Orange kitten's eyes

tips and tricks: how to start a new life with a kitten

just adopted a kitten? not sure what it entails? when in doubt, here are my top 8 veterinary tips:

·      start with a visit to the veterinarian to make sure your kitten is healthy and undergoes a full kitten vaccine series (which includes a vaccine every three to four weeks, starting at six to seven weeks of age until 14 weeks of age) and deworming for intestinal parasites.

·      make sure your kitten is tested for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) at your veterinarian, as these are two potentially life-threatening infections that they can inherit from their mother.

·      to help prevent pet overpopulation and potential behavior problems (like marking, or spraying urine, on your walls), make sure to get your kitten neutered or spayed around 6 months of age.

·      keep your new kitten safe by keeping it indoors. If you want to let your kitten out, make sure to train him or her to walk on a harness and leash so you can supervise your feline friend at all times.

·      kitten-proof the house — no prescription medications lying around; no ribbon, string, yarn, tinsel or dental floss that could end up as a linear foreign body in the intestines; no Easter lilies, fresh bouquets or poisonous plants in the house! make sure to preprogram your cell phone with the phone numbers for your veterinarian, emergency veterinarian and ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center so lifesaving advice is at the tip of your fingers.

·      providing environmental stimulation, such as enrichment toys (e.g., Buster cubes or balls) and lots of exercise and playtime.

·      feed a high-protein kitten diet until about 6 to 7 months of age; after that, start weaning onto an adult cat food in moderation (or battle the belly bulge forever).

·      make sure you are providing the right kitty litter husbandry: the correct number of boxes (n + 1, so a minimum of two boxes even in a one-cat household); large enough boxes; appropriate cleaning (at a minimum of every other day); and a cat litter that is suitable for your new pet.

when it comes to picking a kitty litter, I like using one that is natural, eco-friendly, has minimal dust, and doesn’t track around the house. in my two-cat household, I use sWheat Scoop®. since I sleep with my cats, I don’t want pieces of clumping bentonite clay tracked onto my pillow or sheets! there’s the rare risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases (e.g., like parasites, Toxoplasma) from feces exposure.

when it comes to getting your kitten adjusted to his or her new litter box, simply follow these tips. first, make sure to have two boxes in the house. try a covered one and uncovered one to start. show your kitten where the litter box is, place him in it, and gently scrape his front paws with his paws in your hands so he knows how to cover up in the box. lastly, make sure your kitten isn’t eating the kitty litter! this is rare; when we see it, we worry about intestinal parasites or anemia that results in an abnormal eating behavior called pica.

when in doubt, start you and your new kitten on the right track. after all, you may have 10 to 20 more years of care for your new companion. make sure to keep your new feline friend healthy and to provide a home environment that is safe, fun, clean and eco-friendly at the same time!