New Years Resolutions for Kitten Owners
By Rita Reimers, Cat Behaviorist
Can you believe that another year has come and gone? Tis the season to make those dreaded New Years Resolutions once again. Usually we resolve to eat better, exercise more, and take care of other pesky things we have let slide all year long.
If you adopted, or are about to adopt, a new kitten, how about instead of making those typical New Years Resolutions this year, you instead make some that will benefit your kitten’s health and well being as she grows into adulthood.
1) Schedule a Vet Visit: If you have not yet taken your kitten to see a veterinarian, this should be the first item on your list. It is not uncommon for young kittens to have parasites such as worms, fleas, ear mites, or coccidia. Coccidia is especially important to detect, as it causes intestinal distress that can leave a young kitten very dehydrated. Those oh so important kitten vaccines also need to be given, usually in a series of 3 appointments.
2) Spay/Neuter: Spaying and neutering your kitten is important, not just to hinder reproduction, but also for his general health as he grows up. For females, going into estrus (aka “heat”) is an uncomfortable process, one which does not entirely end unless she is impregnated. I once had a female kitty, Sadie, who had a severe heart murmur and could not be spayed. Every spring she would go in and out of heat every few weeks, and it never really ended until Wintertime. For males, staying intact often comes with aggressive behavior and an uncontrollable yearning get outside and roam about to look for females in heat. Spraying behaviors are also common in unaltered males. Not only will spaying/neutering keep these behaviors at bay, it will also cut your cat’s risk reproductive cancers to zero.
3) Microchip Your Kitten: How many wonderful stories of missing and later reunited cats and families have you seen on the internet? Countless! Most of the time, it was microchipping that made these reunions possible. You may think it unnecessary to chip you kitten since he is going to remain an indoor only cat (good for you!!), but I have heard countless stories of cats being let outside accidentally, never to be seen again. If your cat is chipped and he accidentally gets outside, your chances of getting him back are pretty good.
4) Keep Your Kitten Indoors: One of the kindest things you can do for your kitten is to raise him to be an indoor-only cat. There are too many dangers outside for kitty: other animals, cars, mean people, diseases. Most outdoor cats only live to be around 4 to 5 years old. Indoor cats have a much longer life expectancy and are in better health generally than their outdoor counterparts. It is a misnomer that cats need to be outside roaming about. All you need is a cat-friendly environment that suits your cat’s needs and natural tendencies.
5) Create a Cat Wonderland: Bringing some of what cat’s love about the outdoors into your home will make you an instant super duper cat parent! Cats love to climb and explore. Add some cat trees and put them near the window where you cat can observe the world. Add some cat shelving and wonderfully cuddly hiding places to make their world interesting and fun. Some tasty plants to nibble on will be an instant hit as well. And don’t forget those scratching posts!
6) Quit Smoking: You didn’t think you were going to get away from making at least one traditional resolution now, did you? Not only is smoking bad for you, it is also bad for your pets. I once had a client whose cat passed away from emphysema. She couldn’t understand how it happened, but I knew. It was because my client was a constant chain smoker, and her cat was exposed to second-hand smoke since she was a kitten. So, do yourself, and your kitten, a favor and clear the air.
7) Feed a Quality Diet: Did you know that cats need more protein in their diets than their K9 counterparts? Or that they don’t really need to eat grains, and in fact a diet rich in carbohydrate can lead to health issues such as diabetes? We know so much more about the nutritional needs of cats and kittens than our grandparents did, and luckily the pet food industry has responded. High quality protein rich cat and kitten foods are now available even in the grocery story brands. Read some labels and give your kitten what she really needs to grown health and strong.
8) Spend Quality Time: Cats love to spend time with their humans. My cats follow me from room to room whenever I am doing chores or going into my office to work. That is great, but what they really love is when I get down on the floor and play with them on their level. The moment I sit on the floor, my cats surround me with expectation and excitement. Some want me to toss toys for them to fetch, some like the stick toys, others just want to sit beside me (or on my lap) and be petted or brushed while I play with the others. As long as they are feeling engaged in the activity, they are happy. Be sure to find a few quiet moments to spend bonding with your kitten. Young kittens are especially full of energy and really do need that active playtime.
9) Adopt a Feline Friend: If you work away from home most of the day, it is likely your kitten is bored and needs a feline friend. Young kittens especially need that social interaction they get from having a kitten buddy, plus they use up all that hyper energy on each other instead of on you!
10) Give Unconditional Love: Love your cat for the cat he is, not the one you wish you had. Not all cats are lap cats, and not all cats love to cuddle and be picked up. I have a very close bond with my silver tabby boy, Peanut, who is lying in the cat bed on my desk napping as I write this. He doesn’t like to be picked up, nor is he a lap cat. Often, he will join me in my office, meow at me to give him a head rub as he rubs against my legs. But he just doesn’t enjoy being cuddled and held, the way my Oliver does. I love them both, they show me their love and desire for interaction in very different ways, and I accept that. Cats are each unique and special creatures and just like with people, we need to accept them just as they are.
If you give your cat these 10 simple New Years Resolutions, I promise that your cat’s world, and yours, will be much better for it. Meowy New Year!