Jun 22 2013

Raise the Purrfect Kitty

Where to Adopt a Kitten

There are millions of homeless pets, so it’s a great idea to adopt your feline friend from an animal shelter or a rescue group. Pet stores and breeders can also be reputable sources, but anyone can call themselves a breeder and sell cats. Adopt from a shelter or a rescue group and you get two feel-good bonuses: You save money — and a life

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 she 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 he has 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. Talk to your vet about using canned food, dry kibbles, or a mixture of both. Be sure to put the food somewhere the dog can’t get to, as kitty food can upset a dog’s stomach and add unwanted pounds.

Water, Water Everywhere

Always have lots of cool, clean water for your kitten. Put several water bowls throughout the house and keep them clean. If you notice your kitten isn’t drinking much, try a flatter dish that doesn’t surround her small face so much. Some cats prefer moving water and may like a kitty water fountain rather than a regular bowl.

The Scoop on Litter Boxes

Cats have an instinct to eliminate in soil or sand, so your kitten will likely use a litter box right away. Put it in a quiet spot and show her 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 as many as 16 hours a day, kittens even more. As much as you love cuddling with kitty, she’ll probably enjoy a spot all her own. She’ll happily curl up on a perch attached to a window ledge, a cat tree, a fuzzy pad on a chair, or in her 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 her the people skills she needs to be a good pet. You also help her keep fit, develop coordination, and find an outlet for behaviors like chasing and pouncing. If kitty likes to use her teeth or claws, give her something to bite on or cling to as you play. Don’t use your hand as a toy! If she thinks hands are toys, she might accidentally hurt someone.

Teach Your Kitten the Rules

Your kitten is new to the world and your house — so she’ll need to learn the rules. To stop some behaviors, give her other outlets. For example, to keep kitty off the curtains, give her a sisal-covered pole to climb up. Don’t want kitty clawing the couch? Put up scratching posts. Tip: To show her scratching posts are OK to use, pretend to sharpen your claws on them, or sprinkle some catnip on them. Make sure the posts are well secured, so your cat will feel safe using them.

A Word About Declawing

Declawing kittens and cats is controversial. Because a cat’s claws are attached to their bones, surgery removes the last joint of each “finger.” People who are against declawing say it’s inhumane. Those on the other side say it makes a cat a better pet, and possibly less likely to end up in a shelter. If you choose to declaw your cat, surgery should be done before 6 months of age. Declawed cats should always be kept indoors because they have trouble defending themselves.

Plants Harmful to Your Kitten

Several house or outdoor plants can be dangerous to your kitten, including chrysanthemum, azalea, tulip bulbs, and oleander. Lilies are particulary poisonous to cats, and even small amounts can make your kitten very sick. Not sure if a particular plant is kitty-safe? Talk to your vet. And if you think she’s eaten something poisonous, call your vet right away, or call the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

8 Weeks: Time to Spay or Neuter

With an estimated 6 million dogs and cats entering shelters every year, there are not enough loving families for all of them. That’s why groups like the Humane Society and the American Veterinary Medical Association recommend spaying or neutering your cat, which can be done as early as eight weeks. Some groups can help with the cost of surgery.

Vaccinate Your Kitten

Your kitten’s vaccinations will help keep her healthy. Vaccines can prevent common illnesses such as rabies, feline distemper, feline leukemia, and upper respiratory infections. Talk to your vet to see which vaccines are right for your kitten.

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