Bringing your kitten home
Moving to a new home is stressful for a kitten. Give it reassurance and time to adjust to the new surroundings before making introductions to other animals in the household. Make sure it knows where the bed,litter tray and food bowl are. Keep all the doors and windows closed and put a guard in front of the fireplace.
Your kitten's bed should be warm, dry, comfortable and draft free.
There are many types of bed to choose from or you can put some bedding inside a cardboard box with a hole cut in the side. A large pen (a kittening pen or the type of metal pen used to hold dogs securely in the back of a car) is ideal for providing a safe den for the kitten and can hold its litter tray and bed. It is also an excellent way to introduce other animals.
Feed your kitten on the same food it has been used to, as a sudden change of diet can cause stomach upsets. If you want to change the diet, do so gradually by mixing it with the kitten's usual food. Kittens have small stomachs and need to be fed little and often. You can buy foods that have been specially formulated for kittens, because they have different nutritional needs to the fully-grown cat. Read and follow the feeding instructions carefully. Do not give your kitten cow's milk as it can cause diarrhea. Fresh clean drinking water should be availableat all times.
You will need a plastic litter tray filled with sand, peat or cat litter available from pet shops. Never use earth from the garden as it may harbour diseases from other cats. Place the tray on newspaper in a quiet accessible corner. Show your kitten where the tray is when it wakes up from a sleep, after meals or when it looks as if it is about to go! Keep the tray clean and empty it regularly. Some disinfectants are toxic to cats so use only hot water and detergent or a cat-friendly disinfectant. Rinse the tray thoroughly.
Your kitten should not be allowed outside until at least a week after it has finished his first course of vaccinations at about 13-14 weeks old. Accompany your kitten outside, allowing it to explore the new environment, until it can find its way back to the house. It is best not to leave your kitten outside alone until it is six months old and has been neutered. Cats like to come and go as they please, so you may want to fit a cat flap.
When your kitten is older (over six months) you may want to fit a collar for identification or so it can activate an electronic cat flap. Check the collar's fit- you should be able to get one or two fingers underneath. `Snap open' collars reduce the likelihood of accidents.
Hazards in the home
Kittens are inquisitive. Should yours go missing, look in cupboards, wardrobes and outside sheds. Keep the washing machine and tumble dryer doors shut when not in use. Remove any poisonous plants and store chemicals safely.
Give your kitten an assortment of toys and a scratching post to keep it occupied and exercised. Play is a good way for you to get to know each other.
Accustom your kitten to being groomed from an early age, particularly if it has a long coat. A long-haired cat needs daily attention to keep fur free of tangles.
To provide protection against potentially fatal infections such as feline influenza, kittens need to be vaccinated. The first injection is given at eight to nine weeks old and a second at about12 weeks. Your kitten should be kept away from other cats and stay indoors for 10 days after the second injection to ensure maximum protection. Adult cats require regular boosters.
Kittens should be treated against roundworms at four to six weeks and then every two to three weeks until they are four months old. After this they should be treated for roundworms and tapeworms every two to six months depending on how much they hunt and if they have fleas. Use a proprietary wormer available from your vet.
Even clean cats pick up fleas so check for these while grooming. For effective control, adult fleas on the kitten must be killed and re-infestation from the environment prevented. Traditional flea preparations can contain substances that are toxic to kittens, so only use products recommended by your vet.
Many cats have ear mites. If your kitten's ears appear dirty, itchy or full of dark-coloured wax it is worth checking the problem withyour vet.
Each year many unwanted cats and kittens have to be put to sleep or are left to fend for themselves because there are not enough homes to go around. Asking your vet to neuter your cat ensures that you do not contribute to this problem. A male cat can be castrated and a female kitten can be spayed from four to five months of age.