June 12, 2019 Everyday Medicine

Raise a Happy, Healthy Kitten in 4 Easy Steps

Foster kittens being raised at AMC

Raise a Happy, Healthy Kitten in 4 Easy Steps

In the North Eastern United States, when the short, cold days of winter give way to the long, warm days of spring and summer, un-spayed cats go into heat. After a 60-day pregnancy, queens (the proper name for mother cats) give birth to kittens. Therefore, cat lovers refer to the summer months as “kitten season”

With kitten season underway, I have my first foster kittens of the season, as do many other kitten lovers. In addition to being part of kitten season, June is also Adopt-a-Cat month. So for the entire month, I will devote my blog posts to cat topics. Today’s post focuses on raising a happy kitten.

Food Flexibility

One part of raising a happy kitten is making that kitten flexible. To promote flexibility, I like to give my kittens a variety of foods, both with regard to texture and flavor. I don’t want them to become dependent on one brand of food only. As they mature, they might need a prescription diet and I want to raise them to be accepting of food changes.

Meet and Greet

We want to raise adult cats that don’t have an emotional crisis every time a stranger comes into the house. To achieve this, try inviting your friends over to meet and play with your kitten. The more people your curious kitten is exposed to, the less shy your adult cat will be.

Carrier Anxiety

The carrier is often a source of anxiety for cats and humans alike. Stuffing your recalcitrant cat into that unfamiliar case makes for a miserable day for both you and your cat. When you bring your new kitten home, why not leave the carrier out, the door open and the inside filled with a nice fleecy blanket. The constant presence of the carrier lets your cat learn that the carrier can be a cozy place to hang. As I write this, the cutie-pie kittens in the photo above have vacated the hammock and are taking their afternoon nap in their carrier which has a heating disc and a fleece blanket.

Kitten Kindergarten

A rather recent concept in kitten training and socialization is “kitten kindergarten.” These classes bring healthy, vaccinated kittens, 8-14 weeks of age, together in a safe and friendly environment. The process of attending classes helps kittens experience the carrier, meet new people and provides an opportunity for your kitten to play with other kittens. Equally important to the kitten experience is the human experience: kitten kindergarten educates new kitten owners about litter boxes, environmental enrichment and kitten care.

Kitten kindergarten is often held in a veterinarian’s office where the staff can teach new kitten owners to recognize signs of disease, provide information about nutrition and preventive healthcare for cats. Believe me, starting early makes those nail trims much easier on both humans and cats. To find kitten kindergarten sessions near you, ask your veterinarian or perform an internet search for “kitten kindergarten near me.” To learn more about fostering kittens, check out a prior blog post on the topic.