If you have recently welcomed a new addition to your household in the form of a kitten, please accept many congratulations from the team at ROYAL CANIN®! Our priority is always to put your pet’s needs first; therefore, we recognise what an exciting and important (yet challenging) time this is for you both. We want to offer you our best wishes and support not only for the start of your adventure together with your kitten but throughout your cat’s life.
Understandably, when a young kitten is involved, milestones will quickly be reached, things will change rapidly and there will always seem to be an awful lot to keep up with. Therefore, we have summarised a quick guide of what to expect and when to expect it – when it comes to your growing feline!
6-7 weeks old
At this point you will probably have chosen your kitten and hopefully visited the whole litter and Mum at the breeder’s house – but your pet is still likely to be being cared for by its Mum for now. Make sure you have spoken to your kitten’s breeder about ongoing healthcare including: diet, worming, flea treatment and vaccinations. The breeder should have already started with most of these. Register your new pet with a local vet that you have spoken to and are happy with, ensuring they can provide immediate ongoing care as soon as the kitten is under your ownership. Alongside any direct healthcare arrangements, the most important time period in your kitten’s healthy social development is up to the age of about 7 weeks. Therefore, it is really important to ensure your new pet has come from a happy home, where the kittens were handled regularly by humans and ideally where they will have experienced as many sights and sounds as possible, including: children, people of all ages and both sexes and other, healthy and fully-vaccinated pets to name just a few. Ask the breeder about their commitment to all of this and ideally try to ensure you see socialisation in action if you visit your kitten with its Mum before you commit to purchasing your pet.
7-8 weeks old
You are likely to collect your new kitten around this time, remember to take with you a cat box with soft bedding inside, as travelling with a loose cat can be dangerous. Before your pet’s arrival, make sure your house is cat-proof and buy all the kit you need before kitten arrives (if you need more information about this, there is plenty available on the ROYAL CANIN® UK website). Time the arrival of your new kitten to coincide with a quiet period in your household, so as to reduce the effects of stress on your new cat. To minimise the risk of digestive upsets, remember it is best not to switch your kitten’s diet to one of your choice until they are well-settled in their new environment. Even then, if you do decide to switch their food you need to do so very gradually. This means you need to make sure you have plenty of the food they are currently being fed available when they arrive home with you.
Up to the age of 16 weeks
Even though the most critical period in your cat’s behavioural development is up to the age of about 7 weeks, this extended time period is still a very sensitive stage for your kitten when it comes to their learning and socialisation. Once your new kitten is home it is vital to continue socialising them to ensure they develop into confident and well-rounded adult cats. This socialisation should include plenty of well-supervised play-time so your cat can develop its “hunting” skills. Make sure toys are safe before every play session and put them away out of reach when human supervision is not available. Start and stick to all good habits as soon as your kitten has settled in to its new home -usually after a week or two of acclimatisation. These “good habits” should include: litter training, handling and grooming, avoiding biting human hands, cat-flap training, regular feeding times and a gentle introduction to tooth-brushing – to name just a few. Take advantage of any trips to your local vets – many will offer low-cost or free behavioural advice from experienced nurses so you can start good habits at a young age and pick up further great tips. Don’t be afraid to ask the veterinary receptionist if these appointments are available. Kittens should have had all their vaccinations well before they reach 16 weeks of age so they can start outside socialisation, if your plan is to allow them out. You will probably want to supervise them at all times if they go outside before they are neutered, as early pregnancies are always a real possibility. Your vet will be able to give the best and most tailored guidance for your situation. From around 4 months of age, ROYAL CANIN® also recommends switching your kitten’s diet gradually to one designed for the feline’s slower, second stage of growth.
Unless you plan on breeding from your kitten, neutering is generally recommended at this point, and may even be recommended earlier on – as it carries both health and behavioural benefits. Speak to your vet to get advice tailored to your pet’s specific needs and remember to discuss your pet’s diet again at this point as their dietary needs will change once they are neutered.
Around 12 months
The age at which you kitten is fully grown will depend exactly on their breed/size but most cats are considered fully grown at around 12 months of age. Don’t forget, even once fully mature, your cat will still need you to lead structured play time with them and provide ongoing socialisation opportunities for them to ensure their skills are continuously honed.