I Seem to Be Acquiring a Kitten
August 6, 2013 6:46 AM   Subscribe

I have had cats for long stretches of my adult life, but I've never "started from a kitten." Looking for advice, details to follow. Note. I do not have the kitten yet, so no pictures. Sorry.

So, I have agreed to take a kitten (probably ~10 weeks old when I get him). I was originally planning on getting an older cat, but things have worked out this way. I've met him and interacted a bit, and he seems like a bright, lively little guy. However, as I have said, I have not raised a cat from a kitten before, so I am looking for any general advice along with the following specific issues:

1. I think I am set for litter box, food bowls, a little cat bed for window ledges. I am getting some of the toys he likes as well as the food and litter he is used to, to ease the transition. I figure I am going to get a fairly basic scratching post thing until I have an idea of what he likes.

2. I am getting a vet lined up. He still needs a few shots and a neutering plan.

3. Here's the big one -- I am generally around in the evenings and on the weekends, and I expect to devote a lot of time playing with and socializing the little guy. However, during the week, I am out of the house for maybe 10-11 hours at a time, and I worry about him being lonely or getting neurotic. An older cat, I wouldn't worry about, but a kitten? I am debating getting a second cat to keep him company. Would it be OK to wait a few weeks and see how he reacts before making that decision?

4. What am I forgetting?

AskMe cat people, I expect you to not let me down!
posted by GenjiandProust to Pets & Animals (31 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Second kitty for sure. Little ones love the stimulation. Prepare for your house/apartment to be a little destroyed when you get home.

Kitty will probably hide for the first few days in its new home. Don't worry too much, but kitty proof the place as best you can.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:47 AM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Definitely urge second kitty. They enjoy each other so much and it really helps with their socialization. It also helps curtail rambunctious urges as they take them out chasing and playing with each other. 10-11 hours alone is fine for an older cat, but kittens get very lonely. A few weeks really wouldn't be enough time to tell, because part of what causes the loneliness is time itself.

You seem to have most of the basics covered. You are only forgetting: remember to introduce kitten to the house one room at a time, or at least starting with only one room. It makes them feel safer about exploring the rest of the house.

Oh, and not that I think this is likely to happen, but if you have a house with an attic and any exposed machine room or anything - lock the door. This is how I wound up with a vent cat.
posted by corb at 6:52 AM on August 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

Agree with the second kitty. Our kitties were kitten brothers when we got them and have been together ever since. Only downside: chasing each other at 3am over our bed. Good times.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 6:56 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I recently got a pair of kittens. We wavered on one or two, and I thank my lucky stars pretty much daily that we went with two. Partly because they are cute, sure, but mostly because they have So. Much. Energy. I think just one would go absolutely batty, and/or destroy my house, and/or destroy my Old Man Cat, who loves to play with them but can in no way keep up with their extended rampages.

If your little guy has littermates, I think the benefit of getting two littermates who already have a relationship might outweigh your desire to wait a few weeks and see. (The cat introduction period can be a pain.) But if you'd be getting unrelated kittens anyway, there's probably no harm in waiting, other than perhaps to your couch cushions or whatever other material the kitten uses to burn off the excess energy.

I'd suggest that you get a nail clipper and a brush, and a kitten-sized harness if you want to leash train, and start on all those things as soon as he's comfortable with you. You want to train 'em young so these things all become routine or even enjoyable, not Cause For High Drama.

Kittens will go after dangling electrical cords like crazy. If you can, tuck them away or put a cord cover on them or something to minimize likelihood of your kitten chomping down on a cord.
posted by Stacey at 6:59 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Kittens have so much ENERGY. And they will get into any little hole or crevice that you otherwise think a cat couldn't reach (a hole in the rafters in which she gets herself stuck in) or won't fit (tiny hole at the base of a staircase).

Ask me how I know.
posted by royalsong at 7:00 AM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

We adopted our two littermates and they endlessly amused each other while we were out.

Babies sleep a lot at first, and when they're awake, DESTRUCTION!

We tried to keep them in one room, but they figured out how to work doorknobs.

Keep food and water available all day. We free fed ours, little tummies can only hold so much, so they need crunchies to be around all the time.

Our babies shared a can of Fancy Feast in the evening and still do.

nthing cords. Squirting helped a LOT! Cord covers are better.

Handle the paws and trim nails often.

Love, love, love your babies.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:07 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's not a big deal to introduce a kitten to another kitten, so don't worry about that part if you don't feel ready to commit to two at once. They're generally pretty pleased to see other kittens while they're still young and haven't developed that defensive territoriality that cats get as they grow up.

However! When you're talking cats (and kittens especially), two is always better than one, both for them and for you. Kittens have so, so much energy (really, you can never be prepared for how much insanity is going to come into your life when you get a kitten) and it takes a lot of pressure off you as the sole entertainment source when they have another cat around. Plus, it's going to be so cute if you have two kittens. Just imagine how cute it will be.
posted by something something at 7:13 AM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

they will get into any little hole or crevice that you otherwise think a cat couldn't reach

This is probably the biggest difference between cats/kittens besides the energy factor. Places kittens get in besides the rafters include sometimes the space behind the sink that may have a hole that goes into the walls (in the bathroom or the kitchen) or a closet that may go waaaaay back on one side, or inside a box on a high shelf. Point being: sometimes they vanish and this is mostly okay. You may be used to this with older cats but it's crazy with kittens. Only other cautionary kitten tale I have is that they're not always super savvy with their claws yet, so yes scratchy things (the box o' cardboard usually works just fine if you want something for starters) but be careful about things that they could get caught up in like curtains or window screens.

I would also suggest multiple kittens. The work on your end isn't much higher and they socialize better. That said, waiting a bit for a second cat or kitten is likely just fine, so no need to put a rush on things.
posted by jessamyn at 7:17 AM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Move breakables into storage. That cabinet in your kitchen? The one that's too high to be a jumping spot and holds you granny's cookie jar? BOTH ARE FAIR GAME FOR JUMPING KITTEN.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:21 AM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My kittens loved THE CARDBOARD BOX CONDO. Take a largish cardboard box, put it open side down and cut a kitten-sized door in one wall. Put a blanket/towel in it. My kittens loved this and as they grew, they chewed the door wider.
posted by plinth at 7:26 AM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, yeah, lots of cardboard boxes. We get packages fairly regularly of all sizes, and they make great temporary toys. Kitty yacht, kitty department store, etc.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:30 AM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I was all set to say you could stick with the one kitten but now everyone has me thinking about the purring ball of fur on my feet whom we adopted with her brother, and how much better-socialized she is than the single kitten my father has lovingly raised. I think as far as their cat-ness goes they're usually fine either way, but paradoxically he'll be more of a "pet" cat if he has a buddy.

In addition to jumping, kittens climb. Mesh screens, draperies, your legs: all of these make nice tree-substitutes. It's adorable when they're tiny but should be strongly discouraged because as they get bigger they'll destroy all of your things long before they figure out they're too heavy.
posted by teremala at 7:36 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Two kittens. It's probably best to get them at the same time, or close to. A male-female pair is fine (though not all shelters will adopt a mixed gender pair unless both are neutered before they get to your house), so is a male-male pair.

Kittens are adorable. Which is good because they like to play in the middle of the night, ideally with you. They like to climb everything, including you. They get into places that it really is not possible for them to fit into and is almost impossible for you to get them out of. They eat a lot for their size.
posted by jeather at 7:42 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: there will be so much energy. i hadn't had a kitten since i was a kid. and when we got a kitten ~2 years ago i was not expecting it. i was super stressed out by all the running and jumping and destruction. our older cat was too. get two kittens. GET TWO KITTENS. twice the snuggles and loves and they will play with each other.

also, it is not their fault if they eat your grandmother's wedding ring or lose your favorite pen under the radiator. IT IS YOUR FAULT FOR NOT PUTTING IT AWAY. you have a kitten (or kittens!) now. you no longer get to have nice things. if you are a person who would rather have a leather couch than a cat (or two!) who will purr into your neck on your worst, most depressed days, then you shouldn't get a cat.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:56 AM on August 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

In our basement we have a pony wall around some waste pipes. When Eartha was little, she shinnied down the pipe, behind the wall and we had to cut a hole to let her out.

So we had to cover some holes in the wall before we put our house on the market. One cover says, "Plumbing Clean-Out Access" the other says "Cat Access". I think the lady who bought the house has cats, because it wasn't on the 'Repair list'.

Get a drywall saw.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:59 AM on August 6, 2013

Two cats are easier than one.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:59 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Piling on recommending a second kitten. Seriously. You do not want to be your kitten's primary source of entertainment if at all possible. Especially since you'll be gone that many hours during the day. A single kitten would be ok, but two will be much much better.

The best thing I did with my kittens was make it habit to frequently handle their paws, a lot. Now I can clip all of their nails, no problem. In fact, they think it's a game and try and play with the clippers. Human cat friends are jealous. On that note, start getting them used to be brushed/combed (or better yet, vacuumed!!) now. It's a lot easier to get them used to stuff like that when they're small.

The thing I didn't do quite a well was squash those "bad" behaviours that are so freaking cute when it's coming from a kitten, but not so cute when it comes from a 15lb beast cat. Trying to climb my leg, chewing on my watch, even allowing them to kneed me to death - all things that are much harder habits to break in a full grown cat.

We expect a photographic follow-up when the kitten(s) do arrive.
posted by cgg at 8:06 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I probably should have mentioned above that the collective noun for our kittens is The Ruckus. That may tell you what you need to know about their energy levels.
posted by Stacey at 8:07 AM on August 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

The thing about kittens is that, while they're energetic, they don't really need you around the way a dog does. At 10-11 weeks they probably already know how to use the litter tray thanks to their mother. You basically just have to convince them not to rip the sofa to shreds (my big mistake when my cat Toki was a tinycat) and learn to deal with midnight sorties against your feet under the covers.

I agree with Stacey to get all up in their tiny faces and cat hands. I did that with my cat, mostly because TINY CAT HANDS, and he's now very chill when it comes to claw clipping time. Get them appropriate stuff to scratch, climb, and bat around and they'll be all good when you're gone all day.

If you do decide to get two cats it might be worthwhile to look into vet insurance, but that's the subject of a whole different thread.
posted by nerdfish at 8:16 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Congrats! Here are a few tips the rescue I volunteer with gives. Apologies in advance if it's tl;dr.

1. Stuff:
a. Scratching post: I highly recommend this and this, together with this. Most cats won't use doorknob scratchers, because they wobble so much. A lot of cats also don't like the cheap cardboard scratchers that are on the floor, because they prefer to scratch vertical surfaces to stretch their backs. Also, jute and sisal both last longer than carpet.
b. Bitter Apple, to discourage wire chewing and couch-scratching
c. Feliway (might not need this, unless you introduce an adult cat into the mix)

2. Vaccines:
a. The first vaccine is called the FVRCP, or the 3-in-1. It protects against two fatal and super contagious (airborne) upper respiratory diseases, as well as distemper. If Kitten has already had the first booster, the second one should be administered three to four weeks later. Kitten should have had the first vaccine at 7 or 8 weeks, so the second is given at about 12 weeks.

b. Rabies vaccines are required by RI law, but the adjuvant used in most rabies vaccines is causally linked with fibrosarcomas in cats -- malignant tumors at the injection site. You might ask your vet about PureVax, a vaccine that does not contain the adjuvant used in most rabies vaccines. If your cat will be going outdoors at all, you absolutely need a rabies vaccine. This should be done when Kitten is 3 mos. old.

c. This same adjuvant is used in the feline leukemia vaccine, which protects against FELV and FIV. Again, if Kitten will be allowed outdoors or in the company of untested cats, the vaccine is necessary. If Kitten will only spend time with other cats who have already tested negative, you might be able to skip this one.

d. After that, instead of doing yearly vaccinations you can ask your vet to run a titer, which will tell you whether the antibodies are still present. This way you're ensuring your cats are protected against rabies, FELV and FIV, but you don't risk over-vaccination.

a. Totally adopt kittens in pairs. They grow up together and don't get as lonely. They get more exercise, because they chase each other around. They're more likely to socialize well with other cats later on. If Kitten has a brother or sister who are also up for adoption, that would be ideal. You could also look for another kitten who is the same age, or just about. If you get two kittens, make sure you leave them in a "kitten-safe" environment for the day. Don't leave kittens unattended around wires/electronics, or at least spray the wires daily with Bitter Apple. Don't leave medicine out, or the Comet behind the toilet. Keep the toilet lid closed! Kittens can drown in toilet bowls. Make sure there's plenty of food and water. (Kittens eat 1.5 to 2 times what adult cats eat a day, which works out to 9 about ounces of wet food. They get on the regular meal plan at about four months. If you need to introduce dry food in order to get the kitten(s) enough calories, you should aim for an 80/20 wet to dry ratio.)

b. If you adopt an adult cat and a kitten at the same time, and they haven't been living together previously, you will need to be able to sequester them separately during the day for at least the first month. Adult cats will take to kittens better than they'll take to other adult cats, mostly. But you can't leave them unattended until you see that the adult cat is not being aggressive to the kitten in any way. You'd also be getting acquainted with this second cat right at the same time you'd be getting to know the kitten, and you wouldn't be able to provide your undivided attention to either of them. I would suggest waiting a few months before adopting a second cat, if that cat is an adult. If you're concerned about leaving Kitten alone for long stretches of time, you could consider hiring a college kid to come look in on your cat(s) for half an hour every day.

Also, congrats!
posted by brina at 8:48 AM on August 6, 2013 [46 favorites]

Two. Two kittens.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:20 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

The first rule is the most important rule: Hands aren't toys!

Your hands are not for play fighting with kittens. Use a stuffed animal or Da Bird or something. Do not let them play with your hands. No really, don't. Yeah, it's absolutely adorable when they are teeny babies and you'll give in and let them do it anyway once in a while... but, and I speak from experience, a year old 15# tom clawing and biting at your hands in residual kittenish frenzy is no longer cute.

Okay it's still pretty cute, but it hurts! Oh my god it hurts.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:20 AM on August 6, 2013 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Yes! Hands are not toys! Hands are only for scritches and pets and gentle handling and happy-smacks (happy-smacks are when you smack-pat your cat's butt, because holy crap most cats LOVE that, and if they do enjoy it, you will know because they raise up their butt and start going "PURRRRRRR" while languidly closing their eyes – if a cat gets pissed at you, that means it does not like it, so stop).

All it takes to discipline a cat is a firm "no!" and if really, really necessary, a gentle, firm index finger on the nose. It's how mama cats say "no", though they tend to be more aggressive. As a human ten times the size of a mama cat, however, you only need to gently, gently tap a finger on their nose for them to get the point. I hardly ever remember needing to do that with my cats, though; only once when my little ninja was going "UR HAND IS MAH PREY" after several repeated no's. You don't want to hit cats at all. First off, they don't understand it; second, related to that, they'll just avoid you wholesale eventually. It's why consistent gentleness is so important: they'll associate you with kindness, and so if ever there's an emergency where you need to somewhat manhandle the cat (say, they've had a bad fall and you need to grab the anxious, hurt cat and put it in its carrier), they'll be a lot more likely to let you.

Nthing get a companion cat if you can. They keep each other company, it makes a huge difference.

And yes, kittens climb everything. Walls included.

They also like to do gardening, so get thee a dedicated pot of cat grass. You don't need to buy cat grass, by the way - you can just get regular ol' grass seeds and plant them as needed. They keep for a couple years when stored in dry, dark conditions.
posted by fraula at 10:20 AM on August 6, 2013 [8 favorites]

PS. In addition to getting your kittens accustomed to you clipping their claws whilst they are young, you might also want to get them started on a toothbrushing routine. Otherwise you will eventually end up with a dental bill of like $300 a year, with anesthesia and everything. Toothbrushing! You'll feel awesome when your vet comments on your kitties' lovely gums.
posted by brina at 10:56 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One of the best pieces of advice I got when I got kittens was to pick them up and handle them and poke them a lot - no, even more than that. It's paid off because I have adult cats who are totally cool with me poking them and prodding them and doing vet-related things and handling their paws and claws and stuff.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:34 PM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah, like 20thing the getting two cats, especially if you are gone during the day. My older six year old cat is poorly socialized, I think, because of being alone a lot as a kitten. I was working full time and so only saw him in the evenings for the first few months of his life, it was better when I was a graduate student, but still maternal guilt! He's bonded to me and my boyfriend, but is pretty aggressive with everyone else (hissing/scratching). It seems like a pretty classic anxiety/attachment thing, I'd definitely diagnose him as "fearful avoidant" insecure attachment. My younger, four year old cat is a doll, extremely well-socialized, and securely attached. I got him as a friend/brother for the older, and my older cat's behavior has markedly improved with the younger cat around, and we don't have any behavior problems with the younger one. He's extremely friendly and has won over many non-cat people. Learn from my mistake and get two! I still feel bad that my ignorance gave my older cat a poor kittenhood and pretty permanent anxiety issues. :(
posted by amileighs at 12:46 PM on August 6, 2013

My baby kitten that I adopted from the humane society when in August 09 is *still* a manic little smashy-bouncy critter whose favorite game is destruction.

So 21sting getting two kittens, not just one.

Also, put away anything that will not survive a plummet from a height. Especially take down any venetian blinds you have up and replace them with curtains, or you will find yourself looking at broken blinds in 4 years time and thinking "I really should replace those someday".
posted by jrochest at 3:27 PM on August 6, 2013

Two kittens! Let them chase and attack each other, and they'll be much less likely to chase and attack you.

I got litter mates, and for me one advantage was that since they were the same age, they were on the same vaccination schedule, so it was only one trip to the vet for each round (and there were three rounds required in two months, and it was originally going to be four rounds but they were able to combine a couple).
posted by jaguar at 10:26 PM on August 6, 2013

Kitty claw caps! They are amazing! They are soft plastic nails that you glue over your cat's clipped claws; it keeps them from scratching the furniture and your leg when they lovingly knead you, ow ow OW. There are several brand names and generic versions sold by pet stores—Soft Paws, Soft Claws, Kitty Claws, etc—though they're all basically the same plastic claws made in China that you can buy in bulk on eBay. The new claw grows in underneath the clipped claw, so you'll have to reapply new claw caps once every month or two. They come in kitten sizes, so start applying them when they're young so the kittens will get used to you handling their paws.

My cat actually never claws in anger and rarely scratches the furniture, but the claw caps have nonetheless been life changing: he's a really ferocious snuggler who likes to knead me with his claws in my softest tender bits OW OW, and I still have scars on my shoulders from where he likes to leap off, digging his hindclaws in for balance. The claw caps have made this MUCH more pleasant.
posted by nicebookrack at 1:35 PM on August 8, 2013

Expose your kittens (yeah, get 2!) to as many positive novel experiences/people/animals as you can while they're young. Invite many friends over to play gently with the kittens, introduce the kittens to gentle cat-friendly dogs, take them on car rides that end in treats and praise instead of vet office fright. Swing by the vet office just to give them treats and praise there! Thus hopefully you'll develop outgoing, relaxed cats who like strangers and can handle change well.

2-door, top-entry pet carriers are much easier to insert a reluctant cat into.
posted by nicebookrack at 1:48 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hey, just following up with a correction to my earlier answer:

The feline leukemia vaccine does not protect against FIV. There is a separate FIV vaccine, but it is even less efficacious than the FELV vaccine, and is also linked with fibrosarcomas at the injection site, along with other potential negative health effects. See here for more info.
posted by brina at 9:26 AM on August 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

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