Saturday, 13 September 2014

What do you need for a kitten?

In this post I will discuss all the essential items you need to have for a new kitten, however before we take a look at the practical preparations you can make,  I wanted to spend just a few minutes talking about how your kitten will be feeling when you first bring her home. 

If you are a first time cat owner it's important to bear in mind that the first few days in a new home can be disorientating for a kitten.  No matter how young or old they are, all cats are territorial creatures.  So far the only territory your kitten has known is the place where she was born. Now she has been transported (most likely in the confined space of a pet carrier)  to completely alien territory, and not only that but she no longer has the security of being with her mother either.  Understandably she is going to need several days to adapt to  her new surroundings - and her new family. 

Don't be surprised if your new little feline does not want any close bodily contact from you or any other family member perhaps even for several days after you bring her home.  The chances are she will opt to hide away in a secluded corner of your house somewhere away from everyone until she makes sense of where she is.  By all means try to gently coax her to come to you  and build up trust in the early days, but give her a little space too.

So now to more practical matters.  Here is a list of the things you need for a new kitten:

A cat scratching post

All cats need to sharpen their claws, and unfortunately  certain types of furniture are a magnet for this purpose.  It's a really good idea to buy or make a scratching post and encourage your kitten to use it. Getting her into this habit from a young age will minimize the risk of her scratching your furniture over the coming years. You can either make a scratching post by covering a block of wood with some carpet or buy a ready made post fairly cheaply from a pet supermarket. Once your kitten is old enough to venture outdoors she will more than likely find a nearby fence post, log or tree trunk to scratch away on, but it's still a good idea to keep a scratching post indoors too throughout her adult life.

Litter tray & cat litter 

You can buy new litter trays and bags of cat litter relatively cheaply from pet supermarkets, but an old washing up bowl and some soft earth will do the job just as well if not better, especially if you plan to eventually train your cat to stop using a litter tray and go to the toilet outside.

Pet bedding

You will need to provide a safe and private place for your kitten to sleep when you first bring her home.  It doesn't need to be anything fancy - a cardboard box lined with newspapers and a blanket will do fine. It certainly isn't worth spending any extra money on a bed for your kitten because once he or she has settled into their new home they will almost certainly find their own preferred sleeping place somewhere in the house, and you can guarantee it won’t be any posh pad you have bought for them!

Pet carrier

You will need a carrier to transport your kitten/cat when ever you are taking them away from home. If possible, find a carrier with a wire mesh door so the kitten can see out. It ‘s also a good idea to put some newspaper down in the bottom of the carrier before using it just in case she has any accidents. 

Kitten food

Kittens have very specific dietary requirements and it is important you only purchase kitten food produced by well known brands like Purina, Iams or Hills. Once you have brought your kitten home you will soon get to know her likes and dislikes regarding different flavours and textures. However to begin with it is a good idea to purchase small supplies of specially formulated kitten meat as well as a small box or bag of kitten biscuits.

Food and drink bowls

Ideally you should have at least three bowls - one for wet food, one for dry food and one for water. To start off with a kitten needs shallow bowls for easy access.

Cat/kitten toys

Kittens need stimulation and exercise and you can buy a whole range of specially designed toys very cheaply from pet supermarkets or online to help develop natural hunting skills. You will be amazed at how quickly your kitten will chase an imitation mouse or even a piece of string around the room. Table tennis balls, small balls of paper and cotton bobbins also make excellent toys for your kitten to play with.  You can see a wide range of kitten toys here.

Cat hairbrush 

All kittens and cats benefit from regular grooming - particularly long haired varieties.  Regularly brushing your kitten will reduce the amount of fur she swallows when cleaning herself and will prevent fur balls building up in her digestive system. Most cats love the sensation of being brushed so listen out for those loud purrs when you start brushing!

Cat flap

Once your kitten has been vaccinated you may want to give her  the freedom to go outside and explore. There are a number of different cat flaps on the market varying in price. If you are concerned about other cats coming into your home through a cat flap, you can purchase a flap which is only activated by a magnet worn on a collar around your own cat’s neck. If you decide to have your kitten chipped, there are other more expensive cat flaps you can buy which are activated by the chip.

Other costs associated with looking after a cat

In addition to the day to day essentials listed above, there are other rather more expensive considerations, mainly relating to future medical treatments that your kitten/cat will invariably need. It is a good idea to do some research into the cost of veterinary treatment for a cat before you purchase a kitten so you are fully aware of how much you could potentially have to pay - both in the case of an emergency and for more routine veterinary treatments such as kitten vaccinations and neutering.

A veterinary surgeon

It is important that prior to purchasing your kitten, you contact a local veterinary to find out if he or she is able to accept your kitten as a patient. If you can pop into the surgery, you will find the staff are generally happy to provide you with good quality advice and they can also advise you about the costs involved in your kitten‘s early months.

Pet insurance

There is no escaping the fact that medical treatment for your cat comes with a (sometimes hefty) price tag. It is certainly worth doing some research into the cost of pet insurance as there are some reasonably priced policies to be found. Most cats live until they are in their mid/late teens and some even longer, so you could find that a small monthly payment for pet insurance is money well spent.

A cat-sitter

Young kittens should not be left at home unattended for long periods of time, but once they become an adult you will need to think about care arrangements for when you go away on holiday etc. The ideal scenario is to find an  accommodating neighbour to take care of your cat whilst you are away from home, as this is generally the least stressful option for the cat. However if this is not possible, you will need to identify a local reputable cattery and find out how much they charge.

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