Veterinarian Reviewed on January 4, 2008 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
If you’ve recently acquired a new kitten there are a number of factors to consider regarding how to best serve the health and happiness of your kitten. Human contact, playtime, veterinary visits, diet, and grooming are all aspects of your cat’s health to which you will want to pay special attention.
As is the case with any pet, the more human contact they receive at an early age, the more accustomed to humans they will become. You should try to interact with your kitten as soon as possible. Even 2 or 3 weeks without human interaction can cause kittens to become defensive and hiss at humans. Moreover, kittens who are handled at a young age tend to become more comfortable and less fearful of humans that those who are not. Also, when you’re first handling a kitten, they will be more available to your interaction if their mother is present. For these reasons, it is important to know if the breeder has been interacting with the kittens or not. Plus there seems to be some evidence to suggest that kittens that are handled by adults will develop more quickly.
Playtime is an important part of your kittens learning and development process. Play helps kittens become aware and accustomed to their environment, owners, and the kinds of behaviour that are acceptable. Socializing your kitten through play is benefited by having them in contact with several humans. Play is also a good opportunity for kittens to learn about other family pets. Interaction with these pets will be important from a young age in order to ensure they get along with other pets.
Play is also an appropriate time to set rules for acceptable behaviour. You can play with a scratch-post to encourage your kitten to scratch a post rather than your furniture, for example. Also, kittens are sensitive to the tone of your voice. During play you can associate a positive tone with rewards and a negative tone with no rewards. This will make language slightly more useful for training in the future.
From a young age, it is beneficial for kittens to have regular veterinary visits. They should be receiving vaccinations and you should be speaking to your vet about preparing for sterilization (spaying and neutering). Plus, interaction with a vet from an early age will ensure that the cat is comfortable in this setting making it easier for both the cat and the vet.
As with human interaction, play, and vet visits, early grooming is important to make sure that your kitten is comfortable with the grooming routine. After a few weeks you should start to trim its nails and brush its fur so that these activities become part of their normal routine. Cats will be less likely to misbehave when groomed if they have had routine grooming experience as kittens. This will make your life as an owner much easier.
Litter Box Training
Litter box training should begin immediately with your kitten. Do not allow your kitten to roam freely throughout the house until they have been litter box trained. Within a confined space, it is much easier to teach your kitten to use the litter box. Plus, you can watch them closely and reward them frequently for using the litter box.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan