"Excuse me... umm, are you looking for a kitten to take home??"











This inspiring kitten guide shows how to understand kitten behavior and kitten personalities. There's also techniques for bonding & socialization, meeting individual kitten needs and the all important kitten training















Kittens socialize easily




























Feral kittens can be domesticated... it's more difficult with older feral cats












































"I think when I grow up I'll be a Black Panther!!"
















































Earthbath All Natural Pet Shampoo icon
A mild shampoo and conditioner that's great for training a kitten to take a bath. This line of shampoo is effective for combating skin irritations, promotes healing, and re-moisturizes dry skin and aids in combating other common litter nuisances






























Kittens are always the teachers pet


































































Kittens can even learn to share. But, old dogs... that's another story






















































Kittens and kids... they just go together




Kittens are too cute

Why Kittens are Cute
What can be more cute than a kitten. What is more vulnerable than a kitten. But most important is what a kitten experiences determines the kind of adult cat she will become.

Looking at a kitten evokes all sorts of gentle emotions. A kitty's large, round head relative to its body size. Along with their large, round eyes and snub nose... there's an undeniable "urge to nurture" that anyone with a heart cannot turn away from. Coupled with the perceived sense of a kitten's vulnerability, their unending and creative playfulness, stimulates the maternal instincts in anyone. What's more, you can't have just one kitty. Two or more kitties only multiplies the affectionate and protective feelings in people. As cute as they are, though, they require a lot of attention... especially from the kittens mother.
When a kitten is born into this world they are completely helpless. They need constant and vigilant care. Kittens are born blind, deaf and unable to regulate their body temperature. They're so helpless that they have to be stimulated to go to the bathroom. Even their gender is hard to determine until they are 6 to 8 weeks old.

From about 2 weeks after their birth, though, the fun really begins.

  • In 7 to 12 days their eyes and ears open, even though their eyesight won't fully develop until they are 3 months old.
  • At 2 weeks, their strength and coordination begin to develop and they begin play with their littermates and start to explore outside the nest. Baby teeth begin to appear now ,too.
  • After 3 weeks they'll be able to go to the bathroom on their own without having to be stimulated.
  • 3 weeks after birth their body temperature stabilizes.
  • In about 4 weeks they will begin weaning from their mother.
  • Also, in 4 weeks they'll begin to dig and rake with their feet which will be important for litter training.
  • At around 7 weeks you'll be able to determine their sex.
  • Up to week 14 they'll learn how to socialize. Positive experiences with people, other cats and pets, the mailman, Aunt Ellen, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers... you name it. They're important because this period will determine how well she'll relate with others for the rest of her life.
  • At week 14 they should be demonstrating efficient running, jumping and climbing abilities.
  • Then from 6 - 12 months they will mature sexually with mating behavior, and territorial behavior instincts developing fully.

Kitties are highly social animals. They play together, snuggle together and interact with any available thing they can get their paws on. That's one reason you can't walk across the room without your ankles being attacked. And, why the dog can't seem to get any rest. Anything that moves is subject to their play which, in addition to the development of coordination and muscular growth, is a refining of their stalking, chasing and catching instincts. Adult cats will get in on the play to interact and play with kittens helping to develop these instincts. Kittens become cats by watching, assimilating, and then practicing what they learn.


Queening (Giving Birth)
The Queen will need a box (cardboard box, laundry basket, etc.) in which she can have her kittens. It should be easy to clean and lined with soft blankets. If the birthing area is susceptible to any cool drafts or chills, a heating pad placed under several layers of lining can be used. Be extra careful that it doesn't get too warm. Kittens are born blind and deaf. When the Queen allows her new litter to start suckling, the kittens find their way to mom by detecting her warmth. A heating pad that conflicts with the body heat of the Queen can only confuse the kittens and they won't find their way to the Queen's teats for those all important first feedings. The birthing nest should be an area that is clean, dry, darkened, warm, and quiet. Don't allow people, children or other pets to disturb her while she is in the delivery area.

  • Other supplies to have on hand might include:
    • Sterile hemostats and blunt-end scissors to cut the umbilical cord if necessary
    • Alcohol and/or matches for sterilizing the hemostats and scissors
    • Heavy sewing thread, dental floss, or suture to tie umbilical cords if necessary
    • Lubricating (petroleum) jelly
    • Several pairs of sterile surgical gloves
    • Rubber pediatric bulb syringe
    • Surgical antiseptic scrub/iodine
    • Tube feeder, syringe, bottle and nipple, and kitten milk replacement such as Lap Happy Milk Supplement
    • Gram scale for weighing newborns
    • Stethoscope
    • Nail polish to mark kittens for identification if necessary
    • A rectal thermometer to monitor the Queen's body temperature
    • Household thermometer to monitor the air temperature in the birthing area
    • High-quality kitten food, yogurt, and/or vanilla ice cream to offer the Queen during and after delivery. You might want to keep a little extra vanilla ice cream for yourself, too.
    • Have some fresh water handy for the Queen
    • Have near by the phone number for your veterinarian as well as the emergency veterinary clinic number and directions
    • Numbers for family/friends/sitter to watch your children (who should find the whole birthing process interesting) during delivery and to allow you to go to the veterinary clinic, if necessary.
    • Books and information on delivery and care of newborn kittens. Of course, you should read them before the birthing begins
    • Watch or clock to record times of delivery
    • Camera, film, and extra battery if the Queen will allow photographs to be taken. But, be careful. You don't want to startle her into delaying her delivery
    • Ink pen and note pad to mark the arrival time, sex, weight, color, and markings, and to note if and when the placenta was expelled

During delivery, newspapers may be used to line the box with new ones being added as they become wet. This can be important because the licking activity in cats is a response to the presence of wetness. The Queen responds to the wetness of the birthing process and not just the presence of the newborn kitten. To stimulate her newborn she will lick the wet kittens with her rough tongue to get them moving and vocalizing which in turn clears their lungs of any liquids and gets them breathing on their own. If there are too many other wet things around, such as papers or bedding, she may resort to licking those things or herself at the expense of the new kitten who really needs the stimulation. Once she is finished clean the entire box and line it with clean papers and a blanket. Don't use strong smelling cleaners in the delivery area because the mother and offspring identify each other through smell. Privacy, cleanliness, dryness, and warmth are essential to the ideal birthing location.

There are three stages to labor and delivery:

  • First Stage: The cervix is dilated and softened. She may moan, meow, or pant during labor. She may make frequent trips to the litter box which should be moved close, and she may show nesting behavior such as rearranging the towels in the nesting box. She may lick her mammary and perinea area more vigorously. Abdominal contractions are not evident in this stage. She may be restless, secretive, and try to hide. This is why the box should be in a quiet area in the house. The lights can be dimmed to make it more comfortable. Stage 1 may take 12-24 hours and ends when the first kitten passes into the pelvic canal.

(The Queen might delay her progress if she is moved to a strange place or if strange people or animals are around. She may also stop delivery for several hours between kittens if she perceives any disturbance in the delivery area.)

  • Second Stage: This is when she begins actively pushing to deliver the first kitten. The first kitten tends to take the longest to deliver, since this kitten fully dilates the cervix. She may deliver standing, laying, or squatting. The abdominal muscles assist in the delivery. She should deliver within 15-30 minutes from the start of contractions for each kitten. Normally, 3-5 strong contractions are necessary to deliver each kitten.

The amniotic fluid (water bubble) is seen first. The kitten may come head first or rear paws first. Either way is normal. As soon as the kitten is born, the Queen should remove the sac from the kitten's face. She will clean herself, the newborn, and the birthing area. Her licking stimulates the kitten to breathe and start moving. The kitten should be breathing and moving within seconds. The Queen will tear the umbilical cord an inch or two away from the kitten's body. If she does not, clamp the cord between two hemostats about half an inch from the body and cut it or tear it between the hemostats. If the umbilical cord bleeds, tie it off with the suture. Kittens have gotten tangled in the umbilical cord, and if it dries tangled around the leg, they may lose the leg. Make sure to remove the placenta and cord, if the Queen does not. If you need to pick up the kitten right after birth, keep it in a head-down position to allow fluid to drain out of the lungs and nasal passages.

A kitten that had a difficult time being born may be weak or not breathing when finally delivered. The bulb syringe should be used to clear the airways. Some breeders will 'swing' the kitten downward between their own legs. Be very careful if you elect to do so. Kittens have been thrown across rooms when the person loses hold of them. The pressure of the swing helps to clear the airways, but it will also swing the brain against the skull. When fluid has been removed from the air passages, the kitten needs to be roughly, but carefully, rubbed with a cloth to stimulate the breathing. Try CPR on a non-breathing kitten for at least 5 minutes to see if she will breathe. Some kittens, especially if born by c-section, need 20 minutes of work to survive. Once the kitten starts giving lusty cries and moving, the immediate danger should be past.

At this point, the kitten can be presented to the mother. Allowing the mother to lick the kitten will continue to stimulate respirations.

Kittens may attempt to start nursing right away or may take several minutes to recover from birth. Some Queens do not nurse kittens until all the kittens are delivered.

  • Third Stage: Is the delivery of the placenta. Each kitten has a placenta and it is usually delivered with the kitten. Keep track of the placentas on the notepad, as she may have two kittens and then two placentas. The Queen will usually eat the placenta. After two or three, the owner can remove some of them to prevent her from eating them all. The placenta does offer nourishment to the Queen, but too many may cause diarrhea or vomiting.

She will repeat the second and third stages of labor until all the kittens are born. Some Queens will have all the kittens within an hour and others will take several hours for each kitten. Expect about 2-6 hours to deliver all the kittens. If she is resting comfortably and caring for the kittens that have already arrived, just watch the miracle of birth. If she is continuing to contract and does not deliver another kitten within half an hour, contact your veterinarian right away.

She may like a drink of fresh water or small amount of food during labor and delivery.

Allow the kittens to nurse between deliveries, if the Queen will allow. This will stimulate release of the hormone oxytocin which will help in the delivery of the next kitten as well as the "let down" of milk. The kittens are only able to absorb the colostrum through their intestines for the first 24 hours of life. After that time, they are no longer able to get any immunity from the dame. The Queen should be licking their perinea area and abdomen to stimulate urination and defecation. She will continue this for 2-3 weeks.

The lining in the basket and the air around it should feel comfortably warm to your hand. If the kittens are moving around and crying, that means they are either too cold or too hot. If they are bobbing their heads, searching, and crying, then they are hungry. They should be with mom as soon as possible to nurse. The kittens should be with the Queen between births to allow them to nurse and bond, and if necessary, be moved away from the Queen while the next sibling arrives.

You should not interfere in the birthing process unless you see something irregular or detect an emergency. Giving birth has been going on for thousands of years and the Queen's instincts will be pretty good. Help in very difficult moments will be appreciated by her, but she may not want unnecessary intervention. Especially by doting onlookers or anxious children. It's her moment. Let her have it.


When a kitten is born her immune system is only partially developed. Therefore, she is completely susceptible to infection and disease. If a kitten were to encounter a serious disease she more than likely would die. Fortunately, Mother Nature has developed a method of protection for newborn kittens known as colostrum. Colostrum is also called 'first milk' and carries the initial protections or disease immunities for new born kittens.

The first thing to understand is that there are two forms of immunity:

  • Active Immunity
    There are two ways to acquire active immunity. First, a host's body can be exposed to disease-causing organisms through natural exposure to the environment. Secondly, exposure can be done artificially through vaccination. In both cases, the host's body then takes that disease-causing organism (or a part of it) and interacts it with the cells of the host's immune system. These cells then make antibodies (large protein molecules) that reside in the animal's body and will recognize future invasions of the organisms and destroy them. When the immune system of a host effectively protects against a disease-producing organism, the host is said to have 'immunity' or be 'immune' to that organism, and it's referred to as 'active immunity'.
  • Passive Immunity
    Conversely, when a host receives the defense mechanisms of another animal, rather than developing their own, it's referred to as 'passive immunity.' Some examples of passive immunity include:
    • The antibodies received by a fetus through the placenta
    • Antibodies the newborn receives from her mother through colostrum,
    • Antivenins to treat snakebite
    • Bone marrow transplants.
  • The disadvantage of passive immunity is the inability of the host's body to replenish the immunity antibodies. As the antibodies break down either through natural aging, or are used up destroying invading organisms, the host's body can't replace them. Active immunity is self-perpetuating by producing and replacing antibodies to fight invading organisms. In the case of passive immunity, when it's gone... it's really gone.

All antibodies derived from the mother are called 'maternal' antibodies. BUT, kittens will only receive antibodies for diseases which the mother has been recently vaccinated against, or organisms she was naturally exposed to and subsequently developed her own antibody proteins. For any organism the queen has not been vaccinated against or exposed to, she will not have any protective antibodies to pass along to her kittens.

Two types of passive immunity protect newborn kittens. They're acquired by the kittens either through the Queen's blood via the placenta, or her colostrum:

  • Through the Placenta: The organ which connects a fetus to its mother is called a placenta. Through this connection the mother and fetus share life including a common blood system. All this happens while the fetus is in the uterus. When the fetus is 'born', in the case a kitten, the placenta is shed and the newborn kitten begins to exist on her own carrying the blood that was shared with her mother. Consequently, the antibodies that were present in the mother, or Queen, are also present in the kitten.
  • Through Colostrum: Immunity antibodies are also passed to the newborn from the Queen during the first 24 hours of the Queen's milk flow following birth. Colostrum, or 'first milk', is a highly concentrated mixture of the antibody proteins carried by the Queen plus vitamins, electrolytes, and nutrients.

These antibodies are absorbed unchanged into the blood system from the colostrum through the kittens intestinal wall. But, as kittens mature, their digestive systems hydrolyze (add water to) these antibodies (large protein molecules) breaking the antibodies into smaller pieces causing the antibodies to lose their ability to destroy bacteria or viruses. Before the kitten is a day old she loses this ability to absorb whole antibody proteins which are then hydrolyzed by the kittens system. Even if the Queen continued to produce colostral antibodies, which she doesn't, they couldn't provide any protection to the kitten do to this breaking down (hydrolyzing) of the antibodies.

It's important to take note:

  • Colostrum with its antibody protection is only present in the first 24 hours of milk flow from the Queen.
  • Newborns can only gain colostral immunity if they nurse during that 24 hours, and they're less than one day old.

After that they will not receive any more antibodies. All the protection a newborn kitten has is what she receives in that first day of life. After that, protection can only acquired through adaptation through exposure to her environment or augmented with vaccinations.

Colostrum Quantitative Protection
The amounts of antibodies present in the 'first milk' are directly proportional to the levels of antibodies present in the Queen. In simple terms, the larger the concentration of antibodies that are in the Queen, the more antibodies will be absorbed by the kittens through the colostrum. The antibody protein molecules over time will break down slowly and at different rates. Therefore, newborns starting out with higher levels of these colostral molecules carry this protection longer. If the queen has a high number of antibody molecules before she breeds, she will be able to pass more protection, which will last longer, to her kittens when they are born.

Window of Susceptibility
There is a period after a few weeks that the levels of maternal antibodies in a kitten are too low to give her disease protection. At the same time, high levels of maternal antibodies present in a kitten's bloodstream will block the effectiveness of any vaccine. The age at which kittens can effectively be immunized is proportional to the amount of antibody protection received from their mother. Only when the maternal antibodies drop to a low enough level can immunity be produced through vaccination.

This period is called the 'window of susceptibility'. During this time when the maternal antibodies are to low for any protection, and despite being vaccinated, a kitten can still contract a disease.

The full range regarding length and time of the window of susceptibility is different with every litter, as well as between individuals in a litter. When confronted with passive immunity, it's really impossible to determine when an individual kitten should be vaccinated. There are many variables including:

  • Some kittens will have absorbed more antibodies than others
  • Some antibodies will have broken down more quickly than others and in different kittens
  • Some kittens will have used a portion of their antibodies if they encountered harmful bacteria or viruses
  • Some kittens will have a effective level of antibodies for one disease but not enough for another.

In spite of the unpredictability for disease protection or infection created by this window of susceptibility, the general rule is to consult your veterinarian and be prepared to start immunizations at around 8 weeks of age.

Other Functions of Colostrum
Besides being a source of antibody protection, electrolytes and nutrients, colostrum is an important source for kitten hydration. Fluid levels are critical to a kitten's highly active metabolism. Since dehydration is a serious threat to kittens, always observe the nose and gums, making sure they appear wet and moist. To press the point, water makes up 75-80% of a kittens body weight. If you suspect dehydration is occurring, especially if the kittens are too young to drink water on their own, consult your veterinarian.

Obviously, it's extremely important that kittens receive colostrum in the first 36-48 hours of their lives. It provides disease protection, nutrients, vitamins, and fluids making sure a newborn gets off to great start for a happy, and consequently healthy life.


After Weaning, What Should a Kitty's Diet Be?

When Weaning Begins:

  • At 4 - 6 weeks, kittens should weaned onto foods specifically designed for them. Good kitten food will be balanced with the necessary proteins, vitamins and minerals needed for the fast growth a kitten will experience. Further, I would recommend foods that are rated as "human grade". Human grade foods are of higher quality, sans "grain" fillers or "by-products" that are usually found in low quality pet foods on the grocery shelves.
  • DO NOT wean kitties on cows milk, dog food, baby food or other human foods. Cow's milk doesn't provide the nutrients needed for proper growth, and they're unable to digest or metabolize the lactose found in cow's milk. The nutrient balance of dog food is totally different from cat food and will starve a kitten (or cat) of vital nutrients. Human food and baby foods also don't provide a balance of essential nutrients and can lead to bad eating habits as well as obesity. Use only approved milk replacements or quality kitten food for weaning.
  • Weaning is a change of diet. Therefore, weaning should be done slowly, increasing the amount of solid food as the kitten receives less and less of mother's milk. Initially wean kitties with a blended mix of high quality kitten food and a liquid milk replacement such as KMR Milk Replacer for cats. Slowly over a 2-3 week period reduce the blending until the kittens are eating the food as it comes right out of the can. Mother cat will probably help with this. She will naturally start the weaning on her own. Changing diets at any time of a cat's life should be done gradually over, say, a one week or longer period, adding the new food as you decrease the old. Change is hard on a cat's system and they will resist if not done thoughtfully.
  • For the first 3 months, provide food 4 times a day. After that they should receive a measured feeding 2 or 3 times a day. Food intake needs to be monitored to balance the amount needed for a healthy lifestyle that fuels rambunctious activities, but doesn't contribute to make her fat... oops! Excuse me. Overweight. Food manufacturer's recommendations and consultation with your veterinarian will help you decide how much is enough.
  • Always have fresh, clean and if possible flowing water available. Cats need lots of accessible water. They are also very sensitive to water quality. If your water supply is high in chlorine, you may have to opt for bottled water. In any case, be sure kitty has lots drinking water available, and is drinking it.


Check-ups and Vaccinations
It's probably okay with a new mother cat that you pick up a newborn and admire her beautiful litter, especially if she knows you. But, she may get concerned if you walk off with her baby. Leave the babies with mom until they open their eyes. Do Not pry the youngster's eyes open. Their eyes are still developing and can be permanently damaged if you try to open them before they're ready. Soon after they start to move around on their own is when kitties should get used to being handled. Petting and stroking, inspecting them for signs of anything that doesn't look right should become a common, even daily occurrence for them. When they're around 8 weeks of age, you should plan a trip to the vet's office and set up a schedule of vaccinations. But, there're things you can do in the meantime to head off potential problems:

Look into her eyes and check them for:

  • redness or inflammation
  • a half closed lid
  • excessive watering
  • a yellow-green discharge or discoloration

If you see any of the above, consult your veterinarian. A kitten rubbing her eye a lot is an indication that she has an eye infection. You can do a little cleaning around the eyes with a soft rag and warm water. DO NOT try to clean the eyeball.

Check her ears. Look for:

  • discharge of any kind
  • excessive wax build-up; dark brown or black wax
  • an unpleasant odor

Kitties will scratch their ears and shake their heads frequently if their ears are dirty, infected or they have ear mites. Again, consult your vet if you see any of the symptoms above. Cleaning can be done with warm water on the easily reached external areas of the ear. DO NOT probe into the ear.

At 4 -6 months, they lose their baby teeth and you will want to check for:

  • soreness
  • discoloration
  • broken or loose teeth
  • inflamed or receding gums

Dental care is important, just like it is for people. Besides, regular check-ups and brushing their teeth at an early age will get them used to it as an adult. Use toothpaste designed for cats, not human toothpaste. Unchecked periodontal disease can cause heart, liver and kidney diseases. Regular brushing also controls bad breath.

Kitten manicuring:

  • Clipping a toe nails helps prevent unwanted scratching and clawing. The trouble is, cats scratch naturally. Scratching removes dead skin from their nails and offers a great stretch for their front quarters. The best remedy to preventing scratching in the wrong places is to provide an alternative to your favorite furniture. See the Cat Training section for a full discussion on how to move your kitten from the couch to a scratch post.

Brushing kitties fur coat. When you do, look for:

  • increased shedding
  • dandruff
  • raw areas
  • dry, itchy skin
  • rashes
  • lumps on or under her skin
  • or anything unusual

Kitties should become accustomed to grooming early in their life. Teaching a kitten to accept brushing, teeth cleaning, bathing, nail clipping and a regular personal check-up by you on a weekly basis will make life a lot easier down the road. It gives you a chance to notice any problems early and in consultation with your veterinarian you'll be able to address health problems before they become chronic or dangerous... and expensive. For more information see Cat Grooming

Her first visit to the veterinarian:

During the first visit to the veterinarian, a schedule should be arranged to vaccinate against several diseases. As mentioned, the colostrum received from mother's milk will protect her until around 8 weeks. After that, the kitten's own immune system will kick in and produce its own antibodies. At that point you will want to start a vaccination program to protect her from diseases her immune system won't naturally develop antibodies to protect her from. Some examples of these diseases are:


These are all contagious viral diseases that show symptoms that range from high fever, cessation of eating and drinking, respiratory tract problems, ulcerations of the mouth, attacks on the immune system, eye and nose discharge, weight loss and anemia, and vomiting & diarrhea. Rabies is particularly contagious because it can be transmitted in an infected animals saliva, posing a danger to humans who are vulnerable to catching it. A sample vaccination schedule might look like this:

  • First visit at 8 weeks: FVRCP-Felv
  • At the first visit you should start a de-worming program to protect her against parasites.
  • Second visit at 12 weeks: FVRCP-Felv and Rabies

During these visits the veterinarian will give kitty a complete check-up. This is a perfect opportunity to point out anything you may have noticed during your weekly check-up or grooming sessions and to ask questions about anything you find perplexing or troubling. It wouldn't hurt to keep notes about anything you see when you do your in-home check-ups and grooming.

It's worth noting again that the habits you develop at an early stages of life, will last all of her life. This in turn will make sharing your home together a pleasant and fulfilling experience.


Litter Box Training
Litter box training has got to be the easiest part of life with a cat. First of all, if there are adult litter box trained cats living in the house, they will naturally train the younger brood. Kitty see is what kitty does. Until they are used to using the litter box, it is wise to keep kitties confined to a small room. The same room as their litter box, food and water bowls, and their beds. Once you are certain that they are using the litter, they can be allowed to further explore their new domain.

Keep the litter clean. Scoop the litter clean every day and change it every week by dumping all the litter, clean the box thoroughly and add all new litter. If you use soap to clean the box, be sure to rinse it completely to remove all detergent odors and use unscented litter. These smells and odors can deter kittens from using the litter box and they may seek other areas in the house to soil.

Place the litter box in a quiet, but accessible location. Not in a closet or room which might be shut off by a door. Multi-storied homes and multi-cat homes may require more than one litter box. You'll have to think like a cat and calculate how fast she can get to the litter box and if it is readily accessible to determine locations and how many to have on hand. Once a cat is trained, there should be no accidents. If there are, check the cleanliness of the litter. Also, inspect the mess to determine if it looks normal and consistent with a healthy excretion. If the accident doesn't look normal then it can be a sign of illness and you should consult with your veterinarian.


Spaying and Neutering
The responsible thing for you to do when your kitty is old enough is to have them either spayed or neutered. Cats become sexually mature and active when they are about 6 months old. There're advantages to spaying or neutering that will directly affect you. For one, when cats are active sexually, they tend to be very vocal about it, keeping you up half the night with a lot of yowling, especially from the females. A female cat will go into heat approximately between January and October, and keep coming back into heat every 7-10 days until she is bred. Secondly, males will tend to spray everything in sight as he marks his territory, warning all other cats that this is his domain, including all the females in it. Males with fight furiously for the right to breed a female cat.

A third reason to spay or neuter is related to feral cats. Feral cats are domestic cats that have become homeless or cats that are the children of once domesticated cats. True feral cats are undomesticated, but aren't wild, either. Wild cats have never been domesticated and could never be confused with a domesticated cat or it's progeny. Feral cats may have been abandoned, lost or born without any socialization with people. In most cases they have not been, or had the opportunity to be spayed or neutered. Thus, females suffer a hard life of either always being pregnant, or males constantly fighting to mate.

Unwanted litters are problematic since a female cat can have up to 3 litters a year. Given that there can be 6 - 8 kittens in a litter, that adds up to a lots of kitties in a short period of time. That many kittens can be difficult to find homes for, and one can lose the ability to care for them rather quickly. So, in many cases they find themselves on their own, feral and repeating the cycle of pregnancy and birth. So, spaying and neutering your cat is an important and responsible act that I would say is mandatory for being a cat owner. It's not costly, $40.00 to $60.00 or less at clinic prices. Undertaking the responsibility solves a lot of problems for people, and ends a lot of suffering associated with feral cat populations. For more information see Feral Cats

This surgery is performed on female cats in sterile operating room conditions, with the cat put under a general anesthetic. It involves the removal of the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus (womb) through an abdominal incision. On completion of a successful operation, your cat will not come into heat, and won't have the interest or ability to breed. There's NO PHYSICAL OR PSYCHOLOGICAL ADVANTAGE to waiting for the female to experience a heat cycle, or a litter, before spaying her. Spaying eliminates heat cycles, reproductive diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Further, spaying has no effect on the female's overall temperament, other than to bring a measure of peace to her life.

Performed on males, this procedure involves the removal of the testicles through a small incision made on the scrotal sack, with the cat under a general anesthetic. The operation eliminates the source of sperm and male sexual hormones. Neutered male cats are less likely to roam, fight with other cats, and spray their domain. Again, it won't change the cat's personality.
It can't be emphasized enough the advantages of spaying or neutering your kitten when they reach that 6 month milestone. You and the kittens will not miss dealing with all those mating rituals and all those litters.


Orphan and Feral Kitties
If a kitten should become orphaned, or you find yourself with a feral kitten, you'll have to replace the missing mother in their life. The first thing you'll be concerned with is providing nutritional support. If they aren't old enough to eat solid food, then bottle feeding them should be done with a cat milk replacement every 2 to 4 hours. DO NOT attempt to feed kittens cow's milk. Cow's milk will not supply the necessary nutrients kittens need for proper growth and development. If they are too young to urinate or defecate, they'll need to be stimulated by rubbing the base of their spine, where it joins the tail, with a warm damp cloth. As they get older, at about 3 weeks of age, they should start going to the bathroom on their own.

When they are around 4 weeks old, they should start the weaning process. Introduce good quality solid kitten food and as they begin to eat, reduce the bottle feedings slowly until they are weaned off the bottle onto the kitten food. Initially wean kittens with a blended mix (yes, use a blender) of this high quality kitten food and a liquid milk replacement such as KMR Milk Replacer for cats. Slowly, over a 2-3 week period reduce the blending and the amount of milk supplement until the kittens are eating the food as it comes right out of the can.

From the beginning you'll want to start socializing the orphan. Ideally there would be other kittens around and she would already be sleeping with them and beginning to play. Handling her, petting and stroking her and introducing her to all the members of the family, including other pets is essential. But, if she is not accepted by other pets, look for that too, and stay present when they are together. She's an orphan and needs extra care to reduce behavior problems when she gets older.

Feral cats can be socialized if they are started at a young age. If you are lucky enough to find them at or before they are 4 weeks old, they can be fairly easily domesticated and then adopted. The older they are, though, the more difficult it is to domesticate them. When they reach adulthood it's usually too late to socialize them enough to not fear people and live a normal domesticated life.


Kittens and Socialization
Socializing kittens, along with early spaying or neutering, is without doubt the most important thing you can do to have friendly, unafraid and uninhibited adult cats. Socializing a kitten is nothing more than getting them used to being handled and groomed, being around strangers, children, dogs and other cats. Well socialized cats are unafraid of 'normal' environmental associations including washing machines, dish washers, vacuums and automobiles. In short she will be comfortable around all the things people surround themselves with in their living environment. Though I doubt visiting the vet will ever be her favorite activity, if she's properly socialized with trips to the vet early in life, she won't be completely terrorized or traumatized by these all important visits, especially if she has an emergency.

If a kitten grows up in an environment where there's lots of activity, children coming and going, other pets and loud noises, she will grow into a cat that is friendly and not aggressive towards strangers of any ilk. If she is raised in a quiet home with little or no visitors, children or other animals, and doesn't have the opportunity to have a variety of experiences, very likely she will grow up to be distrustful of strangers and have an aggressive personality that exhibits strong territorial traits. What's worse is if kitty should have any negative or terror inducing experiences while young, she will carry the fear of those experiences into her adult life where such reactions are difficult, nearly impossible to reverse.

Proper socializing is a process that increases the chance that an initial experience will be one that creates trust, encourages friendliness and a pet with a secure personality who tolerates entry of anyone into her territory (yours & her home). Instead of a fearful, terror producing confrontation which results in an adult cat that is afraid of and aggressive towards strangers or other animals.

The kitten socialization process begins with:

  • Handling kittens by the adults of the home. Keep children and other pets away until kitty has become used to you first.
  • Strangers should be the next human association for the kitties. Again, begin with short periods of touch, increasing over time as the kittens get used to these new people.
  • Then under the supervision of the already socialized adults, allow children to briefly handle the kittens. The length of handling time can increase as the kitties becomes used to the children.
  • Finally, other cat friendly pets in the home should be introduced to the kittens.

If the Queen has a good comfort level with all the members within a home, the above guidelines can be loosely followed. In any case, best socialization is slow, gentle and not forced. Avoid 'making' a kitten get to know anyone or something. There's not quite anything like self-discovery for instilling self-confidence.

While this human socialization is happening, let normal home life activities continue. After kittens are born, they shouldn't be taken away from their mother. Gently and briefly handling them is O.K. but don't take them out of their mother's sight. Children & pets need to be closely supervised. When they begin to move around kittens should be confined to one room with litter, food and water. When they are litter trained and moving around well, let them explore and search for the sources of all those noises they've been hearing, i.e. vacuums, washing machines,etc. They need to discover these things on their own and not be chased or terrorized by them.

When kittens have become used to being handled then they should be introduced to grooming. All aspects of grooming can be started including brushing, bathing, physical inspections, nail trimming and tooth care. Don't start them TOO young. They need to be robust enough to handle grooming activities. Still, start off gently and only briefly increasing in intensity as they grow older and stronger.

At 8 weeks they should have their first veterinary visit planned. Don't wait for an emergency to take them to the vet's. If kittens don't see the vet until they are under stress, they'll associate stress with the vet and fearfully resist the doctor's help. The visit to the veterinarian should become a non-threatening experience which can be accomplished while she is still a kitten.

During the socialization period have your kitties become used to receiving treat rewards. If kittens learn that accepting a new experience will earn her a reward, she will look forward to any new experience with anticipation, not fear. Whenever the kitten is handled, such as when you look into her ears, inspect her toes, or give her a bath... reward her with a treat and praise her for allowing you to do these things. Especially when she goes to the vet, she should get an extra special treat and lots of praise.

As simple as this sounds, the absence of traumatizing events and gentle, positive introductory exposure to her world; all of it will be determinant in how well adjusted the adult cat will become. Socialization will happen extremely quickly with kittens. It'll take more time with an adult cat and even more time and patience with an already fearful cat. The rules for all are the same for any cat. First develop trust and confidence between yourself and kitty, then with strangers, then with children & other pets and finally with all the other elements of her environment. It will lead to a happy, healthful and satisfying life for your kitten.

"Everything your cat knows, she learned when she was a kitten".


Would You Like a Kitty?
So, What do you think? Do you want a kitten? Cats are playful, they're easily house trained, and they're neat, clean and tidy by nature. They require little grooming or training, though when grooming and training is achieved cats become even better companions. They also adapt beautifully to indoor living. Cats are entertaining and make wonderful companions for people.

As much as anecdotes and folklore have it, cats are not the totally independent and self-sufficient pet they are made out to be. Cats and kittens are absolutely dependent on people for affection, the shelter of a good home, proper and adequate nutrition, and medical care. Bringing home a kitten requires some close attention at first, and ongoing care over her entire life as she grows into an adult cat. But, the resulting companionship is priceless.

It's easy to acquire a kitten. If you want a pure bred cat, there are plenty of breeder sources to choose from. You should be prepared to meet some strict qualifications if you decide to adopt, and pay for, a pure bred cat. Good breeders are pretty picky about where their brood end up. But, if you're not going to be choosey, and in many ways more responsible, there're lots of sources to find and adopt a kitten from:

  • Animal shelters and animal saves are abundant in most communities. So is the supply of cats and kittens in these shelters. There's usually a small fee associated with adoption to cover the costs of vaccinations and spaying or neutering. Adopting from a shelter saves you some trouble right away since you are taking home a cat or kitten that is up to date with her shots and has been spayed or neutered. All you have to do now is introduce her to your veterinarian and begin some home training.
  • There's been many times I've walked out of the neighborhood grocery store and stopped to look inside a box that a group of cooing children have surrounded. The 6 or 8 kittens in the box usually have only recently been weaned. The parents have decided that the kittens need new homes, so the kids spend the day in front of the grocery trying to give their little charges away. If you take one home, you'll be starting from scratch including socializing the kitty, arranging for vaccinations and later making sure they are spayed or neutered. Then one day you'll find yourself proudly telling the story of how your little kitty nudged herself into your life and how grateful you are that she did.
  • Lastly, and closely related to the story of the children with the box in front of the grocery, you might have a friend who introduces you to a little bundle of fur that you'll not be able to resist. You will be, again, starting from scratch.

Kitty will need social guidance, medical care, good food and shelter, and a well appointed home designed for a cat. She'll give you unqualified devotion in return. Sounds like a fair trade to me.

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