Kittens And What To Expect

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

There is nothing more fun than life with a kitten. It’s way more entertaining than reality TV and more action-packed than a hockey game. Life with a kitten is even better if you know what to expect and how to bring him up to become a great cat. Here are some tips on getting to know your kitten and the best ways to care for him as he grows.

Because of their youth, kittens are incredibly resilient, but they still need a bit of an adjustment period as they move from living with mom and littermates to being your new BFF (best feline friend). Give them some time to get settled into their new home before you let all the neighborhood kids come visit or let them have the run of the house.

Set your kitten up in a single room where he can explore safely and get to know you for a week or so. It should be large enough that there’s plenty of separation between his litter box and his food and water dishes, with room for a scratching post and an area where he can play with his toys. A bedroom, office or large bathroom are all good possibilities. As he gets more comfortable with your presence and his new surroundings, you can gradually let him explore the rest of the house, always with the option of retreating to his safe room if things seem overwhelming.

Kittens have two settings: play and sleep. Their need for play peaks when they are about 12 weeks old — right about when your kitten should come home with you. Make sure your kitten has lots of different kinds of toys to fulfill his love of activity. Puzzle toys that will dispense treats or dry food when he moves them the right way, stuffed toys that he can “kill,” balls or wind-up toys that he can chase should all be in his toy chest.

 (Photo credit: VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo credit: VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images)

Toys give kittens an outlet for the biting behavior that is common at this age. Any time your kitten tries to use his teeth or claws on you, screech loudly, walk away, then give him a toy that he can attack instead. Praise him when he does. He’ll get the picture.

This is also the time that your kitten should learn about new things that he’ll likely encounter throughout his life: dogs, children, visits to the vet, riding in the car, wearing a harness, walking on leash, getting his nails trimmed and his coat groomed, or having his teeth brushed. Anything you want your kitten to accept should be introduced and practiced frequently well before he is four months old. Go slow, make it fun, and give him lots of praise, petting and food rewards when he’s encountering the new and potentially scary thing.

Last but not least, set up your kitten’s litter box so that it’s attractive to use. Offer him a choice of several types of litter so he can select his favorite, give him a choice between an open and a covered litter box, and make sure the box is easy to get to and to get into, especially if your kitten is teeny. Keep the box super-clean, both in terms of scooping it and washing it regularly.

Finally, don’t forget to take plenty of photos. Trust us — you’ll want those later.