The Star-Herald

Caring for your new kitten

We have seen so many cats and kittens adopted this summer and fall and are thrilled to have so many around the County opening their homes and hearts to these beautiful little felines. For those first time owners of kittens, there are a few things that would be helpful to know.

One cat or two?  As you cuddle kittens, you may be tempted to take home more than one. Many people who have more than one cat say that two cats give each other company and exercise. Do you have enough space? Time? Money? If the answer is yes, prepare for double the commitment — and double the rewards!

Prepare for kitty’s arrival:  Before you bring home your kitten, make sure you have a litter box, cat carrier, kitten food, food and water bowls, a collar and tags, and toys to entertain your new pet. Cat-proof your house before kitty arrives. Put away cleaners, and pick up anything they could swallow.

Indoors or outdoors?  Many vets suggest keeping cats indoors because indoor-only cats usually live longer, healthier lives. If you choose to keep your kitten indoors, make sure they have window perches and toys.

Do you really need kitten food?  Until they’re 1 year old, kittens need up to three times the calories as adult cats. So look for food made especially for kittens and feed your kitten the amount recommended on the label.

Water, water everywhere:  Always have lots of cool, clean water for your kitten. Put several water bowls throughout the house, and keep them clean. 

The scoop on litter boxes:  Cats have an instinct to poop in soil or sand, so your kitten will likely use a litter box right away. Put it in a quiet spot, and show them where it is. Kitty litter choices include regular and clumping clay litter, crystal litter, as well as litter made from wood chips, grains, and newspapers. Some cat boxes are too high for kittens to get in and out easily, so you may need to start with a low-sided box until your kitten grows.

Choose a cat bed:  Cats sleep up to 16 hours a day, kittens even more. They’ll happily curl up on a perch attached to a window ledge, a cat tree, a fuzzy pad on a chair, or in their very own snuggly cat bed. If you have a dog, it’s important to give your kitten a safe and private place to sleep.

Play with your kitten:  By gently playing with your kitten daily, you teach them the people skills they need to be a good pet. You also help them keep fit, develop coordination, and find an outlet for behaviors like chasing and pouncing. If kitty likes to use their teeth or claws, give them something to bite on or cling to as you play. Don’t use your hand as a toy! If they think hands are toys, they might accidentally hurt someone.

Keep kitty safe:  Cats often interact with the world through their mouth, and as cute as your kitten looks playing, not everything in your house is a good toy. Keep string, ribbon, yarn, rubber bands, plastic milk jug rings, paper clips, pins, dental floss, and other temptations away from your curious cat. Also, put away cleaning supplies, pills, and drugs, as well as antifreeze and motor oil.

Most importantly, remember to spay and neuter your cat as soon as it’s old enough.  It is recommended to wait until kitty is 8 weeks old and weighs at least two pounds.  More information can be found at Pets.webmd.com.

Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the board of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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