Kittens For Dummies
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Who can resist a kitten — a fuzzy bundle of mad antics and big, winsome eyes? If you’re contemplating getting a kitten, you need to know what traits to look for, what supplies to have on hand, and what to watch out for — both in your home and in your kitten’s behavior — so that your feline friend stays happy and healthy.

How to detect kitten emergencies

You usually don’t have to do much to keep your kitten healthy. But kittens are rambunctious, not to mention curious, and your small feline bundle of fur may encounter something that necessitates a quick trip to the vet.

Emergency care is required for everything from eating something she shouldn’t to catching the feline flu. Take your kitten to the vet immediately if you notice

  • Bleeding you can’t stop

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Unconsciousness or lethargy

  • Staggering or seizures

  • Bloody pee or poop

  • Pooping more than twice in an hour or straining in the litter box with no results

  • Repeated bouts of vomiting in a short time or diarrhea with vomiting

  • Signs that he’s swallowed something poisonous ― mouth irritation, drooling, vomiting, seizures, or fever

  • Signs of pain, such as swelling or inability to use her leg

If you suspect that your kitten has swallowed something toxic, call the Animal Poison Control Center at 800-342-9293 or 888-426-4435. The call costs $50, but it could save your kitten’s life. (The Animal Poison Control Center is part of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.)

Basic supplies for your kitten

The day your new kitten comes home to stay is bound to be memorable and, hopefully, fun for all involved. To make your pet feel right at home from the start, be sure to have these feline-friendly items on hand:

  • Sturdy carrier

  • High quality kitten food

  • Litter box, unscented cat litter, and scoop

  • Shallow food bowl and deep water bowl (neither should be made of plastic)

  • Sturdy scratching post or cardboard scratcher

  • Safe toys (without sewn-on bells or eyes that can be chewed off)

  • Brush/comb

  • Nail clipper

How to choose a kitten for a pet

When picking out a kitten, you want to find one who is healthy, happy, and ready to be a positive addition to your family. You want a kitten that demonstrates

  • Curiosity — this goes without saying, doesn’t it?

  • Friendliness

  • Playfulness

  • Purring

  • Comfort with being picked up

  • A mouth with healthy, pink gums

The following warning signs, which tell you the kitten has a health problem or might not be socialized, indicate issues you would have to deal with if you take the kitten home.

  • Listlessness

  • Gooey eyes, running nose, or sneezing

  • Visible third eyelid (like a film or goo on the inside corner of his eye)

  • Crusty stuff around butt or runny poop

  • Skin scabs or missing fur

  • Black stuff in the ears

  • Fleas or flea dirt

  • Thin with potbelly

  • An incorrigible nipper or hard biter

  • Frightened or shy

Questions to ask your vet when your kitten is sick

The veterinarian is your kitten’s friend, although an animal care pro you hope you won’t have to see too often. If your kitten has to visit the vet for an illness or injury, ask your vet these questions to explore your options and to consider safeguards against future visits:

  • What are my various treatment options?

  • How long before I can expect improvement?

  • How do I give my kitten the medicine (and what are the doses)?

  • Are there any side effects I should watch for?

  • Will he get worse before he gets better?

  • Besides giving him medication, is there anything I can do to make him more comfortable?

  • What other symptoms might she come down with related to this condition?

  • Does she need a follow-up appointment?

  • Does the kitten need to be confined or quarantined?

  • Is he contagious to the other cats, dogs, kids, and so on?

  • Will this affect his long-term health?

  • How can I keep this from happening again?

Avoid these things that could hurt your kitten

As much as your kitten has his own personality, he is not a person, and things that you use or eat every day can be very bad news for your kitten should he swallow them. This table lists foods, medicines, and other items to keep out of a kitten’s reach.

Foods Human Medicines Miscellaneous
Dog food Tylenol (acetaminophen) Liquid potpourri
Tuna Advil (ibuprofen) Pine cleaners
Onions Aspirin Dog flea products
Grapes & raisins Pepto Bismol Tobacco
Yeast dough Sunburn relief sprays Lilies (any species)
Alcoholic beverages Naproxen Antifreeze
Avocado Pseudoephedrine (decongestants) String

About This Article

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About the book author:

Dusty Rainbolt is Product Reviewer for Catnip, former Product Editor for Whole Cat Journal, and an award-winning writer.

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