Your Guide to Kitten Care
While a seasonal forecast of tiny cats might sound like a cuteness overload, kitten season can be a hectic time for animal shelters trying to manage the influx of kittens being born and brought in. Typically lasting between April and October, kitten season occurs during the warmer months when female cats are often giving birth to litters. There may be a number of you welcoming kittens into your homes for the first time, but don’t be a scaredy cat! We’ve compiled information that will help make the transition easier on you and any other cats in your household.
Much like baby-proofing a home, it’s essential to take into consideration your new kitten’s safety before their arrival. Check your home for any plants or items that could be harmful to your kitten. Common flowers such as lilies, baby’s breath, daffodils and carnations are all considered poisonous to cats — and sometimes a little too tempting to chew. Human food, medications, household cleaners and small objects like rubber bands and electrical cords should all be kept away from surfaces or areas of the home that are easily accessible to your kitten.
Welcome Home Kitten
Once adopted and on their own away from the litter, kittens need to feel warm with a sense of security. Find a quiet place within your home to place a cat bed or cardboard box lined with a blanket for your new kitten to nest in. For a safe trip home, purchase a cat carrier for transportation and future visits to the vet. Hold off on any overstimulation like toys while your kitten takes in their new surroundings, they could be a little frazzled!
Importance of Indoors
Remember to keep doors and windows closed to avoid an unexpected trip outside, and be sure to have a collar and proper identification tags ready for when your kitten arrives home. Teaching your kitten to stay indoors while they’re young will establish life as an indoor cat and help to avoid developing a preference for the outdoors as they grow. Dr. Elsey’s is spreading the word about the importance of staying indoors through our #orangeinside campaign. If you spot a cat wearing an orange collar, that is an indoor kitty who needs help getting home. You can score an orange collar for your kitten by purchasing a specially marked bag of our 40-lb Dr. Elsey’s Ultra litter.
When your kitten first arrives home, be sure to place out water and cleanprotein™ in non-plastic bowls. Inspired by the protein levels found in natural prey, Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ naturally optimizes your cat’s appetite and body mass through simple, high-quality ingredients. After being weaned off of milk, an introduction to soft foods like cleanprotein™ recipe paté is best, slowly introducing cleanprotein™ kibble over time. Food fuels growth, so keep in mind a kitten’s diet requires up to two times the recommended daily feeding amount for kibble, and up to two and a half times the recommended amount for paté. Your kitten will continue to gain weight rapidly until 6 to 7 months of age. After that, weight gain will continue slowly until about 10 months of age.
Kittens will start to discover the litter box at about four to five weeks old, and this is when they will go through an oral or “litter tasting” stage. During this period, it is best to use a non-clumping litter like conventional clay litters. At roughly eight weeks when a kitten is weaned and eating on its own, you can then switch to Dr. Elsey’s Kitten Attract. Kitten Attract contains a natural herbal attractant that piques a kitten’s interest in using the litter box, and is also soft and comfortable on small kitten paws.
Kitten claws are razor sharp and can be used to defend themselves, mark territory, climb and play. To keep yourself and your furniture out of harm’s way, introduce your kitten to a scratching post made of carpet or cardboard. Investing in your kitten’s amusement can prevent damage and frustration while creating an enriching environment for your new kitten to play in. Using your hands and feet instead of toys during playtime may teach your kitten that rough play is acceptable. Alternatively, counter this behavior by using fishing pole-type toys or plush throwable toys for them to chase.
Introducing Other Cats
Have another cat in your household who might not be as keen to the concept of a new sibling as you’d hoped? Keep in mind that the slower the introduction period, the better the chance of the cats adjusting to one another. We recommend confining the new kitten to a room of its own for the first week. During this time alone, you can help them acclimate to the other’s smell by wiping each cat’s fur with a towel and placing the towel under the other’s food bowl. After a while, switch the rooms out by letting the kitten explore the whole house while the existing cat spends time alone. When they’re finally ready to cohabitate, try setting up a dinner date for two. Feed them on either side of the partially closed door, with an opening big enough to see and smell each other. This association between food and the other’s presence can help to calm any lingering anxieties with the pleasurable activity of eating.
Whether you’re adopting or fostering this kitten season, prepare yourself (and your camera — remember to use #drelseys when sharing!) for the amusement that comes with looking after a tiny ball of fur. While the responsibility of looking after such a small creature can be daunting, with the right care, your kitten will begin to grow before your eyes. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can help make a difference this kitten season, contact your local animal shelter for more information on volunteering and how to donate.