Getting a new kitten is a very exciting time for the family, and there are many things that you need to know to expect from your kitten and that can help your kitten settle in to your home as quickly as possible. Here are some basic tips:
- Before collecting your kitten, make sure you have a secure cat carrier to allow you to transport your kitten home safely.
- Always provide your kitten with a bed that is in a warm and peaceful part of the house, away from any draughts. Using a pet heat pad can help keep your kitten warm.
- Provide your kitten with a room, or area of the home, that she can use to adjust to the new surroundings. It is important that your kitten can feel safe in this area.
- The use of calming pheromones, such as Feliway sprays and diffusers can be very useful to help reduce anxiety as your kitten gets used to its new home.
- Provide your kitten with everything she needs in her area, food and water bowls, litter tray, scratching post and toys.
- Allow your kitten to explore your home on her own, keeping a distant eye on her to make sure she doesn’t have any accidents.
Thankfully, cats are very clean animals, fast learners and in most cases will naturally use a litter tray without needing encouragement. A kitten will not want to go to the toilet near her bed and food, therefore you should place the litter tray away from here and in a private place. Show your kitten her litter tray early on, and allow her to explore it on her own. You can encourage her to use the tray by placing her in the tray in the morning and after all meals.
It is important to ensure that the litter tray is kept clean at all times, because some kittens will not want to use a dirty litter tray, and this may encourage them to go to the toilet somewhere else in the house. However, only clean with water and detergents that do not smell too strong, preferably one designed for cats.
Cats can be very fussy animals, and some will not use certain types of cat litter. If you kitten is refusing to use her litter tray, it may be sensible to first try a different type of cat litter. Other common causes of going to the toilet in other parts of the house include fear and anxiety, and therefore ensuring the litter tray is in a private, peaceful and secure place is very important.
A final point to remember, if you have more than one cat, you will need more than one litter tray. This is less of a problem if your cats go outside to go to the toilet.
Diet and nutrition
Choosing the right diet for your kitten is one of the most important decisions you can make. It can sometimes seem as though there are too many choices on the market, but there are a few general points you should follow to ensure you choose the most suitable diet for your kitten:
- it is usually a good idea to continue feeding your kitten the same food it was being fed by the breeder. If this diet is not one which we recommend, we advise slowly changing the diet over a seven day period, slowly introducing more and more of the new diet and replacing the old diet.
- kittens have very different nutritional requirements to adult cats, and therefore it is important to feed a diet specifically formulated for kittens.
- a complete diet is advisable, because this will ensure your kitten has all the right nutrients for growth at this early stage of life.
- feed your kitten 4 small meals daily to start with, reducing the frequency and increasing the size of the meals as your kitten grows.
- always follow the feeding guidelines recommended by the food manufacturer, to prevent your kitten from being underweight or becoming overweight.
- always make sure that your kitten has a supply of clean, fresh water which she can access easily. Either a water bowl or a water fountain are ideal.
- you can also give your kitten specially formulated kitten milk to drink. If this causes diarrhoea, then stop it immediately.
- if you have any doubts or queries, don´t hesitate to ask our friendly, trained staff and we will happily point in the right direction towards choosing the best food for your new kitten. For more information, please read the section on Cat Nutrition on our website.
Vaccinations, fleas, worming and microchipping.
Unfortunately, even in Iceland, there are diseases which can be fatal to cats. The best tool we have against infectious disease in cats is vaccination. Vaccination helps prepare a kitten’s immune system, so that if she encounters one of these infectious diseases she is more easily able to fight it.
We advise that all kittens have a primary course of 2 vaccinations, the first given at 8-9 weeks of age and the 2nd at 12 weeks of age. Two injections are necessary because in some cases, the natural immunity which a kitten receives from its mother in the womb and via the milk can neutralise the first vaccination.
Intestinal parasites, or worms, are common in all kittens. Kittens can become infected with worms before they are born in the womb or through their mother’s milk. It is therefore very important to worm a kitten regularly throughout the first few weeks of life. We recommend worming with a preparation suitable for kittens, at 2, 5 and 8 weeks of age and then monthly until 6 months of age.
Flea infestations are also a big problem amongst pets of all ages here in Iceland. Heavy flea infestations can cause major health problems in young kittens, therefore we advise using flea prevention products regularly. Using a product that is specifically designed for young animals is always important.
We also recommend that you get your kitten microchipped to help with identification. In some parts of the country this is a legal requirement.
Playing with your new kitten is great fun. It is good exercise for your kitten, allowing her to develop strength as she grows, and it also important for you to develop a close bond with her.
Cats are hunting animals, and they like to use toys as ‘prey’. This can means that kittens will use their teeth and claws during playtimes, and obviously this can be painful if they pounce on your hands or feet. There are plenty of toys available for kittens, which they can cause and use as prey targets. Balls, string toys, fishing rods and even play gloves are available. Always use a toy specifically designed to be safe for kittens. Don’t be tempted to use balls of wool as toys, since kittens will sometimes swallow lengths of wool which can get stuck in the intestine and cause a life-threatening obstruction.
Kittens and cats love to hide in places, therefore providing simple toys like empty cardboard boxes can help satisfy your kitten’s natural behaviours.
Kittens often have short periods of crazy activity, where they run around the house at high speed. This is normal behaviour, and in the wild this would help train a kitten to chase its prey. The key is not to encourage this behaviour into adulthood, and the best way to do this is to ignore this behaviour, and definitely do not chase your kitten. She will enjoy the attention, and this will make it more likely for her to continue with this behaviour into her adult life.
All kittens and cats scratch need to scratch objects to keep their claws in good condition. This is normal behaviour, and to prevent your kitten from developing the habit of scratching your furniture, provide her with a scratching post early on.
General health care
There are many things you can start to do with your kitten from an early age to help keep her as healthy as possible. We have discussed diet, vaccination, worming and flea treatment, but in addition to these things we recommend the following:
- check your kitten’s teeth regularly and start cleaning them with a kitten toothbrush and toothpaste, on a daily basis if possible.
- check your kitten’s ears regularly. This way you can detect any problems early, for example ear mites, which are common in kittens and usually cause a build up of black wax within the ear canal.
- groom your kitten regularly with a soft brush suitable for kittens. This will help keep your kitten’s coat and skin in good condition. Particularly important for long haired cats.
- check your kitten’s feet to look for any problems with the claws. Kitten claws are usually very sharp but not long. Providing a scratching post makes it easier for your kitten to keep her claws at a healthy length, but if the sharpness is a problem, you can trim the tip of the claws with kitten nail clippers. Ask your Vet or our staff to show you how to do this first time if you are not sure.
- if you find anything that concerns you, ask our Veterinary staff for advice or make an appointment with your local Vet.
Performing these regular checks from an early age gets your kitten used to being examined and treated. This makes life much easier for your kitten (and for you!) if you need to give her any treatment later in life.