Kitten care: the basics of looking after kittens

Kitten care - How to raise kittens

The correct kitten care is especially important in the first few weeks of life. During this time, kittens absorb a wealth of information from their mother and their siblings. However, the importance of looking after a kitten through human contact cannot be overstated. This combination of learning from different sources is the best way to prepare your kitten for its journey through life. 

The cat's mother will take care of the socialisation aspect: she will do everything she can to make her kittens ready for whatever comes their way.

Human touch of kitten care

Your job is a little different: first, make them understand that furniture is not a scratch post. It is helpful to understand why your cat does this before trying to change their behaviour. Scratching releases odours that serve as territorial markers. It also keeps claws sharp and healthy.

Direct your cat's attention away from your prized furniture and towards one of these cat trees or perhaps a scratch pad or board.

Cats are easy enough to bring up – with a little bit of luck

Cats tend to be lone animals rather than forming a pack. This means that they don’t follow any commonly seen subordination routines seen in the wild. However, following these general rules should make things go as smoothly as possible:

  • Be decisive: if your cat is somewhere it shouldn’t be (on a table, sharpening its claws on your curtains) say “no” softly but firmly and pick it up or carry it to the scratching post.
  • Place your scratch post(s) somewhere where they can be easily accessed. Another top tip is to place them near to objects your cat tends to target. To make the scratching post irresistible, try using some catnip spray to entice your cat.  

Being swift and decisive when faced with a misbehaving cat

When your cat does something it shouldn’t, you only have a few seconds to let your cat know that this is wrong. To really make positive/negative reinforcement work, you must act quickly. If you follow up good behaviour with positive reinforcement, it will become much easier for your cat to pick up on your signals.  

Give your kittens as much time with their mother as possible

It cannot be emphasised enough how important it is to keep kittens with their mother for as long as possible. This proximity to their mother is paramount for the kitten’s mental and physical wellbeing. Early separation from the mother can lead to negative side-effects like increased anxiety levels, reducing the kitten’s quality of life. It also makes the task of bringing them up much harder.

Kitten with its mother

Aids for positive reinforcement

The clicker

You have several tools at your disposal to help you raise your kitten just the way you like. One of, if not the most, famous is the clicker: this gives out a marker signal that positively reinforces the behaviour of your cat. It should be possible to raise all kittens using a clicker, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

After using a clicker, your window of opportunity to complete the signal by giving your kitten some kind of treat is again very brief (1-2 seconds). Clicker training can be used for more advanced training techniques like teaching your cat how to perform a trick.

Cat eating a treat

Rewarding your kitten with treats and tenderness

A combination of food, treats, and lots of praise and affection may even be enough to show kittens that their behaviour was positive.

Constructive reinforcement (with or without a clicker) is a fast and reliable way of making a positive difference to the behaviour of your kitten. At the same time, punishments like splashing kittens with water are strongly advised against because they will break down any trust that exists between you and your kitten.

If your kitten is being cheeky, the best thing to do is to calmly, but firmly, say “no”, taking care to annunciate clearly. At the same time, pick up your mischievous kitten and put them down softly where they should be. This will let your cat pick up what it should and should not be doing. 

Don’t stroke one spot for too long

As much as cats love a cuddle, their receptors are incredibly sensitive, and prolonged stroking of the same area can set them off. This could spark a less than friendly reaction, so it’s better to not let these things become an issue in the first place.

House-trained in a hurry!

Taking care of their physical urges is another thing that cats pick up very quickly. That’s not to say that there won’t be a few mishaps along the way, but as long as you approach these mistakes calmly and patiently, they should be few and far between. When they occur, pick your cat up and move it to the litter tray. Then it’s best to slip away quietly and let your kitten get on with its business.

Kitten in a litter tray

We're sure that you and your new kitten will enjoy each other's company for years to come, and you can find everything the pair of you could need on our dedicated kitten page.

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