Getting a kitten: your most frequently asked questions answered
- Credit: Ash Parker
With peak breeding season for cats starting in spring, many people will soon be considering welcoming a new kitten into their homes.
To ensure you’re making the right choice, we call on the expertise of Juliette Jones, cat behaviour and training specialist at Woodgreen Pets Charity. Below, she answers some commonly asked questions about getting a kitten.
Q: What do I need to know before getting a kitten?
A: It’s important to remember that bringing a cat into your life is a big commitment. You’ll need to make sure you have time to feed, care for and socialise your new kitten, as well as factor in the costs involved. You also need to be certain that your cat can live happily with any other animals and people in your home.
All cats are different, and there’s no guarantee what sort of personality your kitten will develop. If you know what type of cat you want, it may be worth getting an adult rather than a kitten.
Once you have decided that it’s the right choice for you, use the Kitten Checklist by the Cat Group to find a healthy kitten from a trustworthy source.
Q: How can I socialise my kitten?
A: The key socialisation period for kittens is between two-seven weeks of age, which should be continued in the first few weeks after you bring them home. Start by gradually and calmly introducing them to a variety of sights, smells, sounds and textures. The earlier you do this and the more positive experiences they have at a young age, the more likely they are to become well-behaved adult cats.
Encourage interactions with other people and pets and try to get them used to cat carriers, travelling in cars and grooming.
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Q: How can I prepare my home for my new kitten?
A: When your kitten arrives, keep them in a quiet space or secluded area with food, water, a litter tray, toys and a warm place for them to hide and sleep. Make sure their sleeping space won’t be interrupted by other pets or children. Once your kitten has got used to using the litter tray, gradually increase the area they can roam around in.
To help cats condition their claws and mark their scent, leave scratching posts in areas where they spend a lot of time.
Q: How can I encourage appropriate play?
A: Hunting is a natural instinct for every cat. This is why cats play by mimicking the hunting sequence of stalking, chasing, pouncing and catching to satisfy their primal needs. It can be tempting to get your kitten to chase your hands and feet by wiggling them, but this teaches them that you’re a play-thing – and the bigger they get the more it will hurt!
We recommend playing with feather wand toys to develop your cat’s hunting skills. The Kong Kickeroo is another great catnip toy that releases energy and will leave them feeling satisfied. We don’t advise owners to use laser pens as there’s no ‘catch’ element involved, which can frustrate cats and lead to behaviour issues.
Q: Should I neuter my kitten?
A: We recommend neutering your kitten as early as possible, as cats can become pregnant as early as four months old. It’s also worth bearing in mind that siblings do mate with each other and cats can fall pregnant soon after giving birth.
Neutering can help keep cats safer and healthier. Females that aren’t neutered will call and attract males, which can put them at risk of injury and cause fights with other males. Un-neutered females are also at a greater risk of getting diseases during mating or suffering from womb infections.
Q: When can my kitten go outdoors?
A: Before letting your kitten go outside, they should be fully vaccinated, microchipped and neutered. At Woodgreen, we make sure all of our cats have had these procedures before they are rehomed.
It’s a good idea to start preparation for your kitten going outdoors a few weeks in advance. Feed them at the same time every day and make a specific sound so that they will associate it with food. Start by letting them outside just before they eat so they are eager to return home when they hear your call.
Let your kitten outside for the first time when the weather is pleasant and there aren’t many people around. We don’t advise putting them on a lead or harness as it can make them feel anxious. We do, however, recommend collars with a safety release so that it will come loose if it gets caught on something.
For expert advice on caring for a kitten or cat, visit woodgreen.org.uk/pet-advice or contact the team at Woodgreen on 0300 3039333 for support.