fuss the cat. If possible try and transfer the scent of one to the other -- once they've lived together in the same environment, they'll have a similar smell and "belong", although this is no guarantee that they'll ever be the best of pals! Never leave the kitten alone with the older cat, especially at night when all humans are asleep, until the kitten is big enough and secure enough to defend itself. It will probably be used to pushing siblings out of the way to get milk from its mother but the sheer weight and size of your other cat is a threat to the well-being of the kitten. Acceptance will come slowly and friendship ever slower. They may even have a love-hate thing going where you think they can't stand each other, but remove one of them for any length of time, and the other will start pining for him. By introducing them to each other slowly and not forcing them together, you allow each of them to weigh-up and observe the other, and this is the best way of ensuring that every won't be a survival battle for either of them! How to Pick a Name for your Kitten Picking a name for a kitten, or any pet for that matter, is rather like choosing a name for a baby. Everyone's got an opinion, and everyone has a favorite. The difference with naming the kitty however is that often there are more valid opinions to be acknowledged! So how do you go about naming your new kitten? Well the first thing to consider is the physical appearance of the kitten, it may very well be "cute" to call your ginger cat "Sooty" but eventually the joke will wear a bit thin and you'll be wishing you'd went with something more fitting with his color. So take a good look at your new kitten. Is there a name associated with the color of his fur that comes to mind? Watch him for a couple of days before you name him. What kind of personality does he have? Is he feisty and up to mischief already? Or is he more shy and scared looking? Think of a name that sums up his personality. Do you have other pets in the home? What names could you choose for the latest addition that would complement the existing pet(s)? If you don't want to choose names that are similar, how about names that are opposites? Are there pet names that seem to be "historical" within your family -- as in "There's always been a cat called Smudge in our family. Gran used to have one, but it died." -- And so you name your cat Smudge to fit the family pattern. Do you prefer traditional kitten names, or are you more biased on choosing a name that you could call a child? Increasingly people are opting for real names rather than pet names when naming their four-legged friends. Do you have a preference either way? The most important thing to consider when choosing a name for your kitten is what you're going to be comfortable yelling out of the window at 2 am when kitty hasn't returned home yet! Make a list of all the names you can live with. Put each name on a separate piece of paper. Scrunch it up and place all the papers into a container. Whoever is going to be mainly responsible for the welfare of the kitty should be the person to draw one piece of paper out. Whatever name is lifted out of the container, that's kitty's name! How to Kitten Proof your Home One of the good rules of thumb to apply here is to think about having a toddler around, only a toddler in miniature size -- mobile, curious but tiny! This means that you need to consider your home in terms of potential kitty hazards before the kitten gets too old and "into everything". Although there are some thing that you'd have to do to create a safe home for your toddler that aren't necessary for a kitten (such as power sockets and drawer locks), there are a few things you should take a look at with a critical eye as to whether or not they present a danger to your kitty. If it's hanging, or trailing, and it moves then it's a toy to your kitten! Make sure that you tie up all loose wire and cables, or use cable tacks and attach them firmly to walls or along the baseboard, counter top, up desk legs, etc so that there's nothing to attract your cat's attention. If he pulls a cable on your tea kettle, or computer keyboard, there's a big possibility that the item will end up on the floor and need replaced even if the kitten is unharmed so it makes sense to prevent this happening. Trailing plants such as ivy may also need to be secured, although if kitty finds it, this could be just as hazardous to the plant as the kitten! A kitten can also easily find itself entwined in -- and possibly choke with -- hanging fixings such as those on window treatments and lamps, so tie these up out of the kitten's way -- if he doesn't see it moving, he won't be attracted to it. Like magpies, kittens are also drawn to small things that sparkle but which can be lethal if they swallow them so put your jewelry away in a box where he can't see it. Other small things such as paper clips, rubber bands, thumb tacks, threads from a sewing box, are all possible toys that are dangerous to you kitten so use commonsense when finding a place to store these once you have a kitty in your home. Although kitty's can't open bottles or containers which have poisonous liquids in them, it is possible for them to poison themselves by consuming toxic substances in other formats so be careful where you spray bug spray, and cleaning materials. This may seem like being overly cautious, but before you switch on any appliance such as the microwave, oven, washer or dryer, make sure that the kitten has found its way inside! What a kitten loves as much as his toys is warmth, and it will seek out the warm places in your home. A quick check will ensure a tragic accident doesn't occur. Kittens are tiny and fragile, and they have no concept of danger, so limiting the amount of potential hazards will create a safer environment for your kitten to explore.
How to do a Weekly Health Check on your Kitty Although you don't need to take your kitty to the vet more than once a year -- unless of course she gets sick or injured -- there are steps you can take in order to ensure that your cat is in good health. On a weekly basis, set aside about 5-10 minutes to take a look at your kitty -- not to congratulate yourself on picking the best of the litter -- but rather in an objective light to examine various parts of the cat that can highlight the start of any health issue. Call kitty to you. Watch how she moves. Is her weight distributing evenly on all legs or is she trying to avoid putting weight on any of them? Pick her up and look her direct in the eyes. Her eyes should be clear and not clouded. There should be no discharge around the eyes. If there is, once your examination is over, clean these and check them the next day -- if it's back, then you should ring your veterinary clinic for advice. The same goes for kitty's nose. This should be moist but with no discharge. Her ears should be clean and also discharge free. Discharge is a sign of possible infection. If you carefully clear it (no cotton buds/q-tips!) and it returns, then it's time for the vet to take a look. Gently open her mouth and check that she hasn't lost any teeth since the week before and that her teeth are white without looking as if she's got any problems there. Run your hand down her tummy and back. Are there any lumps or bumps that don't belong? You'll get to know what's "normal" for your cat! Lumps and bumps are another reason to call the veterinary clinic for advice. They are not always cause for concern, but they should always be checked out. Check out the quality of her fur -- is it sleek and healthy looking, or is it looking as if it's falling out in places, or is a bit greasy/dull in appearance. This could be a grooming or nutritional issue. Fur falling out is more likely to be something associated with an allergy or even fleas, and a word with your veterinary nurse could start you monitoring possible causes for this. If it's a greasy/dull coat issue, then try bathing your cat and doing a nightly brush of her fur to see if you can improve the condition. If it doesn't improve after a couple of weeks, it's time to seek the advice of the veterinary clinic. The weekly check-up that you give will take only a few minutes and she'll get used to it and will let you do whatever you need to do -- and the main thing is that because you do this same routine every week, you'll soon know when something's not right and can get it looked at by the professionals before it gets too bad and therefore becomes more severe and expensive! How Often Will I Need to Take Kitty to the Vet? The first visit to your local veterinary's clinic should be as soon after bringing her home as possible. The vet will be able to assure you that she's in tip-top condition, advise you on the kind of food and how much she should be having, what shots she should have now, and whether or not she's currently a home for fleas and worms. This is a good opportunity for you to see how the vet handles the kitten, and also to ask any questions you may have about your cat's health in general. Use your time with the veterinary wisely. Whilst the vet examines kitty, ask if there are any kitten care leaflets you could have, or any books she recommends. Ask when the kitten can go outdoors, what's the best way of litter tray training her, how to stop her from scratching your furniture, does she need any vitamins added to her food, how much milk does she need -- any questions, it doesn't matter how dumb you think they may sound to a professional, you aren't a professional and you need the answers! Once the initial examination is complete, the essential question that you should ask the vet is when you should bring the kitten back for her next "check-up", and write that immediately into your day planner. In kittens, some veterinary clinics may want to check on your kitty every other month or so -- or they may recommend a series of weekly shots to boost your kitty's immune system ready for all those birds and mice she's going to chase once she's allowed outside! Once you get through this feline baby stage however, you'll probably be advised to bring your cat into the clinic once a year for an annual shot and general health check-up. Grooming your Kitty Cats are, by nature, clean animals and don't like being dirty. This is also true about kittens. Even the youngest kitty can be seen trying to wash itself. There are instances during your cat's life however when it will be unable to groom itself, or it could be that the kind of cat you choose has high maintenance fur (such as a long hair Persian) and needs a little extra help to keep its fur in good condition. Despite not wanting to be dirty, and despite the constant self-grooming, this does not automatically mean that your kitten is going to enjoy your interference in its personal grooming routine. The best way to avoid this is to introduce your kitten to being groomed by you from the very start. If you get into an immediate habit of combing and brushing kitty once or twice a week, then if the day comes when he's just in too much mess, or too sick to manage himself, then he won't mind your intervention. Although you won't be able to introduce him to a bath, you can introduce him to the idea of a bath using a dish (without water) and a damp face cloth, but this should be done every few weeks. Grooming in the form of brushing however should be done more frequently. One perfect time for this is at night when you're watching TV and kitty crawls up onto your lap. Have a brush to hand (a baby brush is fine for a short haired kitten) and gently brush the kitten in the direction his fur grows. He'll get used to how this feels, and often will start to purr his approval. If you have a longer-furred kitten, set aside half an hour at least twice a week to thoroughly comb through his coat. This will ensure that tangles don't build up and his coat will remain healthy looking. As he gets older, and is allowed outdoors, make sure that you spend 5-10 minutes with him every week to gently put the flea comb through his fur. This means that you are sure that he remains flea-free, and at the very least, can initiate a flea-removal treatment should your comb find something. The time you invest grooming your kitten will pay dividends when he becomes a cat that needs help with cleaning his fur. A cat that is used to being groomed is far easier to maintain than one who turns every grooming session into a battle of wills! Fleas and your Kitten When you look at the new feline addition to your home, it's hard to imagine that it could have anything like fleas. Unfortunately, it's not unheard of for a very young kitten to have fleas; it all very much depends upon the environment in which it lived before you brought it to live with you. For example, if the mother cat had fleas, then there's a huge possibility that all the kittens will have fleas. If there was another pet in the home such as another cat, or dog, then again, there's a possibility that even though the mother cat wasn't allowed out while she was nursing her kittens, fleas were brought in by the other pets. Even humans can bring fleas into a home on their shoes or clothes. One of the first things you should have in your home is a flea comb. As soon as you bring the kitten home, take it to the bathroom and gently talk to it as you glide the flea comb through the kitty's fur. Pay special attention to the area at the base of the tail, or behind the ears -- if kitty has fleas, you're bound to find one here. And at this point, one is all you need to find out that you have a problem that needs immediate attention. In your kitty grooming box, you should have picked up something that will both kill off the fleas, and be safe for a newborn kitten. Have this ready for when you first bring kitten into your home and if you find a flea on your kitten, follow the instructions on the box or bottle. Remember that the kitten is already going to be feeling very insecure at this point, and so you must keep talking gentle to him and not frighten him more than necessary. It's much better if you can do this on your own without any other family members/pets in the room so as to keep the environment calm. Once he's clean, allow him to meet the rest of the family, but don't allow him back into the cat carrier, or onto any bedding/toys that had contact with him before you did the flea treatment. Make sure that you wash these all out thoroughly before he's allowed to have them back. In most cases a kitten will not have fleas when it arrives in its new home, but taking a few simple precautions, so that you're prepared "just in case" he does, will make a potentially big job painless for both you and the kitty. My Kitten Doesn't Drink Milk -- What Should I Do? Almost everyone who has never owned a cat before, or who hasn't owned a "fussy" cat, is under the impression that all cats drink milk. This is like saying that "all women like chocolate" -- of course most women like chocolate but there's a large enough percentage who don't like it to disprove the common thought. Likewise with cats, it's more accurate to say that most cats drink milk, but not all of them. There are some cats who don't like milk -- and there are even some who are lactose intolerant! If you find that your kitty doesn't like milk, or your veterinary has advised you that the fur problems are caused by an allergy that he has traced to being a lactose allergy, then you need to ensure that the kitten drinks plenty of water. If the kitten is really young, then you should ask your veterinary to suggest some alternatives to make sure that the kitten gets the right amount of calcium to ensure his bones and teeth grow healthily. An older cat doesn't need quite so much attention paid to its calcium intake, but if you know he isn't drinking milk, then choose one of the cat food brands that adds calcium amongst the added vitamins and minerals it lists on the packaging. If you wanted to make sure that your cat is getting an "appropriate" amount of calcium for its age and size, you could again check this with your veterinary when you take the cat for its annual check-up/shots. If your cat is pregnant, nursing a litter, or moving into the "elderly feline" category, you should again check with your veterinary as to whether you need to have a calcium supplement for your pet. Although all cats do need calcium, just as we do, and in different amounts through the various life stages, it's more than possible for your cat to be completely healthy without drinking milk. A couple of minutes spent checking with your veterinary will soon reassure you that everything is fine and how to ensure your kitten's nutritional intake is adequate. The Scoop on Kitty Vaccinations If you've bought a pedigree kitten, it should already have had its shots. If you're thinking about buying a pedigree kitten, make sure you get paperwork proving that the vaccinations have been given and they're all up-to-date. If you're buying a non-pedigree cat, a moggy, then you will need to consider the issues surrounding each vaccination yourself. All kittens ought to be vaccinated before they are allowed outdoors. This is to build their immune system up. The vaccination program for kitties starts between 6-8 weeks, so it's possible that if you take kitty home at 8 weeks, he's already had his first shot. The shots are given 2-3 weeks apart, and there are usually 3 shots in total. As a rabies shot is not always included in the initial kitten shots, if your kitty is going to be going outside, then this is an additional vaccination that you should discuss with your veterinary once kitty is 4 months old. The shots that young kittens get will cover them against such diseases as: Rhinotracheitis -- which is characterized by symptoms such as sneezing, fever, ocular discharge, and coughing. Calicivirus -- which affects the respiratory system, and has symptoms such as pneumonia, diarrhea and even arthritis. Feline Distemper -- which is associated with diarrhea and vomiting type symptoms. Feline Leukemia Virus, otherwise known as FeLV -- this destroys the cats immune system and is responsible for many feline deaths as it leads to fatal infections. Feline AIDS -- like FeLV this destroys the immune system of a cat leaving it open to fatal infections. Feline Infectious Peritonitis, or FIP -- this incurable disease attacks the cat's abdominal area. Chlamydia -- affecting eyes and respiratory area, this disease is both common and contagious. Some of these vaccines will need to be given annually to ensure that your cat remains immune so check with veterinary clinic to ensure that your cat's vaccinations are always kept up-to-date. Does My Kitty Need an ID Tag? Well the first question really is, where are you going to put it? If you're talking about kitty as an 8 week old furry babe who's just arrived in your home, then probably you don't need one yet. The purpose of an ID tag is to help to identify your cat should it go missing, and as your new kitty shouldn't be going outside just yet, then it doesn't really need an ID tag -- plus you're also going to have to find somewhere to put it because 8 week old kittens are a little bit small to wear a collar! Once your kitty is a little bigger and demanding to explore the world outside your home, then it's time to consider an ID tag. There are many different types you can buy to attach to the kitten's collar. These range from classy to fun, and from self-wrote information to engraved. Classy or fun is an open choice, but there are a few things you need to think about with the information -- if the tag is engraved, then the information is there permanently (well until you change it for another one, if you move for instance), but an ID tag where you write the information needs three things -- firstly a permanent ink pen so that the information doesn't wear off or fade, the information must be clear so that anyone reading it can understand the address or telephone number, and it must have some form of waterproof covering so that snow, rain and puddle damage can't erode the information. Another thing you could consider is having your vet implant an ID chip into your kitty. He could do this when undertaking a routine examination or perhaps taking out stitches after your kitten has been neutered. ID chipping means that there's no possibility of your cat losing its collar and becoming ID-less, all anyone needs to do is take the kitty to the nearest authorities and they'll be able to scan him and have you traced in the least possible time. There are those who love the ID chip implant idea, and those who hate it, and there's no right and wrong decision, it's very much up to you. The only thing to remember is that cats, especially kittens, sometimes need a little help getting back home, and so once your kitty is mobile enough to be outdoors, he really should have an ID tag that speaks for him. Does My Kitty Need a Pet Carrier? There are ways of getting around this, but sooner or later you will probably find that you need to purchase a pet carrier so you may as well put it on your initial kitty expenditure list. That way, when you go to pick up your kitten, you'll know that you can transport it comfortably home without the kitten being hurt or causing an accident by jumping off your lap or out of your arms and distracting the person driving you home -- you could even drive yourself if your kitty's locked up safe and sound in a carrier! There are many different pet carriers on the market. Choose one that fits your preference but which has enough room for a fully grown cat to be able to stand up and turn around in. Also choose a pet carrier that allows air to circulate on all four sides, and if possible has a place to add a water dish. You may not immediately have a need for the water dish but if you purchase a pet carrier that has this feature, you'll be ready should a need arise during your cat's lifetime. If you are buying two kittens, rather than just one, then one pet carrier between them is usually enough. As kittens they'll be happiest traveling together, and as adult cats you'll rarely be taking them anywhere at the same time. When taking your kitty(s) home for the first time, put a layer of newspaper on the bottom of the pet carrier to absorb any "accidents" and place a blanket or towel that they are familiar with on top of this so that they feel a little secure because they know the smell of the fabric. You should also use this set-up any other time you use the carrier throughout your cat's life. There's a knack to getting your adult cat into a pet carrier that comes with practice (and patience) but kittens will usually just allow themselves to be placed inside without too much resistance. Do I Need to Bathe My New Kitty? No, is the short answer you'll be relieved to know. However, it's a "no" that comes with a proviso. Your kitty may be a little bit too small to bathe now, but it's never too soon to start getting it used to an idea it's going to hate when it gets a little older and you have the flea shampoo ready! The best way to bathe your cat is with patient preparation -- and the time to start preparing kitty is as soon as it moves into your home. You won't be using the bath, but you can get him used to the procedure so that once the real thing starts to happen, he isn't going to get a shock. Prepare a bowl that's big enough to bath a half-grown cat. The first couple of times, don't put any water in it. Just put the dish on the floor in the bathroom, assemble items you would use in the event that you were actually bathing him such as shampoo, towel, comb, towel plus have a warm (not hot) damp face cloth to hand. Put the kitten into the dish so that he's standing, and firmly hold him there. Talk softly and reassuring to him. Stroke him from head down then along his body and up to the top of his tail. When he's used to you doing that, take the face cloth in the same hand and do the same only with the damp face cloth touching his fur, constantly talking to him in a gentle reassuring voice. After a few weeks, have a little bit of luke warm water -- just covering the bottom of the dish -- for him to stand in, and hold him firm whilst talking reassuringly until he gets used to the feeling. After a few more weeks, raise the water so that it just covers the top of his paws. It may seem like a lot of work but most cats are terrified of water, and so spending this growing/learning time with your kitten will ensure that when it comes to doing the "real deal" bathing, your cat is going to have some positive experiences to fall back on, and it shouldn't be such a traumatic exercise for either of you. Do I Need Pet Health Insurance for My Kitty? Pet healthcare insurance is a red hot topic. Is it necessary? Well the first thing you need to know, especially if you've never owned a pet before this new kitty that's just joined your family, is that veterinary clinics cost a lot of money! This implies that pet healthcare insurance is a good idea, but wait -- don't go signing that agreement just yet! Before committing to a particular healthcare plan for your kitten, make sure that you collect a number of different leaflets from various companies. Then spend a couple of hours reading through each one and if possible, create yourself a table that lists the types of benefits down the side and the names of the insurance companies along the top. You should also leave space at the bottom of each insurance company's column to write in anything "not covered by policy", this could include specific chronic conditions such as allergies, diabetes and asthma. Complete the table as you read the leaflets. Once you know what each insurance covers, and how much the cost, and more importantly what their policy doesn't cover, you can start to see which policy(s) stand out from the rest as being good possibilities. Before you sign up for anything check on the internet for any reviews the company has for its pet insurance. Just because offer a fantastic house insurance, or retirement planning package, doesn't mean they will pay for whatever illness you kitten may have throughout its life! See what other people who have used them as healthcare insurance for their cats have to say. Finally, read the small print. Will they cover your kitty for the same amounts and same illnesses throughout her entire life, or will it change as she gets older? That is to say, when she starts to have health issues, will the insurance company still have the same good benefits and prices or will there be exemptions and higher excesses for you to pay once she really needs the insurance. You may decide that it's worth the peace of mind just to insure your kitty anyway, but at least you know that things are going to get more expensive as she gets older -- or you could simply decide to ignore the insurance (routine annual check-ups and shots are excluded from the policy anyway) and financially commit the same amount of money to a special account each month, and use that only when kitty has extra healthcare needs. Create a Safe Zone for your New Kitty When you first bring kitty home, there will need to be a transition period for both the kitten and the members of your household. A kitten is tiny, and it's curious about everything and so no matter where you are, at any time the kitten could be right behind you, in front of you, or trying to climb up your leg! In order to get through the transition period without becoming a bundle of nerves, the best thing you can do for the kitten and yourself is to create a safe zone. This is a place where you can put kitty so you know he's safe and not going to get trod on, and where kitty also knows he'll be safe from getting stood on! Find a large cardboard box, approximately 3 feet square, plus at least 3 feet high. Organize the inside of the box so that there are specific areas for specific things, such as a sleeping corner, some paper to go potty on (if there's room for a temporary litter tray in there all the better!), and a supply of fresh water that's not easily knocked over. Also give the kitten a couple of small toys to play with so he doesn't get bored. This becomes like a toddlers playpen. It's somewhere you know he's safe. As with a toddler however, he's going to try and get out once the novelty of the box is gone and it's been completely explored. He'll take a jump for the top of the box, so make sure that you use a box that's quite heavy and won't fall over if he manages to hang over the top of it -- you also don't want to make it so high that if he does manage to get to the top, and fall out, he's not going to hurt himself -- you could place a cushion at the base of the side most likely to be the "escape route" just in case. You also should place the box in a shady area, away from sunlight, and out of the way of drapes because if he can, he'll make a jump for the drapes and escape that way! Despite the escape possibility, the safe zone will give you peace of mind, especially in the early days when you're still adjusting to having him around, and it will give him somewhere of his own to retreat to when he's had enough of the "big" world inside your home. Although he may want to escape the box, there'll be other times when it all gets a bit much and he actual sits beside his safe zone -- or attempts to jump in! Where to Learn More about Keeping your Kitten Healthy There's a huge array of resources that will help you to keep your kitten healthy. What you need to know is which ones will help you to keep your kitten healthy! One of the best sources of information is your veterinary clinic. Not only will they be able to provide you with free leaflets and information, they may also have their own guide they give out to new kitten owners, and books that they suggest you read or have on your reference shelf in case of emergency. There are so many books published on the subject of cat and kitten care that it's easy to get lost, or pick up a book that's not quite as comprehensive as it could be, and a recommendation or two from your veterinary can allow you to choose between books that he thinks are the best ones available for your situation. If you are still at the deciding stage about whether or not it's a good idea to bring a kitten into your home, check out some recently published books on kitten care from your local library. As with human healthcare, trends in feline healthcare also change to reflect new techniques, new medications, and the environments that cats now live in, so reading up on recently published books will allow you to learn current ideas and solutions rather than some that could be outdated. The Internet offers a great resource for anyone thinking of buying, or having just bought, a kitten. Here you will find websites that are run by both professionals, and ordinary people with a passion for cats. Amongst the cat websites you'll find everything you could ever want to know from cat toy reviews to latest feline research news, and everything in between. There are even online courses you can take to help you learn about taking proper care of your kitten. There's so many ways to learn about making sure you keep your kitten healthy, so it's just a question of finding the right resource that works for you, and having it accessible so that whenever you need it, you just have to open or log-in and the answer to your question will be there for you.
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