Top Five Mistakes in Bringing Up Baby

Avoid these errors in raising your kitten and your pet will steer clear of future problems.

By Helen Jablonski | Posted: Feb. 11, 2009, 3 a.m. EST

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Gray and white kitten
Don't let your new kitten roughhouse with you. Provide her with toys to pounce on and chew.
Are you thinking of adopting a kitten?  If so, you’ll want him to have a happy and trouble-free life in your home. To avoid behavioral problems down the road, don’t make these common mistakes:

1. Letting kitty play rough
It’s important that kittens stalk, chase, pounce and bite during play, but don’t let the focus of their attacks be you. If your kitten starts to gnaw on your hand or bunny-kick your arm, put her down and ignore her. This will teach her that it’s not OK to act aggressively toward you. Give your kitten toys that she can chase and wrestle or even a kitten playmate she can roughhouse with, but never let your kitten play rough with you.

2. Not teaching kitty where to scratch
Don’t automatically assume an indoor cat must be declawed. If you give your kitten sturdy, appealing scratching posts and teach him to use them, he will not tear up your furniture.  Put scratching posts in prominent places in your home, and keep kitty’s sharp claws trimmed. Your veterinarian can teach you how to do this safely.   

Brown kitten
Adopting a kitten that is too young can lead to problems. A kitten should remain with his mother until he is 2 months old.
3. Using a cat-sized bathroom

It might be tempting to buy a nice big litterbox that you can use for years to come, but this is not good for your kitten. Kittens need short, low-sided litterboxes to accommodate their tiny bodies. Your kitten will certainly outgrow her junior-sized litterbox, but she must be able to get in and out easily while she’s small. Keep your kitten’s litterbox clean and stick with a litter she is comfortable with, and you’re likely to steer clear of future litterbox problems.

4. Adopting a kitten too soon
Although a 6-week-old kitten is adorable, this baby is too young to be adopted. Kittens learn important social skills from their mother and littermates between 2 and 8 weeks of age. Their experiences during this developmental stage will also shape their future behavior, including how they relate to people, other animals and normal household events. If possible, visit and play with the kitten during this period so he bonds with you, but don’t remove him from the nest until he’s at least 2 months old.

5. Not brushing kitty’s teeth
Experts say 80 percent of all cats will experience some type of dental disease, which can cause pain and changes in behavior. Start your kitten on a daily tooth brushing routine so she will have healthy teeth for life. Be sure to use toothpaste made for pets, which is safe for them to swallow, and have your veterinarian show you how to properly brush your kitten’s teeth. 

“The way to help the kitten be good is by providing the things that he needs to be good, like a good litterbox, a good scratching post and appropriate toys,” says Suzanne Hetts, PhD, a Littleton, Colo.-based certified animal behaviorist.

A cat-friendly environment and loving guidance from you will help your new kitten become a healthy, well-behaved pet — and that’s no mistake.

Helen Jablonski is a feline behavior consultant and a member of the Cat Writers’ Association.  She shares her life with one man and seven cats. 


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Reader Comments

CatChannel Editor    Irvine, CA

5/8/2013 10:43:44 AM

Armando -- We emailed you directly about this. Here is what CAT FANCY editor Susan Logan says:

Determine whether the mother cat is feral or stray. If she’s a stray, she might make a good pet. If she’s friendly enough, you could bring her inside to mother the kittens or reunite the kittens with her in a safe, comfortable, enclosed area where you can keep an eye on them. Then get her spayed.

If she’s feral, he trap her and have her spayed, vaccinated and treated. Poor thing! Since you already have the kittens, continue to feed them and find a rescue where they can spay and adopt them out.

Alley Cat Allies’ Feral Friends Network has resources that could help: LINK

Armando    Lynwood, CA

5/6/2013 2:07:08 PM

Just poured rain here today and more expected in my area. Discovered a new litter of four baby kittens at corner of my house in flower bed. Kittens all wet and cold. Mother in rear yard and appears wet, cold and observed her doing number 2 (diareahh) I went and picked up the kittens, took them inside and dried them. I also used a drip feeder and gave them all the prescribed dozage of new born milk that I purchased from the local pet store. Kittens doing find now. Q. Do I place the kittens back where I fround them or do I have to adopt them now and bottle feed until there ready to be let loose. Mother returned and is looking for her kittys. I know I probably did wrong and violated mother natures evolution. But its too late to get into that now.

Emily    Brook, IN

2/26/2009 12:56:45 PM

This is great information for bringing home a new kitten and first time cat owner.

Moni    Boise, ID

2/19/2009 3:46:42 PM

I messed up on number one. I'm still trying to fix it.

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