New Kitten 101
If you are reading this it is safe to assume you are either thinking of, in the process of, or have already adopted your purrfect companion. Here are the basic essentials your newest family member will need.
* Premium kitten food - feeding a high quality food from the start supports healthy development and can reduce the risk of health problems e.g. bladder stones and urinary tract infections (see http://www.vetsmart.co.za/category/food for some excellent quality brands to choose from).
* Uncovered litter box with low sides for easy entry
* Cat litter
* Litter box scooper
* A small food bowl
* A separate bowl for water
* A scratch post
* Soft grooming brush
* Cozy bed
* Cat carrier
* Cat collar with an ID tag
* Interactive toys and catnip
* Deworming & Flea treatments - many parasites may be passed from the mother to her offspring so it's worth treating the new arrival before they come into contact with your other pets.
Your first stop after picking up your new kitten
Depending on where you got your new kitten and their age, they may either need to start or continue their initial kitten vaccinations (http://www.vetsmart.co.za/content/vaccinations) and deworming. Even if the initial vaccinations have been done prior to adoption, a visit to the veterinarian for a general check-up is advised before bringing the new member home, especially if you have other pets at home to avoid spreading any illnesses between pets. During your consultation you will be able to ask all the questions you have as a new pet parent, so have all your questions ready beforehand.
The Sanctuary Room
The sanctuary room refers to the specific room for your new kitten/cat in order to help them adjust to their new surroundings and to avoid overwhelming them on the first day. The amount of time your new companion needs to spend in the sanctuary room varies depending on their personality, age and whether you have other pets at home. Your sanctuary room will need to be equipped with a litter box, a scratch post, a few hiding places (boxes work well), a cozy spot for those catnaps, food and water. Remember, cats like to sleep on elevated areas e.g. scratchposts or couches as it makes them feel safer. For hygiene reasons, make sure that the food and water bowls are not placed near the litter box.
You can also leave the pet carrier in the room for your cat as a safe place to hide - don't forget to line the carrier with a blanket or towel to make it comfortable. Family members may be introduced one by one to avoid overwhelming your new kitty. When you feel your kitten is ready to move to different areas within the house you may allow him/her to do so but always ensure the sanctuary room is accessible to them and that the litter box is available whenever needed.
The Cat Carrier
The cat carrier is introduced in the sanctuary room in order to desensitize the cat to the experience of being in the carrier and also to make travelling easier and less stressful for them. To make a hesitant kitten become more accepting of the pet carrier you can place treats inside. In doing so, they will associate a pleasant event with the object.
Bonding with your kitten
During the time your kitten is confined in the sanctuary room you can begin the bonding process. Bring along interactive toys to assist in the building of a lifelong friendship - cat teaser design toys are great for a new kitten/cat as it will help them to trust you by allowing enough space between the two of you. Remember, kittens are full of energy and will require lots of play time!
Kitten-proofing and Safety
Young kittens will view everything in their surroundings as a potential toy which means kitty-proofing your home is a MUST!
A ball of yarn is often seen as a cute toy for a cat to play with; however, this could potentially be deadly. The reason for this is that all cats have backward-facing barbs on their tongues (this is why a cat's tongue will feel raspy to you). Wild cats use these barbed tongues to scrape meat from the bones of their prey, but these barbs also trap dirt, hair and parasites as cats groom themselves. Because of the direction in which the barbs face, anything that gets attached to their tongue is swallowed - yarn or string can lead to choking, vomiting or life-threatening intestinal blockages or tears. If you see your kitty swallow string, take them to the vet immediately. Never try to pull the string out as you can cause serious damage if the intestines have already wrapped around it.
Here are a few examples of how to kitten-proof your home:
* Secure all electrical cords so that they don't dangle in kitty's reach
* Coat all accessible electrical cords with a bitter anti-chew product such as Avert bitter solutions (http://www.vetsmart.co.za/product/kyron-avert-bitter-solution)
* Keep all household cleaning products and medicine stored away in cupboards that aren't accessible to your new family member
* Close all sewing and knitting kits after use and double-check for any pins that may have landed on the carpet
* Don't leave candles burning where your kitten can reach
* Check that your household plants are not poisonous to cats e.g. Lilies, Tulips and Chrysanthemums. Remember that even contact with these plants may result in toxic pollen falling onto the cat's coat which is then ingested during grooming.
Please bear in mind that these are only a few examples and that you as the owner need to assess the new environment for the kitten and adjust your check list accordingly.
The Litter Box
Since your kitten will most likely still require some potty training it is important to ensure the litter box always stays in the same place so that they don't get confused. Kittens are still developing their physical and mental abilities so start off with a low cut litter box. Once the kitten is older, the litter box can be replaced with a bigger one. It will also be helpful to have a schedule in which you take your kitten to the litter box, this will be at times when elimination is most likely, e.g. after a meal or a nap.
In multi-cat households, make sure that you have a litter box for each cat as well as one extra to reduce stress and avoid any uneccessary confrontations between cats.
Food and Water
Each cat should have their own food and water bowls to avoid a dominant cat scaring others away. Kittens, adult and senior (over 7 years) cats have different nutrient requirements and should be eating the correct food for their age. Kittens and cats also eat several times a day; your veterinarian can advise you as to how often and how much to feed your new pet based on their age and health status.
Did you know that many cats don't like their food and water close together? This means that double feeders are generally not advisable for cats of any age; they should instead have two separate bowls in an appropriate size. Always make sure there is a constant supply of fresh water. Kitty milk replacement formula is specially formulated for kittens and may be used until weaning. Remember that weaned cats lack the enzymes required to digest milk, which may cause stomach upsets so if you want to give a treat, stick to pouches or tinned cat food instead (http://www.vetsmart.co.za/product/hills-cat-pouch-adult-multi-pack-12-x-85g).