As a country, Aussies own around 3.3 million cats, with almost a third of households living with a feline family member. If you’re in possession of a sweet, soft, fluffy bundle of cuteness (also known as a kitten), you have a great duty of care in your hands. Our expert cat carers want to offer you a few tips to help raise your kitten right.
Owning a new kitten means more than access to an endless amount of hugs and photos, although hugs are quite valuable to its wellbeing! There are vital steps you need to take to ensure a kitten’s health, such as feeding it correctly, providing clean and private bedding, litter training, plus getting them desexed, vaccinated and microchipped (talk to your vet). But when owning a new kitten, and bringing it into your home, you must not miss out on actually caring for them. You must give a kitten the level of nurture they need to become a healthy, relaxed and confident cat.
After you’ve organised a general health check-up for your kitten at the local vets, there are a few essential steps to keeping a healthy kitten at home…
1 – Start brushing your kitten immediately.
Also known as “Fur Ball Prevention Service”. Grooming is a big part of owning a cat, especially for medium-haired and long-haired breeds. It’s important you get your kitten comfortable with the feeling and routine of being brushed as soon as possible. You want them to view grooming as a positive thing! As an enjoyable bonding exercise, rather than a stressful situation, you are helping to remove dust, dead skin, loose/shed fur, outside debris and knots – ultimately minimising the fur balls produced when cats self-groom. Cats need to be brushed throughout their lifetime, even when they graduate from kitten to official cat status – we have a selection of grooming packages available if you don’t have the time.
2 – Handle and socialise your kitten with people regularly.
It’s such a common mistake of pet owners to under-socialise their kitten. The best way to get your little kitten growing up and used to people is to invite your friends around to pick it up for cuddles. Good luck finding any volunteers to do this! The real benefit to regularly and gently handling your kitten is to encourage it to feel completely at ease with humans, and familiar with those in your life. This is also a great way to avoid your kitten feeling anxious in the future when friends suddenly drop by your place.
3 – Train your kitten.
Cats are intelligent animals and can be trained at any age, but the most impressionable and effective time to train them is when they are a kitten, at 10 to 20 weeks old. This is when they can learn the most, as they are in developing stages. Reward-based training is your best option, and their reward can be a healthy treat, praise or patting (hugs also acceptable, if they’re in the mood, of course). This style of training also means you must ignore bad behaviour – ignore rather than physically punish.
4 – Condition your kitten to come indoors.
One of the most important lessons you can teach a little kitten is to come inside when you want them to. This is especially valuable if you live in an area where there is a lot of nocturnal wildlife, such as possums and other marsupials. The best trick is to condition them: fill an empty water bottle with a handful of dried biscuits, and shake this every day right before you feed your kitten. Throughout the next few months they will learn to associate the sound and routine with being fed and will come to the same spot – so you can shake the bottle whenever you need to attract your pet indoors. A great alternative to standing at the back door and shouting “Mitzy!!” into the dark for 20 minutes!
5 – Love them, don’t leave them.
You have an exciting and challenging adventure ahead as your kitten grows into a wonderfully unique cat. The cuteness of a young kitten is undeniable, but unfortunately it’s common for some households to buy a new addition to their home as a gift, but sadly give up kittens if they become an unruly cat and lose their “cuteness”. The very fact you are reading this article means you care about your pet, but it’s important to understand the commitment of owning a cat, and that you take full responsibility for your kitten’s welfare throughout its life – the little guy relies on you.
Want to know more specific advice on kitten care, such as what to feed your kitten, or how to train your kitten to use a litter tray? The RSPCA offers a wealth of information and support for all new pet owners. It’s also worth familiarising yourself with the effect a young, roaming cat can have on a community to ensure the safety of local wildlife. It’s no longer the norm for domestic cats to roam outdoors – many owners now provide a decent environment for their cat within their home. Kittens generally adapt well to an
indoor lifestyle if they are contained from an early age. Remember to check with your local council for any laws relating to keeping a pet cat.
We hope you feel like you have a solid idea of how to handle and care for your new fur baby. Caring for kittens is one of many specialist services our Nannies offer at Cat Utopia – we even have a Kitten Package available!