Kittens have a well-earned reputation for getting into everything. What other baby can climb the drapes and do backflips off the sofa? As a new pet parent, you’ll need to do some basic kitten-proofing around the house, as well as provide gentle guidance on good behavior.
Here’s what you need to know to make sure your fuzzy, irresistible bundle of joy gets her best start in life.
Take her to the vet first
“Every kitten should go directly to the vet before coming home,” says Ilona Rodan, DVM, feline specialist at the Cat Care Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin. “Your pet will receive an exam, get updated on vaccines and be screened for infectious diseases such as feline leukemia virus.” Your vet also can advise you on how to prevent boredom and behavior issues like furniture scratching. To find a veterinarian who specializes in cats, visit the American Association of Feline Practitioners.
Always use a carrier for transport
Most cats don’t like traveling. To help her feel more secure—and prevent her from panicking and fleeing when you open the car door—the Humane Society of the United States recommends transporting her in a cat carrier.
Kitten-proof your home
“You’re bringing home a baby,” says Susan Sikule, DVM, owner and practicing veterinarian at the Just Cats Veterinary Clinics in Guilderland and Saratoga Springs, New York. “Your kitten should not have free rein of the house. Introduce one space at a time so they feel more secure in a new place.” Hazards include chewing on yarn and ribbons, electrical cords and curtains, and houseplants such as lilies, which are toxic to cats. Because cats are expert investigators, consider installing child-proof latches on cabinets that contain toxic substances such as cleaning supplies or medications.
Show her the litter box
Kittens instinctively know how to use a litter box without much help from you. Locate the box where your kitten spends time, then place the kitten in the box. “They’ll usually play in the litter and then go to the bathroom,” says Sikule. The general rule is to have one more litter box than you do cats. Keep them in several household locations accessible to your cat.
Provide the best nutrition
Give her dry kitten food, which contains more protein, and wet food, too. “If you don’t introduce wet food when they’re kittens, many adult cats will refuse to eat it,” says Rodan. Wet food reduces the risk of obesity, as these foods are lower in calories, are more satiating and keep cats hydrated, which helps with common health issues such as chronic kidney disease.
Offer toys to keep her stimulated
If your kitten doesn’t have any opportunities for interactive play, she’s likely to bite or scratch your legs as you walk by. Provide her with toys such as food puzzles and cat towers to climb on, hide in and perch on to look out the window. Don’t forget scratching posts. To teach your kitten that the post is the appropriate place to scratch, place multiple posts throughout the house and every time your kitten uses one, reward her with a treat, praise or petting, says Sikule.
Play with your kitty
Interacting and socializing with your kitten is the best way to cement your bond for life. Use a toy, such as a feather on a wand—just not your hands so there’s no biting—that your cat can bat around. “Reinforce and reward positive interaction with treats or praise, whatever your cat enjoys more, when your pet is doing something you like,” says Rodan.
By Arricca SanSone