Kitten Care: How to Raise a Healthy Kitten

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The best way to deal with behavior problems is to try to avoid them. Learn the best way to socialize and introduce your new kitten to your home. If you are adopting an orphan kitten, be aware that they have their own set of concerns.

Here are a few problems you might encounter (more can be found here):

Feline inappropriate elimination. Inappropriate elimination is not one condition but rather a cluster of conditions: some medical, some physiological (pertaining to normal biological functions), some to do with elimination preferences, and others related to anxiety and stress.

Feline aggression. Aggression is a natural behavior for the cat and was a survival-related behavior for the cats’ wild ancestors. Cats have five weapons with which to attack, including a widely opening mouth well-appointed with penetrating teeth and four paws bearing needle-sharp claws.

Medical problems. There are a variety of medical causes of aggression in cats. These include hyperthyroidism, ischemic encephalopathy, brain tumor, head trauma, and thiamine deficiency.

Feline fear. As unpleasant as fear may be to experience, it keeps us and our animals safe by encouraging caution and by preparing us for fight or flight when danger threatens. Problems arise, however, if fears become so excessive and irrational that they disrupt normal functioning.

Separation anxiety. Separation anxiety in any species implies a lack of confidence and an over-dependence on others. Cats with separation anxiety don’t howl and bay like dogs and they don’t chew on doors and windowsills in frantic attempts to escape. Their misery is far less obvious and it sometimes takes a sleuth of an owner to appreciate what is going on.


What Not to Do

When you acquire a new kitten, things that you do, or don’t do, can make a big difference to the way the kitten turns out. Happy and confident adult cats don’t just happen, but are the product of good decisions and correct treatment of the kitten from birth right up until the juvenile period (around 6 months of age).

A kitten’s genetic makeup may be out of your control, but you can sculpt or distort the raw clay of your kitten’s genetic legacy by how you look after her and act toward her. If you do the right things — and, most importantly, prevent things that are potentially damaging — the kitten will turn out to be all that she can be.

The so-called sensitive period of development for kittens is between 2 and 7 weeks of age. The sensitive period has been defined as a time during development when the kitten is most sculptable by environmental influences. This is a time when primary social relationships and emotional attachments develop between kittens and people and between kittens and other animals.

Note that most of the sensitive period has elapsed at the normal time for adoption. However, that does not mean that learning stops, just that it slows down, so it is still important for new kitten owners to get a grasp of the essential features of proper socialization and training. It does mean though, that what has happened at the breeders will influence your kitten’s temperament and behavior for the rest of her life, so it is important to consider this carefully. As cute as 7-week-old feral kittens may be, they will likely struggle around most people. Alternatively, a kitten raised in the kitchen of a friendly breeder’s busy home may be, in a manner, immunized against many of life’s surprises.

How to raise a good kitten has been discussed by numerous authorities, though the message has still not percolated through to all new kitten owners. In essence, when raising a newly acquired kitten, owners should concentrate on being patient and considerate while using positive reinforcement to reward acceptable behavior.

Resources for Caring For Your Kitten

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