So you’re thinking of adopting a kitten? That’s not surprising, as cats are one of the most popular pets in the world, and it’s easy to see why. Whether you’re a first-time pet owner or a certified crazy cat-lover, you’ll quickly fall in love with their graceful antics.
Although cats often have a reputation for being independent, low-maintenance pets, they still have some unique needs that you’ll need to consider in order to give your new cat the best life possible. So before you adopt a kitten, make sure you’re prepared to provide these essential care requirements to keep them healthy, happy, and mentally stimulated.
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1. Get the essentials for your adopted kitten in advance
Before you bring your new friend home, make sure you have all the essentials you’ll need to give your kitten a smooth transition. At the minimum, you’ll need the best kitten food and fresh water, bowls, litter boxes, the best kitten toys, and the best cat scratching posts. If your kitten is very young, you may want to use a cookie sheet as a makeshift litter box that’s easy to get in and out of. Don’t forget to also stock up on high-quality food that’s specifically formulated for kittens.
When you first bring your kitten home, it’s best to keep it confined to a small, quiet room for at least the first few days to give it time to settle in. Set this room up well before your kitten arrives to minimize changes and shuffling that might otherwise frighten it.
2. Be prepared for the costs of caring for a new kitten
Your investment in your kitten doesn’t end with the purchase price or an adoption fee. Owning a pet is a lifelong commitment, and the costs of caring for your new pet can be high. On average, the ASPCA estimates that owning a cat costs about $1,200 in the first year, and that’s not including adoption or purchase fees. The estimate also does not include any major accidents or illnesses, which can quickly become costly. Remember that a cat is a 15+ year commitment, and you’ll need to be financially prepared to provide care throughout your cat’s life.
To help allay some expenses, consider signing your cat up for the best pet insurance or starting a savings account for emergency use.
3. Provide plenty of socialization and enrichment
Socialization and training for your new kitten will be essential to ensure you avoid kitten behavior problems. The critical period for socialization in kittens occurs from about two to eight weeks of age. During this time, your kitten is most amenable to learning from new experiences. However, your kitten is also very susceptible to developing fears as a result of negative experiences at this age, so it is very important for your kitten to have positive, rewarding experiences during this critical period and beyond.
Make sure you’re ready to provide positive reinforcement training and plenty of socialization to help set your kitten up for success later in life! Cats of all ages also need mental stimulation and environmental enrichment to ward off boredom, particularly if they’re being kept indoors. Without adequate environmental enrichment, cats may become overweight, anxious, or even destructive. Check out the OSU Indoor Pet Initiative for some great ideas to keep your cat engaged and entertained!
4. Introduce your new kitten to other pets and family members gradually
A new family member may seem threatening to your existing pets, particularly if they’re not used to interacting with animals outside of your household. Similarly, it can be scary for your new kitten to come face to face with other animals right after arriving in a brand new environment. To set both parties up for success, it’s best to start your introductions slowly. Keep your new kitten isolated to one area of the house, such as a small bedroom, for the first few days after adoption, to allow it some time to settle in. This will also give your other pets the chance to smell your new kitten under the door and get used to its presence.
After a few days, you can start swapping places: allow your kitten to explore the house while your other pets are confined to the kitten’s room, safely exploring each other’s scents. You can also feed your pets on either side of a closed door, so that they learn to associate each other with positive experiences. For more on introducing a new pet to your household, check out these tips from the Humane Society of the United States.
5. Don’t forget about healthcare and regular check-ups with your veterinarian
While it may be tough to imagine your rambunctious new kitten getting sick, it’s important not to skip your new pet’s preventive healthcare. Kittens need regular check-ups with their veterinarian throughout their first six months of life. Your kitten will also need a series of vaccinations to help prevent infectious disease, and your veterinarian may recommend some routine health testing, such as checking a fecal sample for parasites.
You should also discuss your kitten’s spay or neuter surgery with your veterinarian. Most vets recommend having this procedure done around six months of age, but your vet may have other recommendations, depending on your kitten’s health and other factors. Be sure to also ask your vet about other preventive health measures, such as flea and tick control, deworming, and keeping your cat indoors.
Don’t forget to take time to enjoy your new kitten!
Bringing a new kitten into your household is an exciting time, but it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of pet ownership and forget to enjoy this adorable time in your new pet’s life. By preparing for your kitten’s arrival in advance, you’ll make the transition into their forever home go much more smoothly. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your new little friend grows up, so take lots of pictures, and be sure to set aside some time to appreciate kittenhood!
Since obtaining her doctorate in veterinary medicine, Dr. Racine has worked exclusively in small animal general practice. Her work has been featured in blog posts, articles, newsletters, journals, and even video scripts.
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