Bringing Up Kitty
Get Off on the Right Paw
There’s nothing as endearing as a big-eyed kitten hopping sideways across the floor or curled into a small ball of fluff on our lap. Getting a new kitten started off on the right foot will ensure they grow up to be a healthy and happy companion.
1 Prepare a sanctuary for the family’s new kitten.
When bringing a new kitten (or adult cat) into their new home, it’s best to separate the new addition in a little bed-and-breakfast-like setup of their own for at least a week. Put their litter box, bedding, food and toys in their space and keep noise, confusion and foot traffic to a minimum.
2 Provide warm, snuggly sleeping quarters.
Felines, especially tiny ones, like their environment warmer than what humans generally prefer. Look for bedding that hasn’t been treated with flame-retardant chemicals such as PBDE; Swedish scientists have linked the chemical, commonly found in foam, to hyperthyroidism in cats. The best choice is wool, which is naturally flame resistant.
3 Consider crate training.
Most cats fight being put into a carrier because it only happens when someone’s about to take them to a place they don’t want to go to. That’s why it’s a good idea to set up a carrier for a kitten on their first day home. Entice them to enter on their own using food treats, toys and comfy bedding.
4 Go slow with family introductions.
Introduce other members of the household to the new kitty one at a time. Ideally, introductions occur in a neutral location, like the living room, when the kitten ventures out to investigate.
5 Offer this tiny carnivore the nutrition they were born to eat.
To provide the very best start in life, feed the little one either a homemade or commercially available, nutritionally balanced, fresh food diet (preferably raw) designed for cats at all stages of life.
6 Help the kitten learn to love their personal litter box.
Most kittens can use a litter box at about four weeks. Just make sure its walls are low enough that they can hop in and out on their own. If a kitten or cat is avoiding the box, there’s likely a reason: location, type of litter or failure to clean it often enough.
7 Provide appropriate climbing and scratching surfaces.
Climbing and scratching are natural feline behaviors. Try burlap, cardboard and carpeted scratching surfaces, placed vertically and horizontally to meet all preferences. Keep the scratchers in areas where the kitten hangs out.
8 Train kitty to use the scratching post.
Initially, it might help to apply catnip or attach a feather toy to make the scratching area especially appealing. Discourage any feline from scratching on inappropriate surfaces by attaching double-sided tape or inflated balloons to rugs or furniture that are off limits.
9 Offer toys that bring out the feline hunter.
Think like a cat and buy or create toys that draw out their hunting instincts. A piece of string wrapped around the end of a stick dragged on the ground will bring out the stalker in almost any cat. So will ping-pong balls or small wads of paper flicked across the floor.
10 Indulge most kittens’ love of boxes.
When cats in the wild feel threatened, they head for trees, dens or caves for safety. Domestic kitties don’t have that option, so their obsession with hiding in boxes may be an adaptation. Providing “hidey holes” may also help a kitten acclimate faster to their new home and family.
11 Provide easy, safe access to the outdoors.
Indoor cats need time outside. Consider building or buying a safe, secure, outdoor enclosure (catio) for them to hang out in when the weather is nice.
12 Consider adopting two kittens at the same time.
One of the best ways to avoid many common behavioral problems is to adopt a pair of kittens. Because they crave stimulation and interaction, adopting two provides instant playmates to occupy each other’s time.
Karen Becker is a proactive, integrative doctor of veterinary medicine who consults internationally and writes for Mercola Healthy Pets.
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This article appears in the April 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings.