Liz loves animals. Seeing them ill, hurt, or killed breaks her heart. She advocates for "adopt, don't shop" and TNR programs for feral cats.
Just look at that adorable little wide-eyed face! Listen to that big purr coming from such a tiny body! Feel the soft, soft fur! Look at how fast that tiny baby can scamper! Kittens are just so irresistibly cute.
Pick up a kitten and look into its eyes. You will be able to read in its eyes that it has the ultimate trust in you. It has not learned fear and trusts that it will be loved and gently cared for all of its life. Please do not betray that trust. Your kitten will reward your years of loving care a thousand fold with his companionship, purr songs, lap-warming on cold nights, and snuggles when you feel blue.
If you have decided to adopt a new kitten, (and I do hope you will adopt, not buy, to save a life), you must know how to take care of the little darling.
Having a kitten is a lot like having a new baby in the house. It must be fed and have its toilet attended to several times a day. You must play with the kitten and keep it amused and distracted from your furniture. And sometimes, just like human children, they can be naughty and do exactly what they are not supposed to do—just on general principles.
Your new kitten, like a human infant, also needs lots of sleep. When kitty is sleeping, try not to disturb her, and if you also have children, teach them to respect the baby's naptime. Once they are old enough to be adopted, they will pretty much sleep through the night, but for extra insurance, a play session just before you want them to settle down (so you can sleep!) is a good idea.
Cats are usually thought to be nocturnal by nature. However, I have recently learned that cats are not so much "nocturnal" as they are crepuscular. Now, there's a five-dollar word for you! It means "active at dawn and dusk."
Aha! Now we have the real explanation for the evening "kitty crazies" and running amok across your bed and peering into your face at 5:30 a.m. They think it's time to go hunting and be fed. But if you are starting with a baby, it is possible, with patience, to shift them to more of a daytime routine.
It is not a good idea to get a kitten (or any other pet, for that matter), and then have to go shopping for the items you need to care for the little darling. Of all the things that we should never purchase on a spur-of-the-moment impulse, pets top the list.
Consider what you will need, and have your supplies on hand at the ready, in a safe space where kitty can find "alone" time when needed. Then, when you bring your new baby home, it will be easy to settle him in.
Once you have at least these bare minimum items, and a spot for kitty to call his own, you are ready to look at the available kitties for adoption.
There are a number of specialty kitten foods available in pet stores. Generally speaking, those sold only in pet stores are of higher quality, meaning they have a lower grain content, and will be less likely to produce an obese cat.
However, they also cost more. It can be argued that since the higher quality means a smaller amount will satisfy the cat, the price works out even. Well, I'm not so sure about that, but I put it out there for you to decide for yourself.
The popular and highly-advertised brands found on supermarket shelves probably are somewhat less healthy, and you do want a good start for your kitten. Buy the best quality you can afford, and try to feed it consistently until kitty is at least 6 to 9 months old.
Just keep in mind that all the advertising is targeting human tastes—the cats don't watch TV, and couldn't care less about fancy crystal dishes or silver spoons and the much-touted gourmet ingredients.
If you are changing a food, though, be sure to do so gradually, by mixing the new type with the old type, and slowly increasing the proportion of the new food, until it is totally changed over. Simply changing from one type of food to another with no transition period can cause digestive upsets of the messy variety.
Feed kitty a good quality canned food when they are very young, for the first month or two that you have the kitten. Once they are well able to chew, then you can introduce dry kibble, if desired. If you have doubts or questions, ask your veterinarian.
Note: Ideally, you should not have a pet kitten younger than about two-months-old; they should not be taken from the mother cat before then.
Like young children, kittens need to be entertained. Play with them. It is easy to amuse a kitten. They will instinctively chase things, from "toys-on-a-string" dangled in front of them, or dragged along the floor to things tossed across the room to the ever-popular "red bug" from a laser pointer. (Be very careful with the laser pointer—never shine it into kitty's face or eyes or onto a reflective surface like glossy finished furniture, glass or mirrors, from which the intense light could bounce into the cat's eyes.)
They are also very capable of amusing themselves, but if you do not interact with them you might not like the entertainment they come up with on their own. It could be something as harmless as batting around a dropped coin, or it could be something much more serious, such as climbing your window curtains or overturning things that can spill, be it someone's drink or a plant pot.
Since kittens are babies, they will get a new set of grown-up teeth, and just like human babies, go through a "teething" stage where they will chew on anything and everything. It is very important, therefore, to be sure that as much as is possible things like electrical cords, telephone wires, and computer cables are out of kitty's reach.) Their little teeth are sharp and can cause serious damage to equipment, and danger to themselves. (See below under "Keeping Kitty Safe.")
Just remember—kittens may bite during play sessions. This does not indicate a "mean" animal—they are only doing what they do with their siblings while playing and wrestling. To discourage a cat from biting, you can either stop playing at once with kitty, but he may not make the connection for some time.
The faster lesson is to gently stick your finger or knuckle further into his mouth as you firmly say, "NO!" or "No biting!" He won't like it, and will maneuver to "spit you out." After a few times, he'll learn that "we don't bite the people."
Another way to make them let go is to say "OW!" in a high, squeaky voice. This will sound to them much as when they are playing with another kitty, and have bitten too hard, causing a complaint from the recipient.
To further discourage play biting, remember this: fingers are not toys. If you waggle your fingers in front of the cat to entice him to play, I have no sympathy toward you for what happens next.
Just as with biting, cats, especially young ones, will use their claws to grab hold of the desired toy. If your hand happens to be in the way, you may get scratched.
Again, however, this is not malicious scratching—it is incidental in the course of playing. Do not scold kitty for this, because she did not mean to hurt you. Just say, "Ow!" and stop moving. She will most likely retract her claws almost instantly. Very young kittens may not—simply grasp their paw gently, and remove it from your hand, finger, or wherever she has latched on.
The hardest lesson to teach, especially to young children when this happens is to just freeze. It is counter-intuitive. The natural tendency is to pull away from a painful stimulus, and that is just what you do not want to do. For if the cat is merely "holding on" with her claws, then it is you who have scratched yourself by pulling away.
Playing with your kitten wears off a lot of that mischief-prone energy, and is fun for you, as well. They can be very comical in the poses they strike, the way they pounce on a toy, as well as, believe it or not, clumsy things they sometimes do.
Kittens don't seem to mind being klutzes and falling all over themselves; an adult cat may be embarrassed by doing something clumsy. You can always tell when a cat is embarrassed: they will always stop what they are doing to groom themselves.
A Pet is a Forever Friend
Pets are not disposable commodities. If you can't promise them "forever," then perhaps a pet is not for you.
There is certainly no lack of fancy toys on the market to choose from to entertain your cat or kitten. However, spending a lot of money is not at all necessary. There are plenty of things you already have around the house that make splendid cat toys, and, since you already have them, they are free. In fact, many of the items that will amuse cats are things you would otherwise toss in the trash. The list includes, but is not limited to:
A normal home holds many potential dangers for a tiny kitten. Before you bring kitty home, be sure you have checked for these hazards and either eliminated them, or reduced kitty's ability to get into trouble.
Be very aware to watch your feet while you are walking around the house, so as not to step on or trip over the cat. Even an adult cat can be harmed by being stepped upon, (and they will let you know with a loud yowl); a kitten can be very seriously injured.
Just think of the size difference between yourself and that tiny kitten. It is akin to us standing next to an elephant or giraffe. We're a long, long way up, and much bigger and heavier.
As mentioned before, kittens and cats are speed demons, (your darling house cat is capable of sprinting at speeds up to 31 MPH), and they can appear seemingly out of nowhere, and be right under foot.
If you have small children, you not only need to watch where you are walking—you need to be mindful of where the kids are in relation to the kitten. While an adult might merely stumble if the cat got underfoot, a child with a less-developed sense of balance might well fall on the cat. In general, very young kittens and children under the age of five are not a recommended mix.
For long-haired cats, regular brushing and grooming are a must, to keep their long coats from getting matted. However, even short-haired cats can benefit from being brushed.
Summer means shedding, big time, so grooming needs will increase. Some cats shed all year, and surprisingly, some short-haired cats shed more than long-haired ones. This is easily explained by the fact that shorter fur has a shorter growing/shedding cycle than long fur.
The first photo is of "Tigger," a Maine Coon mix we had (sadly lost to cancer in 2015, at age 15), and his fluffy long coat stayed fairly neat, but he did shed some.
The second photo is of "Jigsaw Puzzle" a short-haired marble tabby, of the type generically classified as "domestic short-hair." Jiggy, as we sometimes called him, was guilty of "explosive shedding." Come within two feet of him, and you'd have fur up your nose. Well, not quite, but if you petted him, then yes! Sadly, Jiggy left us for the Rainbow Bridge in December of 2018.
In addition to keeping your furry friend's coat neat and healthy, grooming is a social interaction with you pet, and the younger you introduce your kitten to a brush, the easier it will be to groom them later, for they will have come to enjoy it. It is like being petted, with the added benefit of removing the loose hair that can cause mats or itching problems if left untended (and housekeeping issues for you).
To accustom the kitten to being groomed, alternate brushing strokes with petting strokes, and other attention kitty enjoys, such as being gently scratched under the chin or behind the ears. A grooming session is also a bonding session that will bring you closer to your pet and insure a bond of friendship that will last a lifetime.
Some items that may be useful in grooming your pet:
Adopting a kitty (or puppy) is just the same as adopting a child. It is a commitment you are making to that animal for a lifetime, so please pay strict attention to this next sentence:
Pets are not disposable commodities, so if you cannot promise the animal "forever" for its lifetime, then perhaps a pet is not for you.
If you take on the responsibility and hold true, you will have a friend for a very long time; a non-judgmental companion who will love you and be with you no matter what kind of a rotten day you had; one who will never criticize your choice of food or clothing; one who will snuggle up and cheer you up when you are blue.
A pet is sometimes a choice to make personal sacrifices, but the rewards are a thousand-fold.
© 2012 Liz Elias
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on June 29, 2012:
With Fibromyalgia, three bulging disks at lower back and Neurothopy, spinal injections are needed sometimes. And yep, Festus is that. A comic cat. I love him dearly.
And thank YOU for being such a terrific friend, writer and follower.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on June 29, 2012:
Hello again, kenneth--oooo shots in the spine--NOT fun at all..I'm so sorry to hear that. I hope it helps, but I do know the furry sidekick will help a lot.
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on June 29, 2012:
DzyMsLizzy, my sidekick is fast asleep at 11:57 p.m., CDST, June 29, and he was happy to see me this evening. Ive been at my pain clinic most of the day getting shots in my spine. Festus made my evening a lot brighter, but he has to learn to speak correctly when asking for food. He says "crude," instead of food. Give me time and he will be a smart cat.
PS: Meow Meow Meow translated means have a Safe 4th from me and Festus.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on June 28, 2012:
Thanks again, kenneth--in fact, the very culprit of whom I spoke is the selfsame kitten pictured at the top of this hub! You can see even in the photo, he's fixing to bite the little doll's chair! I think he has an oral fixation. LOL
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on June 28, 2012:
Dear DzyMsLizzy . .You, my friend, are more than welcome. I am from now on going to apply these measures to Festus, my sidekick, who is taking one of his 23 daily naps right now. We love him here at my house and we are gently talking to him and hoping that maybe he will grow out of these kittenish displays.
Thanks for your talent. And keep up the great work.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on June 28, 2012:
Hello, kenneth avery,
Thank you so very much for your magnificent compliment. I'm so happy you liked the article so much and found it useful besides.
Be advised that there are a *few* incorrigible kittens out there who do not seem bothered by the 'down the throat' finger trick--we are currently fostering one such. The remedy in that case is to tap kitty on the nose with one finger while saying "NO!" You can also "hiss" at them. Both of those are things mama cat would do. Grabbing the cat by the scruff of the neck also works, along with the firm "NO!" Then deposit kitty on the floor and decline to play anymore for a few moments, or distract him with a toy you toss for him to chase, such as a ball.
Best wishes and long life to your new best friend.
Thank you very much for your comment and the votes!
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on June 28, 2012:
Hello, DzyMsLizzy, what can I say, but Amazing read! Cudo's to you for presenting THE Best cat-related hub Ive read in a while. You will not believe this, but the kitten at the top, is the exact same look as my new sidekick, "Festus," a nine-week old tom who loves to play bite and also pounce. You have already answered in this hub what I wanted to ask you how to stop him from doing. Thanks. You are a genius.
Voted up and all the way on this hub. I loved it.
Norma Lawrence from California on June 17, 2012:
Very good article. You had a lot of good helpful things to do.
Play time is important for bonding between you and your kitten. Kittens are very playful and curious and love to expend some of their energy chasing cat toys and interacting with their owners. Try rotating a variety of different types of cat toys and try different games so your cat doesn’t get bored. Toys may include chase and catch toys toys that you can put tasty food treats in and puzzle feeders.
Regular grooming (gentle brushing) is important particularly for medium-haired and long-haired cats. Start grooming your kitten early on so that it becomes an enjoyable bonding activity and part of routine care. Positively reward your cat with a tasty cat food treat, verbal praise and patting for allowing you to groom them. This way your cat will associate grooming with positive things, making it easier for both of you.
Grooming removes dust, dead skin, loose hair, grass seeds and tangles and shed fur, which can help prevent your cat experiencing ‘fur balls’ – some cats will swallow fur when they self-groom, especially long-haired cats, and this can build up in the stomach to eventually be vomited.
Grooming should always be comfortable for your cat. Avoid any hair pulling or jerking movements. Fur mats and tangles may need to be carefully trimmed off using blunt-nosed safety scissors. Always point scissors away from your cat and ensure the skin isn’t touched.
In general, cats don’t need to be bathed and most cats can find it quite stressful. Therefore generally avoid bathing unless recommended by your vet for medical reasons.
If you are away at work for most of the day, invite a neighbor or a pet sitter to keep your fur baby company. A Petcube Play interactive pet camera can also be a creative solution for taking care of a kitten even when you’re not there. This pet camera lets you watch, chat, and play with your kitten during the day, ensuring your kitty gets all the love and entertainment they need. Even if you can't play with your pet one-on-one, the auto-play mode can give your pet a game of laser tag when they're feeling active.
It’s no doubt that raising a kitten can be a lot of work. Keeping them safe and happy takes planning and patience for everyone in the household, but the tips in this kitten care guide will help make the process a whole lot easier.
Importantly, even if you learn all there is to know about how to care for kittens, without a lot of love and commitment, you won’t raise a happy kitten. By keeping experiences positive from day one, you’ll be laying the foundation for many years of happiness and will help your kitten grow into a confident adult cat, making life more enjoyable for you both.
At the very least, your kitten will need these basic necessities: food, a place to sleep, a scratching post or pad, and a litter box and litter. Of course, you won't be able to pass up a few toys. They will make the coming home experience a little easier on your new addition, especially since he'll be isolated from any other cats for the first few days. Create a shopping list for everything you'll need.
Although your new kitten may be perfectly comfortable in a cardboard box lined with clean, soft towels or a small blanket, consider giving him a real bed, just like the big guys. The best bets are beds that are either fully washable or have a washable and/or replaceable cover. Don't spend a lot of money, though: there's an excellent chance that your kitten will pass up the bed you've prepared for the end of your bed, a spot on the couch, or any sunny corner of your home.