Providing the Best Kitten Care
Because the first months of a kitten’s life greatly affect its physical and mental growth, special care should be taken to ensure their healthy development.
Major milestones in a kitten’s development include:
• the ability to use a litter box
• hunting and defense skills
• social skills
• self-grooming methods
• good eating habits.
Kittens and Their Mothers
Kittens and their mother share a complex relationship. A close bond forms between a queen and her kittens shortly after birth.
Queens form a bond with their kittens through several actions. By rubbing heads with her young, a mother cat is able to identify them. This action also allows the kittens to recognize their mother and bond with her.
Queens relate to their kittens through vocal communication. These vocalizations are used to warn, scold or greet her litter. A mother cat also “talks” to her kittens in order to calm them down. She also uses body language to communicate with her young kittens.
When kittens begin to explore their surroundings, they use their mother’s tail as a guide. By holding her tail high, the mother ensures that her young will be able to follow her even through tall grass and brush.
Newborn kittens typically nurse every two hours. Increase the mother’s meals to compensate for her increased appetite so that she can produce a large amount of milk demanded by her young. Free choice feeding is a good idea at this point.
When nursing, each kitten generally has his own teat. However, sometimes the queen doesn’t produce enough milk to feed all kittens and the smallest may be left out. Always watch for this and be prepared to hand nurse the runt if necessary.
Although you may be tempted to cuddle the new kittens, don’t pick them up too often since this may cause undue stress to both the mother and kittens.
Avoid handling kittens for the first two weeks of life. After that period, brief handling sessions are fine but don’t “play” with the kittens. At about four to six weeks, you can let the kittens explore their surroundings, but don’t stimulate them unnecessarily.
Even though a mother cat is able to pick a kitten up by the scruff of the neck, you should avoid this yourself. To safely pick up a kitten, place one hand around the kitten’s stomach and the other hand under its hind legs. Support the kitten’s head and neck to prevent injury.
Make sure that children in your house know how to correctly hold the kitten and are supervised in their play with it. Most kittens prefer to be left alone rather than be carried around the house. (click next for previw next page)