by Terry Bain
Congratulations! You either have your new kitten already, or you are seriously thinking about adopting one. This is no doubt a very joyous time, but at the same time, a little nerve wrecking. Don’t worry, I went through the same thing, and I’ll tell you some things that will put your mind at ease.
Like with most species of animals in the world, there are differences between males and females. The males tend to be more independent and more prone to fighting, if there is more than one male in a household. This occurs even if they are both neutered, only the severity of fighting decreases. Females are more loving, and tend to be a little more “clingy.” So its good to decide which type of behavior you prefer before picking a kitten. A good age to adopt a kitten is around 10 weeks old. 8 weeks is actually too young, which is a good adoption age for puppies. 12 weeks is very late to adopt a kitten if you want to start from scratch and make sure that he or she is very well socialized with other people and animals.
A good thing to remember when attempting to train your new kitten is that cats are different from dogs. Cats have a “I’m number one,” mentality while dogs have a “I live to please you,” mentality. That doesn’t mean cats do not care for anyone else but themselves. In fact, he or she will adore you, but they tend to want to please themselves first. Remember this when training, and this will eliminate a lot of frustration on your part.
Cats, just like dogs, have certain instincts that we may find unacceptable in certain situations. Like dogs need toys that they can chew on, cats need scratching posts to scratch on. For cats, scratching is one of their ways of showing other animals that that is their territory, and they prefer to scratch where it is noticeable. This is why they love to scratch your lovely couch or walls. Try purchasing, or even building a scratching post and putting it right next to the area where your cat scratches. Then over time, move the scratching post to a less awkward area of the room.
Another unattractive habit that cats have, is they love to dig in flower pots. If you have plants, this section is for you. A great remedy for this is either purchasing or finding rocks to put in the flower pots. Cats do not like this, and this will deter them from digging in the plants.
Getting toys for your new kitten is very exciting, but just like a human child, he or she is not going to like every toy that you purchase, so its not a good idea to drop a good amount of change on a toy or a jungle gym for your cat until you know that he or she will like it. For instance, cats are natural born hunters, and I’ve found that toys like the little felt mice are excellent, and most cats love these. Another simple “toy” is a paper ball. I know it sounds wacky, but the cats I have come into contact with absolutely love to play with paper balls, and will do so for hours. Just make sure there isn’t any newsprint on it. A piece of computer paper or notebook paper is perfect.
Litterbox training. Kittens come “potty-trained” once you adopt them, usually. The biggest problem of course is the task of finding the litterbox in their new home. A good way to do so, is a way my grandmother and my dad taught me. That is to take the kitten to the litterbox, place him in the box, then let him follow you away from the litterbox.
A serious decision you want to make is whether or not you want to declaw your cat. This depends on whether or not you want your cat to be strictly indoor, or indoor/outdoor. Consider this: your cat may be strictly indoor but what if he accidentally slips out the door and is missing for a few days? This is a terrifying thought, but it is a reality that needs to be considered. A cat’s claws are his only defense should he have a run in with another cat or dogs. If the cat does not have his claws, and therefore he cannot defend himself. This is why many people decide against it, even though their cats are indoor cats. Some state laws even prohibit declawing, so make sure to check your state laws on this subject.
Another part of being a responsible cat owner, is to make sure your cat is current on all of his vaccinations and examinations. A major cause of cat deaths is feline leukemia virus (FeLV). It is very important to have your kitten tested for this disease as soon as possible. If your kitten tests positive, it is NOT the end of the world. Many kittens, if cared for properly can actually overcome the disease as they get older. The kitten may never show signs, or suffer from the disease ever in his life, and can live a long happy and healthy life.
Lastly, and most importantly, make sure your new kitten feels loved and attended to. Your kitten may even let out a literal “chirp,” to show you that he or she is happy with their new home, and with you. Yes I said chirp. My kitten does it, and it puzzled me at first, but this is something that is normal for kittens and cats to do. It’s a happy sound. So go forth, and enjoy your new kitten!
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