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Handling Your New Kitten

Handling Your New Kitten
September 4, 2017

Often, new cat and kitten owners worry about finding the right accessories, treats, or bed. There are a lot of things you need to be aware of when you plan on getting a new kitten or cat.

Here are a few of the tips we recommend when getting a new kitten.

How Do You Introduce a New Kitten to Other Cats in the Household?

Most kittens receive a hostile reception from other household pets, especially from another cat. The other cat usually sees no need for a kitten in the household. The existing cat must not feel that it is necessary to compete for food or attention.

The new kitten should have its own food and food bowl, and it should not be permitted to eat from the other cats bowl. There should be additional litter pans added as well.

The general rule is that the number of litter pans in the house should equal the number of cats plus one. The introduction period will usually last one to two weeks and will have one of three possible outcomes.

The existing cat will remain hostile to the kitten. Fighting may occur occasionally, especially if both try to eat out of the same bowl at the same time. This is an unlikely occurrence if competition for food and affection are minimized during the first few weeks.

The existing cat will only tolerate the kitten. Hostility will cease, but the existing cat will act as if the kitten is not present. This is more likely if the existing cat is very independent, has been an only cat for several years, or if marked competition occurred during that first few weeks. This relationship is likely to be permanent.

Bonding will occur between the existing cat and the kitten. They will play together, groom each other, and sleep near each other.

How Do I Teach My New Kitten to Play?

Stimulating play is important during the first weeks. Stalking and pouncing are important play behaviors in kittens and have an important role in proper muscular development.

If given sufficient outlet for these behaviors with toys, your kitten will be less likely to use family members for these activities.

The best toys are lightweight and movable. These include wads of paper, small balls, and toys tied to a piece of string. Kittens should always be supervised when playing with any toy to avoid swallowing them.

Any other toy that is small enough to be swallowed should be avoided.

What Food is Best For My New Kitten?

Diet is extremely important in the growing months of a cat’s life. There are two important criteria that should be met in selecting food for your kitten.

We recommend a name-brand food made by a national cat food company and a form of food made for kittens. This should be fed until your kitten is about 9-12 months of age.

We recommend that you only buy food that is AAFCO certified. This stamp should be on the package for the kitten food. It is not an endorsement of any particular type of food, but it will certify that the food meets the minimum requirements for nutrition.

Feeding a dry, canned, or semi-moist form of cat food is acceptable. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Dry food is definitely the least expensive. It also helps reduce how quickly plaque will build up on your kitten’s teeth. It can be left in the cat’s bowl at all times. Both semi-moist and canned foods are more expensive than dry food. They are often more appealing to the cat’s taste. They cannot be left out for long periods of time for the cat to eat throughout the day.

If given the choice, the average cat will eat a mouthful of food about 12 to 20 times per day.

How Do I Teach My New Kitten to Use the Litter Box?

The number one behavioral problem of cats is urinating out of the litter box (inappropriate elimination). There are several things that can cause this frustrating problem. The following comments are included to prevent problems later because cats are particular bout their litter boxes, the litter, and the location.

Choose a litter box that is large enough for your cat to fit in comfortably. It needs to be able to turn around freely. An 18 x 14 inch box with 4 inch sides is appropriate for most adult cats. Kittens may need a box with shorter sides so they can get in and out easily.

We do not recommend a box with a top (hood). Although hooded litter boxes are more private and better contain the litter, they also trap odors and dust inside. Because cats are so fastidious, these odors often cause them to seek other places to urinate. Many cats exhibiting inappropriate urination will return to their litter boxes once the lid is removed.

Fecal matter and wet litter need to be removed once daily for each cat that uses the litter box. Even with clumping litter, a monthly scrubbing of the litter box removes odors that may collect in the box itself. Use warm, soapy water and avoid scented disinfectants.

The location of the litter box is important. It should be on an easily cleaned surface. Litter is often scratched or tracked out of the litter box. It is very important that the litter box be placed in a quiet, non-threatening location. Cats need their privacy and will avoid a litter box that is in a high traffic area or a location accessible to dogs.

If you have any specific questions or concerns about your new kitten or cat, please contact us at Academy Animal Hospital, Greenwood, Indiana (317) 881-3125.