Your New Kitten

So you are adopting a kitten - congratulations! If this is your first cat, you are in for quite a treat - and probably a lot of questions. I will try to answer those questions here. First there is the question of food. Please ignore all those cutsie cat food commercials, and don't bother with the cat food aisle in the grocery store. Instead, go to a natural food store, or a pet supply store that specializes in natural products. A premium quality food will have no by-products, no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

It will list a meat-based protein source first, such as chicken or lamb. The better ones will have more than one protein ingredient. Grains should be kept to a minimum, and should be whole grains, not fractions such as corn gluten meal or rice bran. Some of the newer cat foods are now grain-free. Cats and kittens require a high protein, high fat diet.

Kittens should be fed two to four times a day, once or twice a day is enough for the adult cat. Pick up any leftover food after thirty minutes. Don't worry if it doesn't look like the kitten is eating much. Even adult cats usually eat a small amount at a time, and kittens are very small animals. Cats also won't eat if upset or nervous, as your new kitten will probably be. Be sure to have water available at all times, though most cats do not drink much water, especially if they are eating canned food.

For food dishes, any small, shallow container will work. They seem to have the easiest time getting every last bit out of dishes with rounded bottoms. You can offer treats if you like, but don't overdo it,or the cat will wait for them and not eat it's regular diet. Too many treats will make your cat fat, which is unhealthy.

Be sure to use a premium brand of treat as well, and never feed the soft ones - they contain harmful chemicals. Though not a big part of a cat's diet, many of them like some fruits and vegetables. Experiment to see what your kitten likes and use tiny bits of these for treats. Some foods they often like include cantaloupe, broccoli, green beans, asparagus and squash. Treats can be used to train a cat, and can be useful in getting them used to brushing and nail trimming.

The next item you will need for a cat is a litter box or two. The type of litter you choose depends more on your preference than the cat's, although as a rule I would avoid any scented litters. Keep the boxes clean by removing solid waste several times a day.

Clumping litters allow you to remove the urine as well, but these types may not be good for your cat's health. The properties that allow the litter to clump together also cause it to clump in the cats intestine if they ingest too much of it. (They will often have a grain or two stuck to a paw, which they will swallow during grooming). For non-clumping litters, stir the litter to disperse the urine, this allows it to dry quickly and lessens odor. Depending on how dirty it is, you should empty the box completely and replace the litter at least once a week. The mother cat usually trains her offspring to use the litter box.

Unless you have adopted a feral kitten that has never seen one, the most you may need to do is to put the kitten in the box and scratch the litter a little bit. Let him get out by himself, so he can orient himself to its location. A scratching post for your kitten will save your drapes and furniture. Sisal posts are best, but many cats enjoy the cardboard ones,sprinkled with a little catnip.

Get your kitten used to having his paws handled early on, in preparation for your trimming his claws. Buy a special scissors for the purpose, and make it a pleasant occasion for the kitten. Do this by giving extra yummy treats or by giving him lots of love and affection in between each snip of the scissors. You will want to have your new kitten examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Friends and coworkers can act as referrals to veterinarians if you don't have one in mind.

Choose a vet as you would any doctor. You want someone you can be comfortable with, someone who will answer your questions and take time to talk about your concerns. Kittens love to play - especially late at night. They don't really need any special toys, but you may enjoy shopping for them. When giving them something to play with, give it the same thought you would in giving a toy to a baby or small child - as in can they swallow this? While string and yarn are thought of as cat toys, they are actually dangerous.

String can do severe damage to s cat's intestines if they swallow it, and some cats will do that. I have made simple catnip toys by stuffing infant socks with dried catnip and sewing them closed. Paper bags also make great toys.

Cat beds are nice, but few cats restrict themselves to one sleeping place. You may find them on your bed, the back of the couch or your favorite chair. Where the sun is, so is the cat.

Cats like small spaces, so the kitten will probably be most comfortable in a kitten-sized bed, which means you will have to replace it as she grows. A basket lined with a soft towel works fine, too. The world is a scary place for young kitten, especially if it has just left its mother. To minimize stress, put your kitty in a quiet room by himself when you first bring him home. Put his food, water and other supplies in there with him and leave him alone for a while. Allow him time to get used to a new environment before adjusting to people.

It's amazing how quickly the kitten makes himself at home with you. Cats are amazingly self-reliant animals. They will learn the ropes just fine.

In a day or two, open the door to the cat's room and let him begin to explore. Kittens should come in pairs. One is fun, but two is better. The two will play together, sleep together and provide endless hours of entertainment and photo opportunities.

They will also chase each other across your bed at 2:00 am.

Elyse is the founder of The Original Dog Biscuit Company. She has extended knowledge of pet nutrition and feeding, as well as practical experience in the raising of cats, dogs and other animals. She is a herbalist, specializing in animals. Read more of her articles at:

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