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Kitten Care Guide

kitten lying on lap

Whether you are still researching getting a kitten or already have a recent addition to your household this kitten guide will give you some tips and advice to best advise how to look after your furry feline! This is such an exciting time and kittens provide endless laughs and joy watching all of their playful kitten antics.

This new and exciting little family member does come with responsibilities that all family members can help with. This is paramount to ensuring their health, well-being and happiness. It can be quite overwhelming but don’t despair as this post will help to explain what is required for your kitten, the health care you need to provide including parasite preventatives as well as grooming, dental care and whether it’s best to keep them indoors only!

Set up (litter trays, scratching posts, all the kitten necessities!):

When you first bring your kitten home, it is recommended to confine them to a small area or room where they have their litter tray, bed, food and water to allow them to settle in. This can be a slightly daunting time for them so providing them with a stable and friendly environment can help them to settle in to their new family in no time. As their confidence grows you can allow them to explore other areas of the house just making sure it is a safe environment for them (taping up or putting away cords and picking up hair bands off the floor!). Using calming products such as feliway pheromone diffuser can help relax and adjust them to their new home environment.

It is ideal to place their litter tray in a private and safe area so ensure no toileting accidents (we all like a little privacy when going to the toilet!) and the general rule is one tray per cat plus one extra. Meaning if you have one cat, you should provide 2 trays, 3 cats 3 trays, etc. Try and provide the same litter tray and litter as the kitten was used to before you got them, as there are a big variety of different trays and litter types. Doing this will help prevent unwanted toileting incidents and make your kitten feel more familiar with the toileting process! It is beneficial to be aware that kittens are much more likely to use the litter tray if it is clean, and so keeping the tray clean and promptly removing the waste will encourage toileting in the correct place (and not on your bed, bathmat or basket of washing!).

Cats instinctively need to scratch to help keep their nails in good condition, and express their instinctive scratching behaviour. By providing scratching posts and encouraging usage of them (playing with your kitten on them, using treats and cat nip) this should also help save your furniture from getting scratched up! Cats also love heights so consider some cat furniture with multiple levels for them to explore their world from different heights. This will also provide your kitten with some mental stimulation which is good for their overall wellbeing and adds interest into their daily routine.

Playtime

Playtime is a great opportunity for bonding with your kitten! Kittens especially love chasing toys and their playful and curious nature will come out during play. I like to recommend rotating some toys to help keep them interested in them (this can help reduce boredom in playing with the smae toys all the time). Playtime is also an important form of exercise especially if they are going to be indoors only.

There are many different toys out their so try a variety to see what ones your kitten enjoys most. Some favourites are ones that include feathers, teaser toys, and balls of course! There are also interactive toys that move, laser toys that can really intrigue them as well as interactive feeding toys to make mealtimes fun!

Indoor vs Outdoor?

It is a good idea to consider early on whether you want to keep your kitten indoors only or let them outdoors. There are advantages and disadvantages to both and this will depend upon your personal situation ,such as whether you live in a house or apartment, proximity to main roads, neighbours with pets and the risks such as snakes, cars, ticks and dogs to name a few! Furthermore, it is highly recommended that they are desexed before being able to go outdoors to decrease the number of unwanted cats and kittens in the community.

Another consideration for indoor only cats is to provide them with a safe enclosed outdoor enclosure to provide mental stimulation and enrichment for them but keeping them away from some dangers. Alternatively, you can take them out on a harness with lead as directly supervising them will also reduce some risks of being outdoors.

Keeping kittens indoors straight away from when you acquire them will mean they don’t know any diffrent and can have a happy and safe life indoors.

We have a full indoor vs outdoor guide here.

Parasite Prevention

There are many options for parasite preventatives for kittens and cats and it can be quite confusing! Firstly you need to consider what parasites actually pose a threat to your kitten. This will depend on whether they go outdoors as well as your geographical location, although I still like to recommend tick prevention for indoor cats regardless. This also include flea prevention as other animals may bring fleas into the house and of course your cat could escape and come into contact with fleas outdoors! If you are unsure what your kitten needs do chat to your vet for their recommendations.

Intestinal worms

Kittens need to be wormed every 2 weeks until 12 weeks of age, and then monthly until 6 months of age and then every 3 months although many choose to continue with monthly worming. Heavy worm burdens are life threatening for kittens due to their small size and naïve immune system. Some worms are also zoonotic meaning that they can get spread to humans so it is definitely worthwhile to make sure they are uptodate with worming prevention especially if you have children at home!

Products include tablets, spot-ons and combination products which also cover for heartworm and fleas and some for ticks as well. Giving kittens and cats a tablet can be challenging so do look into spot on’s that also cover for intestinal worms.

Tapeworm

There are two main tapeworms that can affect kittens, one is the flea tapeworm and the other is the hydatid tapeworm. Hydatid tapeworms are found in raw offal and meat so only cats who are fed raw meat or who hunt things like lizards are at risk of picking this parasite up. Tapeworm coverage is through a drug called praziquantel which is found in some worming tablets (drontal or milbemax) or a tapeworm specific tablet or a topical spot on product called profender.

Heartworm

Heartworm is a parasite that is spread by mosquitos so therefore we recommend even indoor cats use heartworm prevention. Again prevention is always better than the cure! We don’t really know the prevalence of heartworm in Australia but it can be both difficult to diagnose and treat therefore prevention is key! Using a combination spot on product or a monthly heartworm and intestinal all wormer tablet (milbemax) are some options to consider.

Fleas and Ticks

We recommend all year flea prevention for cats and even for indoor cats. Both flea and tick prevention is a must especially for cats who spend any amount of time outdoors and paralysis ticks are prevalent around the East Coast of Australia especially. There are topical products available which are combination products providing coverage for heartworm, most intestinal worms, fleas and ticks (such as revolution plus and bravecto plus).

Nutrition

Your kitten needs to be fed a complete and balanced diet designed for growth. I like to recommend premium diets as they are nutrient dense, tailored to the individual needs of specific age groups, sizes/breeds, and would often go the extra mile to include more beneficial ingredients and invest in research to ensure the quality of their products. Alternatively, there is also natural food available which focuses on utilising natural ingredients. Feeding a mix of both dry and wet food can boost a kitten’s water intake and help keep mealtimes interesting for them!

Recommended brands include Royal Canin, Hills and Advance. Natural brands include Black Hawk and Ivory Coat. I can understand that deciding what to feed your kitten can be quite overwhelming so do ask your vet if you are unsure on what to choose.

Using feeding puzzles is an excellent way to mentally entertain your kitten and encourage them to work for their food.  This can add fun into meal times, makes them slow down their eating (especially if they usually try to inhale their food!) and helps encourage their instinctive problem solving skills.

Pet Insurance

This is an ideal time to consider the need for pet insurance. There are a few reasons that kittenhood is a great time to take out a pet insurance policy.

  1. Pet insurance will exclude any pre-existing conditions. For example if your pet has been diagnosed with a problem before taking out pet insurance such as skin condition, then you will not be able to claim for this when you purchase a policy. Therefore, taking out pet insurance as a young kitten before any accident or illness has occurred is likely to be financially beneficial.
  2. Kittens are curious and can get up to mischief! Having pet insurance will provide peace of mind that you can cover the cost of treatment required for accidents, such as being hit by a car or swallowing a sharp object such as a sewing needle, and in cases of illness such as tummy upsets.
  3. Some cats are going to acquire costly medical conditions that are not preventable, such as allergic skin disease or diabetes, both of which can involve multiple ongoing medications and treatments, and again having pet insurance before this occurs is likely to be highly financially valuable.

Vaccinations and Microchipping

Vaccinations are an important part of caring for your new kitten. Vaccinations help protect against diseases such as, enteritis ( a viral gastroenteritis), and cat flu and will either provide protection, by the kitten showing no clinical signs, or at least they will become less ill from specific diseases. Kittens usually have 3 vaccinations a month apart with the first one starting at 6-8 weeks of age. You can check with your vet what vaccinations your kitten will require and exactly how many, depending on the age of your kitten and your location.

Your kitten will likely already be microchipped before purchase, but do confirm this and make sure you are aware of the microchip number and ensure ownership has been updated with your details just in case they go missing.

Grooming

Grooming is particularly important for medium and long -haired cats and if you start brushing your kitten from a young age, they will become used to it and enjoy it as a form of bonding with you and routine care. Positively rewarding your kitten with a tasty treat, pat or gentle praise will help your kitten associate grooming with positive experiences.

Grooming helps to remove excess hair, dead skin, dirt and dust, grass seeds and will also help to detangle and prevent knots and matting. It also aids in reducing the occurrence of hairballs by removing any loose hair that would otherwise be swallowed when they groom themselves. It can also aid in spreading the natural oils in their coat which provides a healthy and shiny coat.

Not to mention removing excess cat hair form your house due to moulting!

Dental

Starting a good oral hygiene program whilst kittens are young will start them off for success. At first kittens will still have their baby teeth but this can be a good time to start getting them used to toothbrushing. It can be useful to start off with a flavoured veterinary toothpaste and then slowly introducing a finger brush. Toothbrushing is the gold standard of care for oral health. Other options include dental treats such as greenies (but these are only recommended form 10-12 months of age), water additives, dental gels and powders.

Dental disease is such a common issue us vets see in practice so helping to prevent this condition will save money and discomfort for your kitten as they age. Cats are notoriously bad chewers and many prefer to swallow their food whole which prevents any cleaning of their teeth whilst eating!

Take home points

Cats can add so much love and enrichment to your life but remember they can easily be a 20 year commitment! In practice I see so many senior cats who have grown up with their human families and have become such a part of their life stories. Insurance will add peace of mind, providing you with options at times when your beloved cat may become unwell or injured and it can be tailored to your needs.

Dr Angie with Axel

Written by Dr. Angie, the brilliant veterinary mind behind Pet Circle Insurance. With over 15 years of experience in the veterinary field and hands-on experience in handling insurance claims, Angie is a trusted and reliable source of truth when it comes to all things pet-related. Her passion for small animal medicine, nutrition, and the human-animal bond shines through in her work with the Pet Circle Veterinary Squad, where she provides top-notch advice and support to pet owners.