Feeding your Kitten
Your kitten needs to eat a little and often; this is easy if you 'free feed' with a scientifically-balanced, specially formulated "complete" dried kitten food which is what we would recommend. This will give your kitten a balance of protein, essential vitamins and antioxidants. It will also reduce the risk of tooth decay.
We are NOT recommending crunchy 'treat' biscuits!
If you prefer to give tinned or pouched KITTEN food, you will need to have 'meal times' and we suggest three or four meals a day at 8 weeks, remembering to dispose of (and replace) uneaten food more often in a warm room.
PLEASE - DO NOT GIVE "ADULT" FOOD TO KITTENS.
We would encourage you to discuss your kitten's diet with your vet or vet's nurse and remember that at about 12 months (depending upon the individual) it will change from "kitten" feed to an "adult" feed.
Make sure that your kitten always has a clean supply of fresh water.
It is not advisable to give any cat (or kitten) cow's milk as cats and kittens cannot digest the sugar in cow's milk. This is called lactose and will ferment inside your cat's tummy causing discomfort and sometimes pain and even diarrhoea. It is possible to buy lactose-free milk especially prepared for cats. This is not an essential part of their diet once they are weaned.
Veterinary practices can provide special milk formula for the hand-rearing of very young orphaned kittens who are not yet weaned. Looking after kittens of this young age does require veterinary guidance and absolute dedication.
Feeding your Cat
ALWAYS ensure that a supply of fresh, clean water is available (even though Puss may sit in the bath and lick the tap or drink out of the fish pond!)
Cats should NOT be given cow's milk; while they may love the taste, very few can digest the lactose sugar in it and will experience discomfort even pain and sometimes diarrhoea.
We recognise that feeding your cat is an important part of the relationship between you and your pet and have probably all experienced opening a tin of salmon for our own meal only to find that Puss appears from nowhere, rubbing around our legs and letting us know that we are absolutely obliged to share it! We also know that advertisers will sell you an 'image' that might make you feel good but not actually be the best thing for Puss.
First, cats need a high level of protein in their diets, far more than dogs do, without it, they will lose muscle from their own bodies. Cats need a very carefully balanced diet in order to stay healthy and catching enough mice is a tough (and worm-infested) way for Puss to get his day's protein!
As always, we have listened to the advice of our excellent vets who see older cats with kidney and teeth problems, some of which could have been avoided with more careful diet choices. While you are of course most welcome to choose to buy good quality tinned foods we respectfully make the following recommendation:
We recommend giving the prescribed amount of a dry, scientifically-balanced COMPLETE adult cat feed which your vet or large pet stores can supply. Please make sure that it really is a "complete" food and contains adequate protein including "taurine" (a protein which cats must have in their diet and cannot synthesise.)
Take care: Some cat foods are only "complementary" and will not contain all the nutrients your pet needs.
Please consider the age of your cat; kittens under about 12 months-old really do need "kitten" food and must not be given ordinary adult food (see "feeding your kitten" above).
As cats get older they also need an altered diet and will need a "senior" cat food after the age of 7 (or more) years. (Take your vet's advice about your own cat).
If at some stage in its life, your cat should regretably develop a specific problem, your vet may advise you to feed a complete dry feed formulated especially for that given condition. If so it is helpful if your cat is already used to eating the complete dried food which offers those options.
For example, we have some elderly, 'sponsored cats' in the charity who are fed specially-formulated, complete dried food for cats with kidney-failure.
A good quality dry, complete food will also help your cat's teeth since 'wet' foods tend to cause tartar to build up. Low level gum infections are a risk because they can ultimately lead to infections in other parts of the body which are sadly a risk to your cat's health. It is for this reason that cats, taken to our two supporting veterinary practices for their annual booster vaccination, will have their teeth examined as part of their annual health check.
Obesity is a killer; if your cat has a weight problem please talk to your vet or vet's nurse and, remember that a "treat" is just that - and must be occasional.
Arriving home with your kitten
Your kitten will need to live indoors, with a litter tray, until it is neutered which will be at around 6 months old.
On arrival, let the kitten inspect its new home. Show the new arrival its litter tray and bed and keep its attention until it settles in. DON'T leave him or her on his own. Offer your kitten a little food and generally keep an eye on it until it tires and goes to sleep.
Don't let the family crowd around or be demanding. Remember that a kitten is a living creature and treat it with care, love and the same precautions you would a toddler; you will be amazed at how quickly your kitten can get in, out or through a small space - putting it in danger's way in a moment!
Your kitten may be frightened and distressed after leaving its mum and siblings so lots of gentle cuddles and tender loving care is needed. Give your kitten a soft, cuddly toy to snuggle up to at night and make sure he or she is warm and out of any draught. Playing safely before bedtime will help to ensure a good night for the kitten.
Taking your cat home where you already have a cat:
If you already have another, or other, cats in your home things are more complicated; as soon as the new cat is secure and calm, it is important to let them know about each other to avoid them setting up, and then fighting over, separate territories. In the same breath, you must assess the situation and keep each cat safe. Ideas include a glass door or a suitable pen to introduce but keep cats separate.
In our experience, cats, particularly the established cat, will pick up signals from you. If you are anxious, your anxiety will unsettle your cat and make it more anxious too.
The established cat may be very unsettled by a new introduction and this is an issue you may want to discuss with your own vet before bringing home a new cat. Your vet may recommend 'Feliway' spray or electric diffuser 'plug-ins' which may help to calm your cats because it mimics the natural facial pheromones which cats produce.
Arriving home with your cat:
Keep your cat in a confined area with doors and windows closed, until it has settled in. Have a litter tray ready in a private corner before you let your newly arrived cat out of its carrier. Keep its bed and feeding bowl away from draughts. Try to close bedroom doors, because a timid cat will automatically look for places to hide e.g. under beds and behind furniture. Remember how much more sensitive Puss's ears are than ours. Sudden or loud noises will be very unsettling at this time. Once you feel that your cat has accepted this small area and is calm, gradually let it wander into more of your home.
Before you take your cat home - planning:
Whenever a cat moves home, it will need to be kept safely indoors for at least four weeks (see above for advice about kittens). Your cat needs to develop a sense of 'home' so that, if you decide to then let it go outside, it will want to return and know where to return to.
Some owners choose to keep their cats indoors permanently and this is an especially important decision to take if you know that there are risks to your cat's safety outside (e.g. a busy road or any other threat that you can recognise puts your cat at risk of harm).
Plan ahead; assess the risks and, if Puss is going to live indoors with you, work out where the litter tray (which could 'pong' sometimes) will live, how you will open doors and windows without losing Puss and, whether you will really mind if Puss chases imaginary shadows in your blown vinyl wallpaper and shreds it!