When it comes to raising kittens, the philosophy is pretty similar to that of bringing up children. If you provide proper care and training when they’re young, it increases the odds they’ll grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults. So if you recently adopted a kitten, start incorporating this advice on kitten health as soon as possible.
Just as a human infant has vastly different needs than a teenager, kitten health requirements are distinct from those of a fully matured cat. In addition, you should consider a kitten’s various stages of development when caring for her:
- Under eight weeks of age. At this early age, a kitten should still be with her mother and litter mates. Because kittens this young are unable to regulate their own temperatures, they rely on one-another’s body heat to survive. In addition, they are still developing vision and leg coordination. If you adopt or foster an orphan kitten in this age group, special care will need to be taken, including bottle-feeding the kitten for every two hours up to four weeks of age and possibly helping your kitten pee and poop. It’s best to consult with a veterinarian for specific instructions and advice.
- Eight to eleven weeks of age. Kittens are usually weaned by eight weeks and should be eating kitten diet, which needs to be energy dense, rich in protein and highly digestible. Whether choosing dry kibble or wet food, be sure it is formulated for kittens. Other big changes will start occurring during this period as well. As your kitten begins developing complex motor skills she will become a force of nature — running, jumping, playing and exploring. This is a delightful period of kittenhood, but also one that can be dangerous to your kitten if she isn’t appropriately supervised. Start setting boundaries for your kitten and keep her in a safe, enclosed room while you can supervise her.
- Two to four months of age. This is a phase of rapid growth for kittens in which they’ll have almost three times more energy than an adult cat. They’ll need three to four individual meals a day during this time. According to Vetstreet.com, these meals should be minimum 30 percent high-quality protein.
- Four to six months of age. Kittens in this age group are reaching adolescence and, thus, sexual maturity. Talk to a veterinarian about having your kitten spayed or neutered before your kitten reaches this stage to avoid unpleasant habits like territorial spraying and accidental litters.
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