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Socializing Your New Kitten


When choosing a new kitten, try to get a kitten that is friendly, playful and outgoing. If it is quiet and shy, you will need to work a little harder to get it socialized.

A kitten's temperament is set by the time it is 14 weeks, so it is very important to socialize it during the time it is very young. After age 14 weeks, it is very hard to get kitties to be social. Your new kitten needs to be handled a lot by you and lots of people or it may grow up to be shy and fearful. If you live alone, you need to have lots of visitors or bring your kitty to see people while it is young. Touch your kitty everywhere- the belly, tail, mouth and teeth, ears, and toes so it gets used to being touched . This also helps your kitten be less scared when it comes to the veterinarian. Start brushing your kitten on a daily basis, especially if it is a long-haired cat. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to trim the toenails.


Kittens normally need to play a lot. They will jump, pounce and bite things. This is very normal cat behavior. Do not let your kitty routinely bite your arms, fingers or toes or he or she may grow up to think that it's okay to bite people. Always have them bite objects or toys. Normal kitten play behavior can be misinterpreted for aggression. If you are having problems with your kitten biting you, please talk to your veterinarian. We can help you direct aggressive play to acceptable play behavior. Do not let your kitten play with very small toys or objects that could be swallowed, such as string, buttons, and rubber bands. Objects that are swallowed could cause and intestinal obstruction that is very serious.


Show your kitten where the litter box is. Little kittens (under 4 months of age) need to have the litter box readily available or they may forget where it is. As you kitty gets older, make sure the litter box is large enough. It should be 1.5 times the length of your cat's body. Some big cats will need a plastic sweater box or something larger than commercial litter boxes. They also like at least 1.5 inches of litter in the box. It should be scooped daily and changed out at least weekly. You need to have at least 1 litter box per cat plus 1 extra. For example, if you have 2 cats, you will need 3 litter boxes. The average cat urinates 2 times daily and defecates once daily. It is very important that your cat likes the litter, the box and where the box is located. Most cats prefer the litter box to be in a private quiet area. If your cat is not using the box, call your veterinarian right away so the problem does not become chronic.


For cats that are not de-clawed, you need to have at least 1 scratching post. Some cats like vertical scratching posts and some like horizontal. Keep bringing your kitten to the post and give treats and praise for using it. If your kitty is scratching at furniture, you need to make it less attractive to it. Double-sided tape works well as a deterrent. Your veterinarian can suggest other methods and can also show you how to trim your kitties nails every 2-4 wks. Again, ask for help before it's a big problem.


Your little kitten should have food and water readily available. They are growing rapidly and need to eat multiple times during the day. As your kitten gets older, you may want to feed it twice daily with measured portions to prevent obesity. Obesity can pre-dispose your cat to diabetes, liver ailments and arthritis. You can also hide food and treats around the house to get your cat to work or "hunt" for its food. This helps to keep them mentally alert. You can hand feed your kitty treats to reward good behavior, such as using the scratching post.


To make your kitten's visits to the vet easy, you should get them used to the cat carrier. Leave it out in the house as another plaything or bed. Put treats, toys and blankets in it. Encourage your kitten to go in it at home to play. Carriers that have a front and top opening are best. Take your kitten for little rides in the car to get them used to riding in the car and not just for going to the veterinarian. Practice "playing vet at home" by looking in your kitten's ears, lifting its tail (as if it would be getting a temperature), opening the mouth and touching the feet and belly. The more your cat is handled in this way, the less he will be scared at the veterinarian visit. Put their favorite toys, treats and blankets in the carrier when you come.


It is very important to get your little kitten off to a good start. The time you spend socializing your kitten when it is very young (under 14 weeks) will stay with them the rest of their life. Spending lots of time touching your kitten will help you and your kitten bond together and make it less likely that there will be behavioral issues. Don't hesitate to ask your Westgate Pet Clinic veterinarian for help with behavior problems with your kitten. We want to help you and your kitten get off to the right start and stay there.

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Minneapolis, MN 55410
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