Young kittens 101: What you should know during the first few weeks
Did you just add a newborn kitten into your family? Find out everything you need to know about the vet, food and much more!
Watching your kitten grow up will be one of the most fun things you will ever do! Few things are as cute as a young cat, but all that cuteness also brings a lot of responsibility. In general, the first 12 weeks are the most important ones. That is where you will create a solid base for your cat’s health and behavior.
If you are the lucky new mom or dad of a kitten keep reading to find out everything you should expect in the first few weeks.
Your kitten’s first visit at the vet
Taking your young feline to the vet is one of the first things you should do. This visit is important because it discards any health issues, and allows you to ask important questions.
Your vet will do a complete checkup that includes:
- A review of your newborn kitten’s history. Your vet will probably want to know where you found it (if it was, for example, adopted or bought from a breeder), and any other medical care that your cat may have received.
- A thorough examination of the kitten’s mouth, ears, and eyes, followed by an examination of the body, gently feeling the abdomen, lymph nodes, joints, and skin. In addition, he will make observations of the kitten’s movements.
- Recommendation for neuter/spay surgery if the kitten if it hasn’t already been done. These procedures help prevent future behavior and medical problems.
Your vet may recommend that your cat receive several vaccinations. Vaccines typically administered at this age include antirabies and a trio of vaccines for diseases of the upper respiratory tract: feline rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus, and feline panleukopenia. Your veterinarian may also suggest additional vaccines, depending on your pet’s history and the number of pets in your home.
Finally, ask as many questions as you need! Knowing what behaviors are normal for a cat of that age will help you identify abnormal behaviors if they occur. So do not hesitate to ask your questions.
How to play with a young kitten
Each kitten has its own personality, but most kittens have many common behavioral traits. First of all, they like to play! Play helps them learn about the world around them and socialize with people and other pets. Your kitten will begin to exhibit natural instinctive behaviors while playing, such as chasing and attacking toys (or other animals!).
When your cat is playing, nurture good behaviors that will extend into adulthood. Never encourage your kitten to wrestle with your hand or other parts of the body. This will help him understand that biting and scratching is not acceptable behavior. You can help him satisfy these instincts by introducing safe toys with no loose parts that he can chew, ingest or choke on.
Play with your kitten at least once a day. This will help him form a strong emotional bond with you. If you have children, monitor this interaction to make sure it is a positive experience for both the kitten and the child.
How to establish sleep patterns
After playing, your kitten will probably engage in another of his favorite pastimes: sleep! To help your kitten establish sleep habits, play with him one hour before bedtime at night. This helps to burn his energy to sleep all night and recharge his batteries.
Watch for behavior changes
Kittens are naturally active and playful – if your kitten is exhibiting lethargic behaviors and shows no interest in food, seek a veterinarian immediately.
How and what your kitten should eat
You will probably receive recommendations from your veterinarian for a complete and balanced diet. There are many dry and canned foods made specifically for the nutritional needs of kittens.
As your kitten is growing fast but still has a small stomach, it will need to make small and frequent meals. Create a meal routine that allows him to eat frequently throughout the day. When offering canned foods, discard leftovers left on the plate for more than 20 minutes. Always leave clean, fresh water at his disposal. Finally, do not offer milk. Contrary to popular belief, cow’s milk is not nutritious enough for kittens and can cause them to have diarrhea.
Care routine for your young kitten
Although kittens start grooming themselves (their own bath version) around 3 to 4 weeks old, your kitten may not have yet formed this habit. Brush, comb, and trim your kitten’s nails regularly so he can get used to it.
Make this process easier and more fun by introducing care tools gradually, and allowing your cat to explore them before using them. Let him sniff and play with the comb, and praise him when he lets you brush his fur or trim his nails.
Make these moments as relaxed and fun as possible so your kitten can make positive associations. You can even offer a snack when he lets you cut his nails. That way, your kitten will be excited every time he sees the nail clipper. The idea is to make this become a routine to your kitten when he is still young so that it is normal and easy in his adult life.
Teaching your kitten how to use the litter box
One of the main concerns of new cat parents involves the litter box. Although this behavior is instinctive and most cats get it on their own, some cats need a little help.
Put them gently in a litter box after eating, and always praise them when they succeed.
Ensuring successful behavior:
- Provide several boxes in areas that the kitten can easily find.
- Keep the boxes clean.
- Prevent other animals from disturbing your kitten when he is using the litter box.
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