Hi! Here are some tips based on our 13-year experience breeding cats in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I hope some of them can help you with your kitten:
1. Cats, differently from other animals, lick themselves and other cats all the time. This could be an advantage as we realize that they take care of their own hygiene. However, there seem to be two aspects that need attention:
* During the licking process, cats swallow a lot of hair that shed from themselves and from other cats (if there are more cats in the same household), which can cause the formation of hairballs in the digestive tract. The suggestion here is to offer the kitties specific cat food and/or some malt paste that helps them digest hairballs.
* The more we think our home is the cleanest place, the floor is always the dirtiest place particularly because it keeps all the dirt which is brought in from outdoors and which carries germs and worms. Whatever is on the floor goes to the cats’ mouth as they lick themselves entirely, including their paws. If the dirt carries micro-organisms and harmful bacteria, these are eventually swallowed by the cats and can cause diseases and worm infestations. The suggestions are: (i) place a ‘powerful’ mat at the entrance of your home so that humans can scrape their shoes very well before entering your living room; (ii) have everybody change their shoes as they get inside of the home (never letting the cats have access to the dirty shoes, of course); (iii) use special products to clean the home such as chlorine.
2. As cats are carnivores, besides super premium dry cat food, we suggest offering them chicken, meat or fish, all cooked, with no salt or spices. The cooking process is crucial to kill germs and bacteria that may cause diseases. This is very important for the owner who wants to offer the cat something different from dry food. Foods which are not appropriate to cats, such as chocolate, cheese, bread, cookies, crackers, ice cream, potato chips, etc. should be avoided as they can cause several health problems. Cats have tremendous difficulty digesting carbohydrates. Purebred cats tend to be more sensitive to certain kinds of food due to their own genetics.
3. As cats have night habits, they tend to sleep most of the day, between 16 to 18 hours. Therefore, it is important to understand and respect their waking hours and take advantage of them to enjoy our furry companion through play and fun, brushing and caressing, especially with that favorite brush. Kittens tend to be more alert at the beginning of the morning and of the evening, alternating their waking cycles, adapting themselves to the house routine.
4. Cats, like any other animal (and humans, too), do not like to take medicine. For those who have trouble swallowing pills or tablets, it is a good idea to dissolve them in some water (1ml or 2ml), if possible, and put it into a small syringe (with no needle, of course) before giving it to them. Another way of administering medication is by mixing the tablet or the caplet into the humid food or paste.
5. If you want to please a cat, caress them on their head, in particular, under the chin, on their cheeks, behind their ears and on their back. Some cats like to lie on their back as they want you to caress them on the belly, just the way their moms licked them when they were babies. That happens because they trust their owners and are absolutely sure that their attitude will have their expected response.
6. Cats love burrows or anything like that such as drawers, boxes, closets, etc. Many times, without previous notice, they can hide inside a drawer, causing many worries to their owners. A shoe box can be transformed in play for the cat to hide or even sleep. They very much welcome all these preferred spots.
7. As cats are very curious animals, it is crucial to keep an eye on them when they are close to the stove, hot pots, or anything else that might cause some type of accident. Cats are unpredictable. They deal with anything and they want to know about everything. Some cats jump anywhere, climb nets, shelves, wall units, anything. This means that the owner needs to double-check where they are in order to avoid accidents.
8. If you live in an apartment, please, net it. Cats are hunters by nature and love to chase birds, butterflies and insects. In a chasing process they might like to ‘fly’ after a butterfly and if there is no protective net, it is possible that he falls down off the window or the balcony. Nets are obligatory in apartments. Since we recommend that cats should be kept indoors, it is important to net your house, too.
9. Male cats tend to delimit their territory around your home as soon as they enter puberty, depending on the breed and on each one’s individuality. However, there are cats that never follow this kind of behavior. It is up to the owner to wait for their cat’s stage of maturity and observe the cat’s behavior. One suggestion is to train the kitten using an educating type of spray that will leave an unpleasant odor wherever the owner sprays it. At the same time it is important to have the cat ‘establish’ its own territory some other place in the home, maybe on old newspapers or on some other permitted easy-to-clean spot, so that he has an alternative. He is allowed to spray to mark his territory, but where the owner lets him do it. The last resource is to have him neutered.
10. Female cats do not menstruate. When they get into the heat (mating season), some breeds meow so loudly that if you live in an apartment it may disturb some people. What to do then? One suggestion for those who are still thinking about which breed to choose from is to look into different breeds and get to know their patterns of behavior. Many cat owners choose to have the cat spayed so that she does not get into the heat anymore. Female cats get their heat in the warmest months of the year. Some female cats of some breeds are so discreet and so silent that we only know they are in the heat because they demand more attention and become more affectionate.
11. When the cat becomes too quiet, especially if it is a kitten, he could be sick. It is very important to observe the cat’s behavior to make sure the cat is only sleeping and not ill. He could have fever or feel some pain without the owner knowing it. Unfortunately cats do not speak out, but they have other ways to communicate. We just have to observe them. When something shows up, it is because it has been happening for quite some time and the cat has not ‘told’ us. When in doubt, the best thing to do is to talk to the vet.
12. One of the most difficult periods in the life of a cat is its childhood because of vulnerability to diseases. Kittens have their mother’s protection through the colostrum up to 4 weeks. After that, the kitten is on his own and prone to diseases because his body still lacks certain defense mechanisms, which he will acquire along his growing process. He still has to be vaccinated and nursed up to 2 or 3 months. That is why we usually recommend bringing a kitten home after 16 weeks, after he has received all his vaccines.
13. When a cat is vaccinated, he acquires certain immunity, but only in relation to the diseases covered by that vaccine. However, the vaccines do not guarantee the contraction of the disease. The cat can still have the disease, but in a milder form. The existing vaccines do not cover all of cats’ diseases. If a cat is properly nourished and has a healthy life, with little stress, the probability of catching diseases is lower.
14. Cats are not immune against fungi. It is very likely for a cat to develop some type of fungus during his lifetime. The predisposing factors for that are: heat, humidity, young age, quantity of fur, contact with other cats, especially if they have fungus. Fungi are skin and fur problems and can be treated by the vet. Depending on the type of fungus, the treatment may last a few months. Some fungi can be contagious to humans. Long-haired cats tend to develop more fungi than short-haired cats.
15. It is not obligatory to bathe cats unless we are talking about Persian cats that have a flat face and too much fur. Many times they cannot clean themselves thoroughly in their daily bath. If you decide to bathe your cat, please, remember that cats prefer warm water. You can start by the paws and the tail and gradually move up so that the cat does not become scared. Please, use cotton balls in their ears and be careful in the drying process. The best sequence to dry a cat seems to be: (i) paper towel first to get the most of the water; (ii) a very good and absorbing towel to get more water and (iii) a silent blow-drier. Don’t forget that the cat has to be 100% dry; otherwise, the fur will be humid and he may develop fungus.
16. As cats seem to be very clean animals, taking care of their own hygiene, still it is not a sensible decision to let kids bring their cat to bed. Cats may carry fungi, bacteria and germs that can be contagious to people. If the cat develops some type of fungus, children can be easily contaminated as they are also fragile. It is not good either to breathe fur, which can go straight to the lungs and you may develop some allergies. Besides, cats need to have their own space with their own bed.
17. It is important to observe that when we bring a cat home, even if it is a kitten, there will always be the adaptation process to the new environment, including the moving process itself from the breeder’s home to the new owner’s home. The cat may become stressed as it is too much for him. The new owners need to have patience with the adaptation process of the kitten and should try to make it as smooth as possible. How? In the fist place it is important to know that cats lose their sense of reference when they move out of their home. In addition, they lose their self-esteem and may become insecure. It is then essential to give that back to the kitten by selecting a small and quiet place in the new home, such as a small bathroom or bedroom for the new companion (cats can be scared when left in large spaces). It should be a place where he could have his litter box, water, food, a scratching post, some toys and a bed. His food, water and bed should be at least 60cm away from his bathroom. The new owner/s should go there to play with him, to caress him and to brush him. After the second or third day, according to the kitten’s behavior, more space in the home should be opened to him so that he can get gradually used to the new home. This process can be developed little by little because when a cat leaves the environment he knows very well, he completely loses his sense of direction and becomes very confused, and can become anxious, shy, and stressed. Some cats adapt more quickly than others, depending on each individual animal. Adult cats in general (there are exceptions, of course) tend to take a little longer to get adapted. If our suggestions are accepted and these procedures are followed, there will be some chance of success. The kitten can overcome his initial fear and stress and become confident and happy again, living very well with his new family. It is crucial that the cat feels secure and safe inside some space he has control over so that he can start his adaptation process having his basic necessities cared for within his own expectations.
18. Kitten’s trousseau – while the new owner is waiting for the new baby cat to arrive, it would be a good idea to start choosing the pieces for the ‘kitten’s trousseau’. The basic gear includes: the kitten’s litter tray, cat litter, super premium dry kitten food, containers for water and cat food, toys (little rats, balls, etc.), scratching posts, bed, net to protect windows and balconies, comb and brush.