March 23 was International Cuddly Kitten Day! Kittens are a wonderful addition to any family. They’re sweet, affectionate, curious, and smart—but can also be a handful. At East Valley Animal Hospital, we love to celebrate our furry friends. And the best way to do that is to provide them with excellent care. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on how to take care of a kitten.

How to Take Care of a Kitten: The First Few Months

1. Make Sure The Kitten is Ready

Newborn kittens cannot be separated from their mothers until they are fully weaned, or around 8-12 weeks of age. Removing a kitten from his mother any earlier can cause emotional and physical damage. 

In addition, we recommend that you neuter or spay your kitten right away. Also make sure he is up to date on his vaccinations. Be mindful of what to expect after vaccinations. 

2. Adopt from a Reputable Shelter 

Because there are so many strays in need of homes, we encourage you to adopt rather than shop. Even when it comes to kittens, look to adopt from a shelter with a good reputation. Make sure you choose a shelter that keeps its inhabitants healthy and well-fed. 

3. Bringing Your Kitten Home 

Before you bring your new kitten home, kitten-proof the house. Especially if there are other pets in the home, set up a “kitty corner.” Fill it with: 

  • Your kitten’s food and water bowls. Feed your new cat right when he arrives so he begins to recognize you as his caretaker.
  • A litter box. After he eats, pick him up and bring him to the box. This will teach him that this is where he’ll relieve himself. Most cats are naturally drawn to litter boxes, but it’s helpful to show him where the bathroom is anyway.
  • Lots of toys. Kittens have boundless energy. They turn everything into a toy! But there are things they shouldn’t play with (see below), so it’s important to occupy them with safe toys. 
  • A scratching post. Cats possess an innate need to scratch. To avoid having your kitten learn it’s okay to destroy furniture, get him a scratching post early on. 

These measures will help your kitten stay healthy, safe, and occupied in his new home. On the other hand, make sure to keep these items out of your kitty’s space: 

  • Plants. 
  • Sharp objects. 
  • Human food or medications. 
  • Heavy objects that could fall and hurt him. 

4. What To Feed a Kitten 

Kittens have specific dietary needs. Adult cat food does not sufficiently meet these needs. When buying food, it’s important to differentiate between cat food and kitten food. We’d be happy to recommend a few good brands when you bring your kitten in for his first appointment.

How to Take Care of a Kitten: Pre-Adolescence 

As your kitten grows up, you’ll notice him becoming more aware of his surroundings. He’ll start exploring more, jumping to higher heights and squeezing himself into tighter spaces. He’ll begin to realize what he’s capable of, as well—that’s why you’ll find him biting and scratching playfully. He’s becoming aware of his position in the world and trying to test his limits. 

He’ll also have lots of energy and want to play constantly. It’s important that you set aside time each day to play with your kitten. Playing helps him curb his insatiable energy, and encourages the bond you two share.

How to Take Care of an Adolescent Cat

As your cat nears the end of his first year, he’s becoming a “teenager.” As such, he’s a little calmer, and has become more aware of how he affects others. But he should still be considered a kitten until he hits that one-year mark. Continue to feed him kitten food until then, or until your vet clears you to feed him adult food.

An adolescent cat, though less riled up, will still retain some kitten “naughtiness.” When you catch him biting your ankle or scratching the furniture, give a firm “no.” Meanwhile, encourage good listening with treats and cuddles. Remember, he’s still a baby—he’s just a little bigger!

Cat-Loving Vet in Gilbert 

Our team at East Valley Animal Hospital loves animals of all ages. We know that caring for a kitten is challenging, but it’s also rewarding—for you and for us! We love to help kittens start life on a healthy path. Schedule his first appointment with us today!

Image by Luiza Sayfullina on Unsplash.