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Feline Friday, ps: 10 Kitten Care Do’s & Don’ts

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kitten face

Nothing beats kitten fun. But more goes into proper care than plopping food in a bowl and setting up a litter box. Before you adopt, there are 10 do’s and don’ts to ensure your kitten love lasts a lifetime. The first is–don’t adopt too early! (see below) 

What age is best to adopt your new kitten? The majority of professional cat breeders and many well-respected cat behaviorists say that cat babies should stay with siblings and Mom-cat for at least 12 to 16 weeks. Of course, that’s not always possible.

Maturity has as much to do with emotional development as it does with physical growth. Physically, kittens are able to eat and thrive on commercial food as early as three weeks of age and most are weaned by six to eight weeks of age. That’s the most common time kittens leave and go to new homes, primarily I believe for convenience’s sake. Places that have kittens available, like shelters, often have limited space. So as soon as kittens reach that six to eight week mark, are able to eat, and have a set of preventative vaccines, they’re out the door.

But by that age, kittens are just beginning to learn to be proper cats. And no matter how well intentioned, human caretakers aren’t able to do as good a job as furry siblings and cat-parents. Kittens learn from other cats how to use the litter box and cover their waste; groom themselves; play nicely and inhibit claws and bites; use and understand body language and verbal cues; and to defer to dominant felines. They also take their cues from other cats about what’s safe—like people and other cats—and what’s scary and to be avoided. That means if Mom-cat shows kittens a positive reaction to a friendly dog, they’ll be more likely to get along in a multi-pet home.

Kittens adopted too early often bite and claw more than those who have been kitty-corrected by Mom and siblings. They also may be fearful or less tolerant of other cats, because they don’t understand all the proper feline etiquette of the social structure. And because cats tend to consider their human to be part of their family, it’s important for the kitten to respect you and defer to your rules of the house, just as he would a cat-in-command.

Proper socialization not only includes interaction with other cats, but positive handling by people during this critical period. That ensures the baby is well adjusted, confident, and emotionally healthy.

Many times we do not have the luxury of adopting our kitten at the “ideal” age. That means that you, the human parent, will need to do your best to do Mom-cat’s job and teach Junior how to be a proper cat. Each age has particular challenges, too. After all, a kitten is a kitten from birth until he reaches his first birthday—that’s a lot of physical and emotional growth and development!

For the other 9 kitten care do’s and don’ts on my list, check out the latest Paw Nation article here!

This blog entry is an excerpt from my updated, award-winning COMPLETE KITTEN CARE, available in print and all Ebook formats. Are you looking for a kitten to adopt? How did you find your special kitten or cat…or did they find you? To make it easier for both new and experienced kitten owners to get off on the right “paw” I’m dropping the Kindle price of the book for the month of April–stay tuned! and please let shelters know that the “kitten bible” is available.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

5 responses »

  1. I can vouch for “don’t adopt too early.” The majority of problems we’ve had with Jaspurr and Joey are because we brought them home at 6.5 weeks. I had planned to wait until they were at least 8 weeks. However the *woman* whose cat mothered them (and likely several dozen litters before) called the rescue gal who was my contact, and said “get these kittens out of here! They’re driving me crazy.” I found out later that they were abused by the young kids in the family. The boys would pick up kittens and hurl them at the other kittens. And the sweet little 5 YO girl would pick one up by the neck and carry him swinging back and forth.

    Jaspurr, now 9, still has a habit of “nursing” on his foreleg for comfort, and Joey is terribly timid of strangers. But they are both loving kitties and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

  2. That really HISSES me off, that your kitties had to go through such things! They “learned” an important lesson, not to trust…how fortunately that you came along. Franny, after reading this awful history, it’s amazing Jaspurr and Joey are as well adjusted as they are.

  3. They both still have their issues. Jaspurr is uber-alpha, and I think he takes Jenny’s calico-sassiness as a threat to his standing. But Jack the Ripper could come to our house and Jaspurr would be his best friend, while Joey, Billy, and Jenny ran for cover.

    Gotta love them!

  4. Pingback: Feline Friday, ps: 10 Kitten Care Do's & Don'ts « Amy Shojai's Blog | How to Care Tips for Cats

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