When it comes to raising kittens, the philosophy is pretty similar to that of bringing up children. If you provide proper care when they’re young, they’ll grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults. So if you recently adopted a kitten, start incorporating this advice as soon as possible.
Kitten proofing your home
One of the greatest joys of raising a kitten is watching their natural curiosity lead them to explore and play, however this curiosity is the very thing that can get them into trouble if you don’t take the appropriate steps to kitten proof your home.
Before you bring home your new kitten, be sure to check your home for any of the following potentially hazardous materials and objects:
- Exposed cords and cables – To your eager little kitten anything can be a toy, even stray power cables. Make sure to keep them well out of reach or consider a cable protector.
- Toxic houseplants– Some common household plants such as philodendron and lilies can be potentially fatal for your kitten if they come into contact with, or ingest part of the plant.
- Unsafe drinking water – Kittens are always on the lookout for a water source they can sip from throughout the day, and unfortunately this can include less than sanitary sources such as the toilet or your kitchen sink. Keep the lid down as the toilet in particular can be a drowning hazard.
- Cleaning solutions, medicine and insect repellents– Keeping all potentially poisonous items locked away in a safe cupboard where your curious feline friend can’t reach them is especially important. Remember that as cats are natural climbers, and just because a cupboard is up high doesn’t mean they won’t have a crack at getting into it. Consider child proof locks if necessary.
When you first bring home your new kitten it’s best to set up a safe area that they can be confined to initially, and then you can gradually introduce them to more areas of your home over time. This will help them become comfortable rather than overwhelmed in their new environment, while also giving you the opportunity to kitten proof your home room by room.
Train your kitten from the start
The first step to raising a healthy, well-adjusted kitten is to train them from a young age. Cats are highly intelligent and respond well to positive reinforcement, so use this to your advantage.
It can be helpful to list out some behaviours or actions you would like to teach your kitten, such as using their litter box or using a scratching post rather than your furniture when they get the urge to use their claws. Reward them for the desired behaviour with treats, and redirect them with toys and whenever they take actions you wish to discourage. Never physically discipline your kitten, they don’t associate the physical punishment with the bad behaviour and could instead withdraw or lash out.
How to toilet train your kitten
Teaching your kitten to use their litter box is a process that requires effort and dedication, but the sooner you get them accustomed to it the easier it will be for them to learn.
Start by placing the litter box in their safe area but make sure that it is placed well away from both their food and their water. You can train them to use the box by leading them to it after meals or physically placing them inside it. Make sure to reward them with treats when they use the box to encourage and positively reinforce the behaviour. If they aren’t becoming accustomed to using the box try changing things to make it more enticing to them, for instance move the box to a more private location or change the type of litter you are using.
When training your kitten to use their litter box consider:
- Making sure the box is placed somewhere quiet with few distractions, and away from their bed.
- Cleaning the litter box regularly and changing the litter at least once a week.
- Ensuring the box does not harbour any foreign smells you cat may pick up on, and avoid scented cleaning products.
Provide plenty of stimulation for your kitten
Kittens learn by exploring their surroundings and experimenting with new things. This is where proper stimulation comes in. When you’re at home, spend some time exploring with your kitten to give him encouragement and support his curiosity. It’s also important to provide toys that will stimulate his curiosity and encourage him to play on his own, like a cat scratcher or cat toy basket for indoor cats.
If you are looking for ideas to keep your kitten entertained at home try any of the following:
- Play chasing– Cats often enjoy being chased around the house and not only is this a form of play that will help you and your kitten bond it can also be a great form of exercise for both of you. If you see your cat looking back at you and taking a few steps away before looking back this is often a cue they would like to be chased. It is important to make sure that this play is fun for your kitten and not stressful. Maintain a nice amount of distance while chasing and stop if their tail drops down, as this can indicate fear.
- Hide and seek– As natural predators cats instinctively like to hide and jump out at their prey. You can turn this predatory behaviour into a fun playtime activity by giving them a place to hide such as a play tunnel and then encouraging them to leap out with a dangling toy.
- Fetch– Although not known for it some cats do actually enjoy playing fetch. Make sure whatever toy you choose is small and light enough for your kitten to carry in their mouth, throw it across the room and watch as they chase and pounce.
Make sure your kitten gets enough rest and sleep
Kittens need plenty of rest and sleep in order to grow up healthy and strong. You can help ensure this by setting up an area where they can sleep and rest without distraction, like a cat bed set up in their safe haven. A newborn kitten will spend the majority of their day sleeping, and while this number decreases with age it is still crucial that they get plenty of rest. As exciting as it is to play with your kitten make sure they get plenty of rest!