I was never a "cat person." That is until I decided to lend a paw to the SPCA and become a foster parent to a stray calico (now named Claire) and her five kittens (Lola, Sadie, Norman, Guinness, and Annie). The kittens are adorable, however, I am a new "cat mom" so I quickly realized that I have a lot to learn when it comes to kittens and what you should and should NOT do!
First of all, Claire (the mother cat) had never been inside of a home before; therefore, she had just as much to learn as I did! Though she has become quite comfortable in the two weeks that she has lived in her "cat safe room" it did take a while for her to figure out what a litter box was. I can't really fault her for not pooping in her litter box; after all, she was a stray her entire life and didn't know what the "strange box in the corner" was actually for. I tried several litters (World's Best all natural corn litter, basic inexpensive clumping, and even pellets). Well, to make a long story short, she didn't like any of them. Finally, I tried Cat Attract cat litter and guess whatshe pooped in the box! Trust me, the day that Claire pooped in her litter boxI swear I heard angels sing! Cat Attract is wonderful and actually comes with a guarantee. It states on the bag 100% litter box use or your money back! Well, for once, I am happy that I am NOT getting any money back! Cat Attract was developed by a veterinarian that specializes in felines. I guess he really knows his stuff! Thank goodness!
As for the kittens, I noticed that a couple of them had a few fleas on them. Yuck! I called the woman that runs the cat program for the local SPCA and asked her what I should do (as I said, I'm a new cat momso I had no idea!). I had a feeling that she would tell me that they are too young to be treated with chemicals that kill fleasand I was right. There is nothing you can do except gently comb them with a flea comb (which I did). I was able to kill quite a few fleas (which I am quite proud of) and will have the kittens treated when they are older and no longer dependent on their mother for food. It should also be noted that you SHOULD NOT treat a mother cat for fleas as long as she is nursing her babies. The flea chemicals CAN be passed on to the kittens through her milk. Again, all you can do (during the early stages) is flea comb the mother and her babies and change and wash their bedding often. Actually, I take that back. There is one other option but should only be done if you are dealing with an extreme case of fleas and the kittens are in danger.
If the flea problem is really bad, you can (VERY CAREFULLY) give each kitten a bath in warm water mixed with Dawn liquid dish soap. DO NOT put the kitten's head under the water!!Lather each kitten well (the fleas hate dish soap and will actually get caught in the bubbles) and dry them COMPLETELY with a towel (do this in a very gentle manner). If you are not comfortable bathing your kittens don't hesitate to contact your veterinarian. He or she should be able to give you advice on what to do. The vet may even ask that you bring the kittens in for a visit to make sure that they are not suffering from flea anemia.
I know that kittens depend on their mom for food for many weeks. However, I wasn't sure when I should start feeding them kitten food (after all, poor Claire looked like she could use a break!). Once again I called the cat lady at the SPCA and asked for advice. I was told that mother cats begin to wean their kittens when they are four to five weeks old and the weaning process is usually complete by week ten (hence the reason kittens should stay with their mom for at least ten weeks!). Taking a kitten away from its mother prematurely could create "kitten problems" in the future. A good frame of reference is a kitten's eyes. When a kitten has completely opened his or her eyes and is able to focus and explore (steady on their feet) they are most likely ready to be introduced to solid kitten food.
Kittens are adorable, sweet animals that are fairly low-maintenance (after all, the mother cat does practically EVERYTHING!). If you are thinking about adding a cat or kitten to your family, please consider adoption as there are MANY homeless cats sitting in shelters waiting for a second chance and forever loving home. If you can't adopt, why not become a foster parent (just something to think about!). MEOW!