If you are the proud new owner of a cuddly kitten, welcome to the wonderful world of fuzz, fun, and curiosity. Nothing beats bringing home a super soft kitten who fits in the palm of your hand.

But, get ready. That sleepy, adorable ball of fluff will soon turn into a rambunctious teenager who seems endlessly inquisitive. Whether you are new to kitten care, or could use a refresher, our guide provides you with the tips and tidbits you need to ensure your kitten thrives during their first year of life. 

Kitten-proofing your home

Before you bring home your little bundle, you have some work to do at home. Did you ever hear the old adage, “curiosity killed the cat?” Well, we aren’t here to worry you, but “curiosity” and “cat” go hand-in-hand for a reason. Young pets learn about their environment by exploring, which can get them into trouble. Chewing and scratching are essential for sensory development, so ensure you have scratching posts and boards, and plenty of safe, kitten-friendly toys for your furry friend. The Ohio State University Indoor Pet Initiative is a great resource that includes tips for creating a rich environment for indoor cats. String lights, garlands, yarn, and other dangly items are begging to be played with, and while some of these are suitable for your kitten under direct supervision, it’s best to keep them away from stringy things. If your kitten ingests a string or something similar, they could suffer from a dangerous obstruction that requires surgery. 

Choosing the right food

Nutrition is a hot topic in veterinary medicine. From raw, to grain-free, to homemade diets, choosing the right food for your kitten can be daunting. A commercially prepared diet that is labeled for kittens, and formulated to meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards, should provide all the nutrients your kitten needs to thrive. Avoid grain-free, vegan, or homemade diets, unless otherwise directed by your Tidmore Veterinary Hospital veterinarian, or a veterinary nutritionist. If you need help choosing the right food for your feline friend, contact our veterinary team for recommendations. 

Preventive care for your kitten

Regular veterinary care is an essential part of any cat’s life, but kittens require frequent veterinary visits during their first year. Establishing immunity to infectious diseases through vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and parasite prevention are all important aspects of kitten veterinary care. If you haven’t already, schedule an appointment with your Tidmore veterinarian for your kitten’s initial evaluation. Our veterinary team will discuss the following topics:

  • Vaccinations for feline distemper, feline leukemia virus, and upper respiratory diseases
  • Testing for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Fecal testing 
  • Prevention options for intestinal worms, fleas, and other parasites
  • Nutrition
  • Spay or neuter surgery
  • Basic care, such as nail clipping and bathing

If your kitten has any medical records, bring them to your appointment, along with your questions or concerns. 

Fostering your kitten’s social development

Between the second and third months of life, your kitten’s social development kicks into high gear. This is the prime time to introduce your feline friend to as many other people, cats, dogs, and different environments as safely possible, rewarding them along the way. Ensuring that kittens develop appropriate social skills will give them the tools they need to become calm, well-mannered, confident adult cats. Unfortunately, a kitten’s ideal socialization time coincides with their vaccine schedule, which means your kitten should only socialize with pets who are healthy, and up to date on their immunizations.

Handling is another important factor in your kitten’s social development. While your fluffball is young, touch their ears, toes, face, and tail often. This will help them become comfortable with ear cleaning, nail clipping, and overall physical restraint as they grow, which will make your life easier, and help reduce stress during veterinary or grooming appointments. 

Allowing your kitten outdoors

The safest place for your domestic cat is indoors. Your home protects your cat from run-ins with other, potentially fractious, cats, and wild animals, infectious diseases, parasites, and moving vehicles. If you are adamant about allowing your cat outdoors, consult our veterinary team to ensure your pet is adequately protected. Never allow a kitten to roam outdoors without supervision. 

At Tidmore Veterinary Hospital, we love cats, and we can’t wait to meet your little feline friend. Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns during this exciting time. For a more comprehensive guideline on lifelong cat care, consult the feline life stage guideline provided by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) here.