Caring for and raising a kitten
Raising a kitten can be fun but is often the least considered responsibility when you bring a new kitten into your home. Caring for a kitten correctly will help them to grow into healthy and sociable adult cats. In contrast, raising a kitten poorly could result in an unhappy life for your adult cat.
Here you can read everything you need to know about caring for a kitten the right way, from the supplies you need to socialisation and kitten flea treatment.
Preparing for raising a kitten
You can start to prepare for raising a kitten as soon as you have decided that you are going to bring the new pet into your home. To start with, there are some basic supplies that every kitten needs:
- Food and water bowl: This does not require much effort from your side but you could buy a water fountain. Most cats like to drink from a source of running water and this will prevent your adult cat from always sitting on the sink next to the tap.
Place water in several locations around the house so that your kitten doesn’t have to walk far to rehydrate. Cats also don’t like their water close to their food or litter box - there should be a space of at least two metres between them.
- Litter box: Always make sure that the cat’s litter box is in a quiet place because cats also value their privacy while meeting their needs. If you have a covered litter box you could keep the lid off for a while so that your kitten can easily find its way.
Also keep the litter box away from where the cat eats and sleeps because cats also don't like going to the toilet where they eat or sleep. Are you concerned about odours? Then use Yarrah's cat litter, where the added organic oils help to reduce any odour to a minimum.
- Basket or pillow: In caring for a kitten you need to accept that they need time to get used to their new environment. By creating a comfortable place for them to rest you will provide them with a space to which they can withdraw.
Once the kitten is used to their new family, you could move their basket to a place where the rest of the household get together like, for example, the sitting room.
- Scratching posts: Your biggest fear when raising a kitten is that your fabric-covered sofa might not survive. Cats scratch instinctively and usually scratch sofas and other furniture when they don’t have anywhere else to scratch.
Place enough scratching posts around your house to prevent your cat from choosing your furniture as their ideal place for scratching.
- Cat carrier: You will need to use your own cat carrier to pick your new kitten from the breeder. Put a blanket that smells like their new environment inside it so that the kitten can get used to it.
Never transport a kitten in an open box or have someone just hold them. It might be disturbing having to listen to your kitten meowing all the time, but a cat on the loose while driving is very dangerous!
- Medication: Caring for your kitten means that you also have to deworm and give them kitten flea treatment regularly. You can do this as soon as your kitten weighs more than 1 Kg. How often you need to repeat the treatment will depend on the product but usually kitten flea treatment should be given monthly and dewormer only a few times a year.
Besides the necessary basic supplies you need for raising a kitten you might consider a gate on any staircase in your house to prevent your kitten from accidentally falling down the stairs. They cannot safely climb stairs until they are a bit older and it is also ideal for your kitten to get used to a smaller space at first.
You need to make sure that there aren’t any pot plants in your house that are poisonous to cats. Furthermore, make your house escape free. Keep the windows closed and make sure that there aren’t any openings on your balcony that the kitten can crawl through.
Caring for a kitten in the first few days
During the first few days you should give your new pet enough time to discover everything at their own pace. Some kittens will hide in a corner or under the sofa for the first week, while others might wander around all day sniffing everything. Allow this process to unfold without disturbing your kitten. For example, don't keep on pulling them out of their hiding place. Once the kitten feels safe it will come out of hiding and approach you on its own.
You should also help your children to understand that it takes time for a kitten to settle in. Kittens who are constantly disturbed during the habituation phase might grow into fearful and antisocial adult cats. Enthusiastic friends and family members who want to come and see your new kitten should also wait until the kitten has settled down. Kittens are super cute for a long time so waiting a week or so won’t make a big difference.
All you really have to do is to show the kitten where they can find their food, water and litter box. Pick them up carefully and put them down in the right place. These young animals are more intelligent than you would imagine and will learn very quickly where they should go to meet their basic needs.
Hopefully your kitten will already have learnt how to use the litter box before you collected them from the breeder. It will usually be enough to place them in the box and let them smell but, if not, you can repeat this process if your kitten pees or poops elsewhere.
The correct way to pick up a kitten
You just want to cuddle your cute kitten all the time but an important part of caring for a kitten is to learn how to pick them up correctly. Until now the kitten was only picked up by the scruff of their neck by their mother. Many people believe that this is the right way to pick up a kitten, but there are better ways. As a human you never know exactly where the right place on the scruff is and there is a good chance that the way you grab hold of the kitten will be very uncomfortable for them.
Always approach your kitten from the side, squat down and softly say a few comforting words. Your kitten will be reassured by the tone of your voice. Pet your kitten first and then picking them up won’t come as a complete surprise. Slide your whole hand under the kitten's front legs and use your other hand to support the hind legs. Then hold the kitten close against your chest to create a sense of security - the more contact you have with them the better.
Never pick a kitten up when they have just eaten. Their body needs some time to digest the food and then it is best for them to lie down and rest. Furthermore, always let go of your kitten whenever you get the feeling that they don’t want to be picked up. Also teach your children about raising a kitten, including not to pick them up too often and how to pick them up correctly. A kitten could get aggressive when it doesn’t want to be handled and this could cause anxiety for both the kitten and the children.
Socialising your kitten
Socialisation is a very important part of caring for your kitten. Once they are completely used to their new environment, you can start introducing them to new things and people. You can also encourage your kitten to come to you by, for example, offering them a treat.
Your kitten can also meet strangers at this point. Always give them some time to get to know a new person by, for example, just sniffing their hand. Once the kitten seems comfortable in the company of the other person they could also win them over with a snack. Don’t force any encounters. Rather try again another day if your kitten shows any signs of discomfort.
When it comes to raising a kitten, it's important to remember that reward is always better than punishment. As soon as the kitten does something that is not allowed, try to find an alternative.
For example, many people don’t want their cat jumping onto a kitchen counter. Often your kitten isn’t doing this to find food but because they are curious to see what you are doing. Then you can try to find another spot from where they can see what is happening on the counter.
Train your kitten by moving it from the counter to this spot every time and put down a tasty snack as a reward. You can use this method for other training as well. For example, if your kitten is scratching your sofa, move it calmly to the scratching post.
Also teach your kitten from an early age that it is not okay to play with your hands or feet. People often think that it’s very cute when a kitten attacks their hands but this game is far from fun when your cat is fully grown with sharp teeth and claws. Always use a toy to distract your kitten from attacking you when it wants to play.
Letting your kitten out for the first time
There is no fixed time for allowing a kitten outside for the first time, but most owners keep them inside for the first six months. By this time your kitten is fully vaccinated and often also sterilised as well.
When you allow your kitten to go outside it’s best to do it for the first while when their stomach is empty. This ensures that they will come home to eat. Initially 30 to 60 minutes outside will be more than enough for your kitten. They will encounter so many new experiences that it will feel like a few hours to them. Then you can gradually stretch the length of time your kitten spends outdoors.
You don't have to worry about your pet losing their way back. Cats are very capable of finding their way because, every time they go out, they explore a little further from home and so they never get lost. Initially your kitten will just explore and play around in your garden and it will be a while before they venture out into the rest of the neighbourhood.
When your cat is outside it’s best to leave the door or a window open so that they can come right back inside when things get a bit too exciting. Kittens could become very anxious when they are left standing in front of a closed door.
You should also have your kitten chipped by your vet before you allow them to wander around outside. The chip has a number that you can register on a database with your name and contact details. If your cat does get lost and is found by a stranger the chip can be scanned by the animal shelter or a vet and this will identify you as their owner.
Also note that your kitten will need to be dewormed more often once it is allowed outside. A cat that spends time outdoors will need to be dewormed up to four times a year whereas once a year is enough for an indoor cat. Kitten flea treatment is also more important once your cat goes outside because other cats can pass their fleas on to yours.
The right food for your kitten
Kittens are not removed from their mothers until they are at least seven weeks old and by then they are already eating solid food. Feeding your kitten a combination of both wet and dry kitten food is usually ideal. Wet food provides moisture while dry food is less expensive.
Caring for a kitten means that you should ensure that they get all the nutrients they need to grow into healthy adult cats. This is why kitten food with a high protein and fat content is recommended. Yarrah's organic and grain-free cat food meets these requirements.
Don’t know which food is suitable for kittens? We do! At the top of our selection of cat food is a filter where you can click on 'kitten'. All the products which are then displayed can be safely fed to kittens. Kittens can also enjoy our organic cat chews, because they can easily be broken into smaller pieces.