Kitten Care: How to Raise a Healthy Kitten

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That cute little kitten stole your heart and now she’s part of your family. You love her to death, but remember: She’s your responsibility and you need to take care of her.

Of course, taking care of your kitten is a year round responsibility. You should keep a detailed medical file on each pet to remind you when vaccines are due, when the last fecal sample was checked, and what special seasonal events are required, such as a trip to the groomer.

To keep your kitten healthy and happy, there are several things you should do as part of her care.

Here’s what you need to know.

Caring for Newborns

Sometimes, kittens come from your own home! Delivering and caring for a new litter can be an overwhelming task for any mother. Even though your cat will probably do a great job caring for her babies, there are some things you can do to help maintain a litter and keep them healthy.

In the first few weeks of life, kittens are unable to maintain their body temperature. Usually, they snuggle up to their mother to provide heat support. You can assist by keeping the queening box in an 85 to 90 degree Fahrenheit environment for the first 5 days of life. Electric bulbs suspended far away from curious noses of the babies or mother or well-insulated heating pads work well.

From day 5 to 10, slowly reduce the temperature to around 80 F. Continue to slowly reduce the temperature until, by the end of the fourth week of life, the environmental temperature hovers around 75 F. Keeping the babies warm is essential. Chilling can result in serious illness or even death.

The queening box needs to be cleaned every day. Use newspapers or easily laundered towels or blankets. Change the bedding daily. The mother will try to keep the area clean but that can be a difficult chore, especially with a large litter. She will also take care of the elimination needs of her babies by frequently cleaning and licking their genital areas.

Making sure the babies are healthy and growing can be difficult unless they are frequently monitored. During the first few weeks of life, weigh each baby once a day. Record their weights and make certain that each baby is steadily gaining weight. The weight changes will be in ounces so, although their growth won’t be rapid, it should be steady.

After the kittens’ eyes have opened and the kittens can stumble around, offer them small amounts of moistened kitten food. They will probably walk through the food and be a bit messy, so bathing may be required after each feeding.

Developmental Milestones

When can you expect kittens to begin showing changes as they grow? Here is a quick overview of the developmental milestones in the kitten.

Senses. Kittens are born blind, with their eyelids sealed shut. By the time they are 2 weeks old, the eyelids open and the kitten can begin developing their vision. Kittens are also born deaf, with sealed ear canals. By the age of 17 days, the ear canals are open and the kittens can start to hear. By 25 days, kittens will respond to sights and sounds.

Elimination. In addition to being born blind and deaf, kittens are also unable to voluntarily eliminate urine and feces. The mother must lick the genital area to stimulate elimination. By 23 days, the kittens are able to eliminate without help.

Walking. Kittens will start out life squirming and “swimming” across the floor. By 18 days of age, kittens begin the rudimentary first steps of walking.

Eating. By the time a kitten is 4 to 6 weeks of age, he can start eating solid food. He can be safely weaned at 8 to 12 weeks of age.

Reproduction. Your kittens are growing quickly. Be aware that by the time most kittens are 6 to 8 months of age, puberty has set in and unplanned pregnancies are possible, if precautions are not taken.

Kitten Behavior

Your kitten is so cute and adorable — she could never do anything wrong. Or could she? Some kittens can be feline terrors leading you to question your decision about bringing her into your home. Before finding a new home or banishing your cat to the outdoors, consider learning about the problem and how to either stop the behavior or re-train your pet. With proper know-how, your cat can be a loving and playful member of the family, providing hours of amusement.

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