Getting a new kitten is a huge responsibility and is something not to be rushed into without giving the idea a great deal of thought.

First, you’ll have to decide whether you’d like a pedigree or a non-pedigree (moggy).  Pedigree kittens are mini versions of their parents, so you can tell how they will look and, to some extent, behave as adults.  Non-pedigree (moggy) kittens are the result of mating between cats of unknown origin so you can’t be certain of how they will look and behave as they grow.  Your choice will depend on personal taste, budget, time, lifestyle and location.

Pedigrees cost more and will probably require more care and attention, and may need to be kept indoors.  If you work during the day (or are out of the house for long periods) it’s advisable to get two kittens to keep each other company, unless you already have a cat.

Kittens leave home at eight to twelve weeks, when fully weaned and vaccinated.  Animal behaviourists say the first seven weeks of a kitten’s life are the most important and formative.  Kittens kept isolated during this time are less friendly so try to buy one from a family home which has been regularly handled.  This is important especially if your kitten will encounter children or other pets.

Before he arrives: 

·        Find a vet and discuss microchipping and vaccinations plus other essentials such as worming, dental and flea treatments.   Wherever you get your kitten from, it’s worth having him checked over once you get him home.

·        Shop around for comprehensive pet insurance.

·        Think about whether you want to buy and fit a cat flap.

·        Buy cat food, litter and other essentials.

·        Store away favourite fragile ornaments.

·        Tidy away small, easily swallowed items such as drawing pins and sewing needles.

·        Wrap electrical cables in tape, especially behind the TV and stereo.

·        Visit local catteries and make holiday arrangements in advance.

What to buy:

·        Food and water bowls

·        Flea comb and grooming brushes (a baby brush is a good first brush)

·        Bed: a cardboard box and fleecy blanket make an ideal first bed

·        Cat carrier: useful for trips to the vet or cattery

·        Litter tray: a simple plastic tray will suffice, or invest in a covered one

·        Cat litter: buy the same brand as the breeder was using.

·        Rubber gloves and a litter scoop: essential for cleaning

·        Scratch post: necessary to keep claws healthy.  You can make one from a tree branch or wrapping carpet around a wooden post, stapling it very firmly. Alternatively, buy a small kitten-sized scratch post from the pet shop or splash out on a multi-tiered one that encourages energetic play and offers an escape and bolt-hole should he need it

·        Toys: small (but not too small) balls, fluffy mice, and other interactive toys.

Feeding:

A good quality kitten food that your kitten is already used to will help prevent digestive upsets.  Follow instructions carefully and remember kittens have small stomachs (about the size of a walnut) and need feeding little and often.

According to the International Cat Care, kittens aged eight to twelve weeks need four meals a day, reduced to three meals a day between three and six months and twice daily at six months.  Stick to routine and space the meals out evenly, suggested times are 6 – 8 am, 1 pm, 6 pm and 10 pm.

‘Complete’ foods supply all of a kitten’s nutritional needs, whereas foods marked ‘complementary’ do not and should not be fed with other foods.  Commercial cat foods are classified according to how much water they contain.  Wet products are available in cans, aluminium trays and pouches in a variety of flavours.  Dry foods are more concentrated and very convenient, but fresh water must be provided at all times.

Some cats enjoy drinking milk but after weaning, kittens often lose the ability to digest milk sugar (lactose) and while small amounts of diluted milk may be tolerated, too much can cause diarrhoea.   Special brands of cat milk are available but a constant supply of fresh drinking water is essential.

Sleep and play time:  

Your kitten will spend many hours sleeping but once awake will enjoy playing games, especially those that stimulate his hunting instincts.  Choose from a wide range of toys or make your own.  Make sure that there are no small parts that could be bitten off, swallowed or could cause choking.  Fishing rod-type toys are very popular and interactive play with your kitten will really help you get to know and trust each other.

First day:

Arrange collection when you have plenty of time, such as a long weekend.  Make sure the carrier is secure and lined with newspaper (in case of accidents) and a blanket.  Double-check his feeding regime, including quantities and times.  Before leaving, make sure you get the necessary paperwork regarding vaccinations (and pedigree registration if you’re buying from a breeder).  First vaccinations are given between nine and twelve weeks, and kittens should be kept indoors for a week afterwards.  Most breeders vaccinate against cat flu and enteritis and some also against feline leukaemia.

Arriving home:

Make sure all windows and doors are closed and show your kitten his litter tray, bed and food bowls.  Let him explore slowly, one room at a time, and if he seems a little nervous gently reassure him.  Offer a little food and stay with him until he begins to tire.  Placing a warm water bottle under his blanket helps compensate for the absence of his mum and littermates.

Avoid frightening him by introducing other family members and pets very slowly.

Your kitten may already be house-trained but you can help him adjust to his new home by providing a cat litter he is used to and placing the tray in a quiet spot where he feels safe.  You can slowly introduce new cat litter, if you want to, a week or so later.  Minimise changes to his routine and be patient.

The first week: 

Establish a routine of feeding, grooming and playing to help your kitten gain confidence.  It can take a year for most kittens to reach mature weight, with males growing slightly faster and eating more than females.  A lot of energy is expended during this time so increase food accordingly. Dispose of leftovers after half an hour.

Take the kitten to the litter tray whenever he wakes or finishes a meal.  In addition, watch for sniffing, scratching or crouching so you can show him the correct place to go.

Clean and empty litter trays regularly.  Some disinfectants are toxic to cats so only use hot water and detergent.  Rinse thoroughly afterwards.

One week after his vaccinations you can introduce your kitten to the outdoors.  Do this in daylight before feeding and always accompany him.  International Cat Care recommends not leaving a kitten outside alone for at least six months. 

Six things to ask about your kitten

·        Are the parents fully vaccinated, health and sociable?

·        What food is he eating?

·        Which cat litter is used?

·        How much grooming and attention will he need?

·        Is he used to family life?  Have he and his brothers and sisters been brought up indoors?

·        What vaccinations will he have had?

Ask the breeder whether the kitten is used to family life and has been socialised at an early age: lots of handling during the first few weeks of a kitten’s life will play a vital part in making him a friendly confident individual.

For more information, check out the International Cat Care: www.icatcare.org

Cats Protection: www.cats.org.uk or tel: 01403 221919  

The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy: www.gccfcats.org or tel: 01278 427575

 

Five Good Reasons for Having Your Cat Neutered

  • Reduces fighting, injury and noise
  • Reduces spraying and smelling
  • Much less likely to wander and get lost
  • Safer from diseases like feline AIDS, mammary tumours and feline leukaemia
  • Reduces the number of unwanted kittens