So you now have your first cat (or kitten). Congratulations. You are in for many years of fun and laughter. You have also taken on the responsibility of looking after another living creature. While cats are natural hunters and can fend for themselves if necessary, the domestic cat expects its food to be served on time and to be generally cosseted and loved in the same way as any other member of your family.
If you have a kitten, it is going to need a few trips to the vets in its early days. At around 8 weeks it will need a de-wormer and upper respiratory vaccine, at 10 weeks a second de-wormer, and at 12 weeks a third de-wormer and upper respiratory vaccine booster. At 16 weeks it will need a further upper respiratory vaccine booster and an anti-rabies vaccine. The cat should be spayed or neutered at around 6 months, unless, of course, you intend to breed from it.
There are also two further vaccines which are referred to as “non-core” vaccines, but which are highly recommended. Both feline aids and feline leukemia are highly contagious and lethal. These vaccines are not necessary for indoor cats, but should be used for cats who go outside, even if only occasionally.
Kittens will begin to eat solid food at around three weeks, and gradually cease milk consumption up to the age of eight weeks – earlier of course if weaned sooner. Bladder control develops and the kitten will begin to use the litter tray, which should be scooped daily. It will begin climbing and running, and take an interest in objects. It may also begin scratching, so in order to save your furniture you need to provide a scratching post.
At 9 – 16 weeks your kitten is growing up fast and will continue to learn social skills and explore its environment. From the age of 17 weeks your kitten is in the adolescent stage and will become sexually mature. At around this age your young cat should be micro-chipped, especially if he spends time outdoors.
Your cat is going to need stimulation, especially if it is an indoor cat, in order that it does not stagnate mentally. There are several things that you can provide, such as a scratching post. Some cats like to scratch vertically, while others prefer horizontally, so provide the appropriate post next to a window or your cat’s sleeping area.
Your cat should have toys to keep him occupied, and if he is an indoor cat you should play with him several times a day. Cats like interactive toys and hunting games (remember they are natural hunters) and you should rotate toys from time to time so that they don’t get bored.
At feeding time – which should be a regular time – you can use interactive food toys, and food balls. You can also hide treats to encourage your cat to hunt. Your cat will soon learn to tell the time, so if you are late with his food he will certainly let you know!
Never slap or shout at your cat as a form of punishment. In most instances, clapping your hands will startle the cat and make it stop doing something undesirable.
Cared for correctly, you will have many years of companionship from your cat, together with those magic moments when he does something completely silly, which all cats do from time to time.