As your purring ball of fluff curls up on your lap and contentedly kneads a cozy nest, you fall more in love, and vow to protect and care for your new kitten. You’re so excited to welcome the itty-bitty creature, who already has you wrapped around a tiny paw, and, knowing the importance of early development for a healthy, well-adjusted pet, you want to learn everything you can to ensure your furry pal lives a long, happy, healthy life. To help you accomplish your goal of ultimate kitten caretaker, we’ve outlined five essential tips to guide you through your kitten’s first year.

#1: Create a physically and mentally stimulating environment for your kitten

Bored kittens can easily find activities and items to occupy their time, which often gets them into trouble. Keep your kitten entertained with plenty of climbing, scratching, and pouncing toys and games. Place climbing towers, scratching posts, and high lookout perches for your kitten to enjoy, or create the ultimate vertical kitty playground with wall shelves configured to be feline-friendly. Place a scratching post next to a climbing tower or underneath a wall shelf, to entice your kitten into scratching and scaling acceptable objects, while granting an outlet for natural behavior. Choose toys that will appeal to your cat’s predatory nature, such as motorized mice, fishing pole toys, and feather wands. Allow your kitten to stalk, pounce, and “kill” the prey item for a fulfilling hunt. By meeting your kitten’s physical and mental needs through environmental enrichment, you reduce the potential for stress, anxiety, and problem-behavior development.

#2: Teach your kitten to accept handling and grooming

Coercing your kitty into holding still while you trim nails, clean ears, or brush out shedding kitten fluff can be a challenge, but teaching them to tolerate, and perhaps enjoy, handling and grooming is essential for overall health and well-being. Without proper grooming, your kitten may develop skin issues, ear infections, or overgrown nails. To teach your kitten that grooming and handling activities are fun, always pair these tasks with tasty treats, end on a positive note, and reward them for good behavior. 

#3: Acclimate your kitten to new situations

New people, places, noises, and objects can be startling to a tiny kitten, so acclimate them to a wide variety of unusual situations to help prevent future anxiety, and promote a well-adjusted, happy cat. When introducing your kitten to anything or anyone new, allow them to approach at their own pace, rather than letting people or other pets approach them. Allow your kitten to interact only after they have checked out the intriguing new person or pet. Keep each new experience positive by pairing potentially unsettling situations with plenty of tasty treats, praise, and petting. 

#4: Place your kitten’s resources in the proper areas in your home

Although they often don’t show it, cats easily become stressed. Improper resource placement is a major issue that can affect your kitten’s happiness, particularly if you have other pets. For example, if you have an older cat who bullies your kitten, your single litter box won’t be enough for the two cats. Your kitten may avoid their covered litter box, since they feel trapped inside, especially when the older bully waits right outside the entrance. Regardless of how well multiple cats share resources, ensure there are plenty of litter boxes, resting areas, and food and water dishes in your home to go around. Place these items in out-of-the-way locations, away from heavy traffic, loud appliances, and tight corners, so your kitten feels safe and secure when they need access. 

#5: Schedule regular wellness visits for your kitten

One of the most important actions to ensure your new kitten grows up happy and healthy for years to come is scheduling regular wellness visits with your Homestead Animal Hospital veterinarian. Through routine preventive care, you can help protect your kitten from infectious diseases, bloodsucking parasites, obesity, and reproductive cancers. At each of your kitten’s wellness visits, our team will make recommendations on long-term care, and discuss diet and nutrition, behavioral issues, lifestyle-appropriate vaccinations, parasite prevention, microchipping, spay or neuter surgery, pet health insurance, and baseline diagnostic testing to monitor your pet’s health over the years. 

Nothing is more effective at warding off potentially deadly diseases than routine preventive care, so don’t forget to schedule your new kitten’s wellness visit. Give us a call to set up your feline friend’s appointment, to help ensure a lifetime of health and happiness.