Anyone who has watched the plethora of videos online or seen the calendars and cards that line the shelves of bookstores knows just how cute kittens (or for that matter any baby animal) can be. Think about those eyes, full of energy and wonder—ready to explore. One of the reasons baby animals are so cute is that in spite of their vulnerability and relative helplessness they are in constant motion and ready to take on the world.
To know cats is to love cats
Many times I have had people tell me that they really don’t like cats only to, some weeks later, be totally enamored with their own little ball of energy. Many times I have heard or said myself, “I wish they would stay kittens!” I believe that is one of the realities of cat collectors; you know—the people with dozens of cats? They are simply hooked on cuteness!
Unfortunately for photographers, children grow up and animals mature. Kittens become cats and, while still lovable, they lose that razor edge of “adorable.” On the plus side, your bond with your cat grows stronger every day. What happens along the way?
An adaptive environment during kitten development
For starters, kittens get bigger. That tiny kitten that once peeked out at you from inside your shoe can no longer fit in these jack-in-the-box size spaces. Keep in mind that even big cats still like to hide, explore and be left alone, but now we need to provide them with bigger hiding places and gymnastic equipment. Those itty bitty claws that facilitated climbing up our pant legs now have the potential to shred furniture, drapes and skin alike. You’ll need more durable toys and higher climbing equipment. As nature intended, cats will want to climb ever higher.
Click here to learn about exercising with your kitten.
Stimulating the mind during kitten development
As is the case with children, interests and activities change as kittens grow. Likewise, they need changes on your part to keep them interested. To best enjoy your kitten as she matures you should change her environment and her activities regularly. This will help your cat grow up without growing old and allow her to maintain the essence of her kitten-hood for her entire life.
Tooth care during kitten development
This is an often overlooked part of kitten and cat care. Cats are not just bigger kittens. Their instincts and personalities develop with their bodies. Tiny little tooth pinpoints now develop into formidable fangs and teeth that require brushing and cleaning.
Click here to learn more about tooth care for kittens.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Month 7: Your Kitten Will Sleep More
Still very much a baby, but growing into a young adolescent, your kitten will start to sleep more during the day just like an adult cat does. Expect more than half the day to be filled with cat naps, so try to have a comfy cat bed in your kitten's favorite spot.
When your kitten isn't sleeping, it will still be exploring and playing, but its confidence level will be higher than when it was just a toddler. It will also be more coordinated as a young adolescent and will demonstrate just how social it wants to be with you. Socialization and bonding time has always been important to your growing kitten, but at this age, your hard work will have finally paid off and you may see your kitten starting to snuggle with you voluntarily.
If you have not already had your female kitten spayed and it has spent time with an intact male cat, then there is a chance that your kitten is pregnant. Cats can get pregnant as young as six months of age so it's very important to get your female kitten spayed if you don't want more kittens.
Tips for Socializing Your Kitten with People & Other Pets
You'll want your kitten to become a cat that relates well to people and is a friend and companion. To achieve this, you need to bear in mind that cats have a very short socialization phase. So the first four to 16 weeks of life are a critical time for behavioral and social development.
Your kitten's early experiences
Before your kitten comes to live with you, she will have been interacting with her mother, the other kittens in her litter and probably several different people.
Be wary of choosing a kitten that has had little human contact, such as a kitten that has been raised in a shed or pen far from the house. Kittens need to get used to being handled by people very early on, preferably by several people so they don't just learn to accept a single caregiver. They also need to become accustomed to the sights, smells and sounds of everyday life.
Your kitten will probably move into your home when she's about eight to 12 weeks of age. Assuming she's already had lots of human contact, it shouldn't be too difficult for you to reinforce all the good work and help her grow into a friendly, happy, confident cat.
When your kitten first arrives home with you, remember it can all be a bit overwhelming for her. Take her to a quiet, safe place and show her where her bowls and litter boxes are. Give her lots of love and reassurance and pet her gently, talking to her in a soft, calm voice. Playing is also a great way to socialize your kitten and form a bond with her early on in your relationship.
Kids and kittens
Your kitten should be socialized with children as early as possible, as she may reject or bite them later if she hasn't become used to them early on.
If you have children, they will naturally be very excited about the arrival of a new kitten. Your job is to teach them that your kitten is not a toy and must be treated carefully. Play time must end when the kitten has had enough. It's also a good idea to warn the children that she may scratch or play-bite.
Your kitten and other people
People come in all different shapes and sizes and your kitten should have the opportunity to encounter them all. Get her used to strangers but be careful that they don't scare or overwhelm her with a strong show of affection.
It's a good idea to introduce your young kitten to as many people as possible. That way, you're likely to avoid her developing a fear of strangers in later life.
Don't forget that kittens can become tired quickly make sure that meeting times with new people are kept quite short so your kitten has time to rest.
Introducing your kitten to other pets in the home
Before introducing your new kitten to other pets in your household, visit your veterinarian to ensure all pets are healthy and their vaccinations are up to date.
Smell is the most important sense for cats, so it's a good idea to transfer some of the smells of your home onto the coat of your new kitten before the introductions. Mix the scents by stroking first your resident cat, then the kitten, without washing your hands, and vice versa.
Introduce your new kitten to other pets gradually and one at a time. Keeping your new kitten in a carrier or behind an expandable baby gate is a good way to supervise the first encounter.
During the introduction, separate the pets at any sign of aggression. Acceptance may take time, so never leave your new kitten unsupervised with any of your other pets until you are certain they get along well. Always keep smaller pets, such as hamsters, fish and birds safely out of reach.
The good news is, you've done a great job raising your kitten to get along well with people. The bad news is, she's now so attached to you, she won't like it when you go out.
Separation anxiety, previously only recognized in dogs, is now acknowledged to occur in cats. Signs that your kitten may be suffering from separation anxiety include seeming stressed by you going out. She could be excessively vocal perhaps or soil the house in your absence.
Tips on dealing with separation anxiety include limiting the time you leave your kitten alone as much as you possibly can and trying not to make a big "production" out of leaving the house. If your kitten does soil the house, don't punish her. Cats don't understand punishment and, since her behavior is a result of stress, you'll actually be making the problem worse.
You can easily teach your kitten to tolerate short absences by leaving her in a room, closing the door and walking away. After a few minutes, go back in but don't greet her. When you've done this several times, extend the absences to 30 minutes. But if she begins to get distressed, and starts meowing or scratching at the door, you should shorten the absence period.
The period between three and six months of age is important for training a kitten on where it can and cannot go in the house, what items are acceptable to play with and even teaching it its name. Treats, verbal praise, and petting should be used to reinforce good behaviors.
Litter box training should come naturally to a kitten but there are special litters designed to attract kittens if you are concerned about it not knowing where to potty. Make sure your kitten can get in and out of the litter box and knows where to find all of the boxes in the house. If you have one kitten you should have at least two litter boxes in separate locations, ideally on each floor of a multi-level home.