Caring for Kittens: Tips for Raising Young Felines

It’s tiny, it’s fluffy, and it makes the sweetest little meows. You adopt that kitten right away, thinking it will be easy to raise.

And then, the kitten scratches up the walls. It doesn’t use its litterbox. It hates the cat feeder you chose for it. And the cost of what you thought was a low-maintenance pet is a lot more than you thought.

What many new parents don’t realize is that raising a kitten is a lot of work. A kitten has a lot of energy, and doesn’t know how to use it. It’s also been separated from its mother for a short period, so it may be anxious and overwhelmed by its new home, and may take its confusion out on your personal belongings.

In a way, raising a kitten is like raising a kid. You’ll have to train it to be on its best behavior, train it to use the litterbox, and train it to be social. Here are some tips to make the process easier.

Tip 1: Know Your Budget!

Cats aren’t going to hurt your wallet as much as dogs do, but the first year with your new kitten can be a bit costly when it comes to taking it to the vet. You’ll have to take the kitten in to get its shots, get a medical examination, spay/neuter, etc. This alone can cost hundreds of dollars. Before you adopt, research the initial costs, and see if it fits your budget.

Tip 2: Getting Kitty to Use the Litterbox

One great thing about owning a cat is that it has its own personal bathroom. And unlike raising a kid or trying to housebreak a dog, teaching your kitty to use the litterbox will not be difficult at all. Cats have an instinct to bury their waste in sand, so they’ll feel right at home with a litterbox. In fact, at three to four weeks, which is around the age you should be bringing your kitten home, your kitten should be prepared to use the litterbox.

With that said, there may be some hiccups initially. Your kitten may have an accident, or dislike using the litterbox. Here are a few pointers to get your kitten to use the litterbox:

  • If you have another cat, give your kitten a separate litterbox. Cats don’t like using each other’s litterboxes.
  • Place your kitten gently in the box, and use its front paws to dig at the sand. Do this a few times during a time when your kitten may want to use the restroom, such as after a meal.
  • Put the litterbox in a quiet place that gives your kitten privacy. If the room is prone to any noises, your kitten may not use the litterbox.
  • Clean the litterbox daily. Cats may avoid a dirty litterbox, just like a human would avoid a clogged toilet.
  • Cats tend to prefer clumpy, unscented litter.
  • If your kitten makes a mess, scolding it may confuse or scare it. Just clean up their mess and keep training. Use positive reinforcement, such as giving it treats, when it does use the litterox.

Tip 3: Stop Kitty from Scratching/Biting

Before your kitten bites your hand, or scratches up your wallpaper, teach it not to scratch and bite. First, you should trim your kitten’s nails so it doesn’t scratch as much. After your kitten is accustomed to you handling it, use a pair of clippers, particularly ones designed for a cat, to trim its claws. Do not declaw it. You don’t just remove a cat’s nails, but part of their fingers as well. Declawing can also make a cat feel nervous, as it no longer has a way to defend itself.

Your cat will still want to scratch, however, so give it a scratching post, and put preventives on your precious furniture and walls so it doesn’t scratch those up.

As for biting, you’ll not want to use your hands during playtime. This can give the kitten the impression that gnawing on your hand is okay. Instead, use toys when you want to play with your kitten.  If you’re petting your kitten and it tries to bite you, take your hand away and then give it a toy to play with instead. Keep repeating until your kitten knows not to bite you.

Tip 4: Feed it a Balanced Diet and Give it Plenty of Exercise

A fat cat is nothing to laugh at! Cat obesity can cause severe health issues down the line. Create a proper feeding schedule for your cat, and feed it no more than what is required, saving treats for a special occasion. Depending on your kitten, its needs may vary. Consult your vet to see which diet is best for your kitten.

Tip 5: Making Kitty Social

You don’t want to have a kitten that hisses at guests or runs away from them at first sight.

To prevent this, raise a kitten who doesn’t fear people. Learn your kitten’s dislikes, and don’t do them. If you have small children who may play rough with your kitten, prevent them from doing so. Mistreatment of your kitten can cause it to fear others.

When training your kitten, don’t punish it. Unlike humans, your kitten won’t realize why it’s being punished. Instead, use positive reinforcement. Reward your kitten whenever it does something desirable. Give it a treat, or play with it, and it should soon learn how to love people.

Raising a kitten can be hard work. You’ll need to train it constantly, make sure it’s not clawing furniture or biting you, make sure it’s using its litterbox, and calculate the costs of its vetting expenses.

For college students who have little time or money, or the elderly who don’t have the energy or the patience to raise a kitten, you may want to consider adopting an adult cat who’s already been trained. After you learn how to raise an adult cat, raising a kitten will be a lot easier, and it will be worth it.

About the Author:

Emily Parker is a cat parent to 2 wonderful cats, Gus and Louis. She runs, a site that helps cat parents love their cats better.