Kitten Care 101 in a Hurry!

First-hand Knowledge Gained by Raising a Cat

I knew absolutely nothing about raising a cat or any helpful facts on feral kitten care in July of 2005. It was imperative to me, however, to learn how to care for my new kitten in a hurry. 

While I had grown up with dogs and gained a good amount of knowledge caring for three dogs over the years, I had to learn how to care for my new kitten on the fly and do it fast.  I also needed to learn about kitten care, for feral kittens, as my kitten was born to a street cat. Like other feral kittens, he needed extra time and care as he became socialized. 

Cat Care Guide

My best advice to a new kitten owner is to try these 5 cat care tips and to use them as a cat care guide.  Seek additional advice, too, from books and others, as I am not a cat expert by any means. However, I can state equivocally that these cat care tips worked for me, and that these tips are commonly practiced, widely advised in other cat care guides and especially helpful to new kitten owners and all cat households.

My cat is healthy, playful, thriving and affectionate. Now six years old, he lives very amicably with me and my dog. I see these results as the signs of raising a happy cat.

Cute Kitten(66992)Credit: Personal photo by E. Green

Mason was a very tiny kitten when we met.  He weighed just about one pound, fit in my hand and was about six-weeks old according to my vet when I brought him home. Mason was probably too young to have been parted from his mother, however, I did not know this then. Nor did I know anything about his feline mother or any facts about his living conditions.

As I mentioned before, Mason was a feral kitten. A woman was giving him and his littermates away in front of a store exit when I was leaving the store with a friend. It was very impulsive to have brought a kitten home as I did, however, it worked out fantastically well for both Mason and me.

Rather than picking up a stray cat, like I more or less did, I recommend going to an animal shelter to adopt a cat or any pet. Think about adopting pets from a dog or cat rescue too. 

My cat has brought such joy and laughter into my house and he and Marley, my blind dog, have become the best of pals. 

How Do I Know These Cat Tips Will Work? I Sleep at Night

I have been fortunate with Mason.  He has not exhibited any significant problem cat behaviors that I have been unable to remedy, for the most part. Easy remedies that worked for me included buying a good a cat scratching post, giving my new kitten appropriate kitten toys and by practicing other new kitten care tips like the ones below and kitten-proofing my house.

Mason has never sprayed urine or used anything other than his litter box to do his business. Most importantly, my cat that lets me sleep at night and he has done so, ever since he was a kitten. This can be a huge problem for pet owners, particularly for those who have cats, as they such nocturnal animals.

I credit a great deal of my success to having Mason live in the bathtub for the first month of his life, during my work and sleeping hours. Let me explain.

The bathtub became Mason’s temporary safety zone while I was out of the house or when I was away from home, at work or sleeping. I chose this space because of my earliest experiences with Mason and because of  his first interactions with Marley. Mason and Marley needed to adjust to one another from the start and Mason also needed to be kept out of mischief from day one.

1)    Kitties need a safe space to play, sleep and eat.

My suggestion to use the bathtub as a safety zone for my kitten might sound strange, however, it was the best safe haven for him in my house. Mason lived in the bathtub for four weeks and he lived there safely and comfortably. It ended up being the best thing I could have done for him, as he learned to entertain himself when he was alone. My cat spent a lot of time with Marley and me, as well, during the daytime when I was home. But at night, he learned that this was not my playtime.

Using the tub for my cat also helped Mason learn to let me to sleep and night and he still does. My cat will come and say goodnight to me with an affectionate nose rub or head bump. He even keeps me company at night, sleeping at the end of my bed from time-to-time, but he does not disturb my sleep. The bathtub served a dual purpose. It provided safety and the confinement it offered also taught my cat to let me sleep in peace at night. Cats need to learn to be alone and young kittens, and even some older cats, need to be trained to leave their owners alone and undisturbed at night.

At first, my kitten only learned about his new surroundings, his owner and his new canine companion, just when I was home and when I could watch him.

Otherwise, the confines of the bathtub kept him safe and out of trouble as a very young kitten. He ate only kitten-safe food, played with kitten-safe toys and drank only the clean water I left him. I did not have to worry about him getting stuck or eating anything harmful when I was not home. He had plenty of room inside the bathtub and and plenty of space for his litter box and food and water bowls. My second lesson in how not to care for a cat happened when I let Mason wander on the floor. He quickly got his tiny claw stuck in a tiny air vent hole on the back of my PC tower which rested, also on floor and under my desk. Tiny kittens can crawl into very narrow spaces, get stuck or get into mischief very easily even if watchful eyes are keeping tabs on them.

2)    New pets in a home need to be slowly introduced to any other animals or pets already living in your home. They also need their first introductions and initial interactions to be carefully monitored. Don’t leave your new feline, canine or inter-species housemates alone together until they are very accustomed to one another and until they each act as friends towards one another.

I introduced Marley to Mason too abruptly. Try another approach instead and make any pet introductions gradual. Let each animal smell the presence of the other in your home first, by using a piece of cloth containing the other animal’s scent, or let your pets sniff one another for a day or two between a doorway or a carrier to prevent any mishaps or possible tragedies. I would suggest confining each animal to a separate location in the house if they both need to be left inside.

Introduce Your Pets to Each Other SlowlyCredit: Personal Photo by E. GreenOn the day I brought my new kitten home, Marley sniffed Mason and immediately picked him up by her mouth, presumably to clean him.  As I was unsure, however, I commanded her to release him. She did so right away. Mason was not hurt nor was Marley cowed. I simply discovered she was jealous. Marley tried again several times to mother and clean Mason, but he resisted her attempts to lick him each and every time. They did, however, became fast friends very quickly.
While I hadn’t any intention of leaving my animals alone together in the house or letting them interact unsupervised, I would change how I introduced them if I had to do it over again. 

Marley and Mason spent their subsequent time together in short 15 minute sessions and I held Mason on my lap and kept Marley at a careful distance, as needed, during their initial time together.

3)    Kittens need to be socialized and handled so that they do not fear people. Invite friends and have family to your home and encourage a diverse group of visitors to gently handle your new kitten often. Kittens need sensory stimulation and daily handling from other people, aside from just their owners. This way, young kittens will learn to trust all humans. This is especially true and important for feral kittens.  A kitten’s personality is largely formed during the first eight week’s of its life. As a result, early handling of  kittens, beginning around three weeks of age along with frequent human contact, is advisable and advice found in almost any cat guide that exists. If you observe only one tip from this list or read advice from any cat care guide, this tip is critical and widely advised.

4)    Keep your cat’s litter box clean, in a quiet area and prevent other pets in the house from disturbing the litter box or your cat’s privacy when he or she needs to use his box. Keep your cat’s litter box in dog-free zone to help both your pets. An inexpensive wooden baby gate works well to keep dogs away from cat feces and cat litter boxes. Enclosed litter box cabinets work too. They are the best dog-proof option. A great suggestion for a clay-free cat litter is to try the Feline Pine brand cat litter and the litter box also made by Feline Pine for this pellet litter. This brand of cat litter is a superior one. I highly recommend both Feline Pine products. These products, are more importantly, particularly safe for both young kittens, all felines and cat owners. Links to detailed product reviews of these products are below this kitten care 101 guide.

5)    Kitten proof your house with cord protectors and electrical outlet covers. Also keep any window blinds out of a kitten's reach. Kittens are like toddlers. They are very oral and they will taste or get into stuff that can harm them. Coins, ribbons, yarn and other objects such as these are also highly dangerous to young curious kittens. I used plastic cord organizers, which really helped protect my PC wires and other electrical cords. Before I became wise to this tip, my cat chewed through my PC speaker wires while I was listening to some music and using my computer to get some work done. The music stopped and I looked over at my connections to see if they were still in place.  They were connected but had just been cut by very sharp kitten teeth. You will have to keep an eye or your precious little feline friend in the beginning to avoid mishaps such as this one. Never fear your young kitty will learn to entertain himself with his own toys and with the proper kitten and cat toys you must offer him or her. There are many great and safe cat toys for both kittens and older cats. A cat tunnel for instance will provide cats with a nice hiding place, which cats love to find.  Cat TunnelCredit: Personal Photo by E. Green

Kitten Care 101 Lessons Learned

Your cat will bring you tremendous joy. Several tips, nevertheless, will have to be learned first-hand and used to help you both. And you might also experience some trials and errors like I did. However, cats and new kittens are wonderful animals. Together you and your cat will get over the bumps of kittenhood and come to love one another and, thoroughly, enjoy each other’s company.

Raising a cat takes time, knowledge and patience. A good cat care guide will help. I hope this first-hand tips and these particular kitten care 101 lessons will also benefit you and your new kitten.

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