Kitten Advice for New Owners as Coronavirus Lockdown Eases
For many people lockdown has been the perfect time to introduce a new kitten into the family. As we begin to return to work and slowly get back into normal routines however, it’s important to remember that our kittens will also need to adjust.
For kittens, they will need to adjust to a new way of living. Cats are creatures of routine and habit, and while they may not suffer from separation anxiety in the same way dogs do, the unpredictable nature of the last few months may have given your kitten some different ideas about what their life will look and feel like in the long-term. Here are a few of the areas where your cat may need a little help in adjusting as we start to come out of lockdown and get out of the house more and more.
Establishing a daily routine for your kitten
Kittens, and likewise, adult cats who have been adopted during lockdown may not have seen what their “normal” routine will look like as you’ve probably been around more and may have stuck to different schedules. Now is a good time to establish what “normal” will look and feel like for your cat as your usual life and responsibilities pick up again. It’s especially important for kittens to have a stable routine introduced before you go back to working away from home to make sure that all their needs are being met and that the home environment is safe for them when they’re on their own.
How much to feed a kitten
As your kitten is still growing and developing, they require small but frequent meals, with the amount depending on their age and weight. These meals should be at set times throughout the day to ensure a routine is established and your kitten doesn’t become frustrated by having to wait. Dry food can be left down for grazing to ensure your kitten always has access to food but we would recommend feeding your kitten a wet and dry diet. Here's an example of what a feeding schedule could look like for your kitten:
|Age of kitten||Number of meals per day||Quantity of wet and dry food per day|
|3 months or under||Between 4 and 6 meals||1.5 pouches + 20g dry|
|4-5 months||Between 3 and 4 meals||2 pouches + 20g dry|
|6-8 months||Between 3 and 4 meals||2 pouches + 30g dry|
|9-12 months||Between 2 and 3 meals||2 pouches + 30g dry|
For more information, take a look at our advice on feeding your cat.
Ways to feed your kitten throughout the day
If you are returning to a full working day, below are some tips for ensuring your kitten will continue to have access to their meals throughout the day:
- Timed cat feeders are a good option if your kitten will need to be fed wet food whilst you are out of the house. Make sure this is set to release food at the same time each day to keep the routine consistent.
- You should leave dry food out for your kitten to graze on during the day. As well as in a bowl you could also try scattering some in a cardboard box with some scrunched up paper, or even in small piles around the house. This is a type of enrichment feeding and will give your kitten some mental stimulation and encourage their natural foraging behaviour.
- It is also important to remember that pairs of kittens should be fed in separate food bowls. Wet and dry food should be given in separate bowls so they will require two bowls each.
It is important your kitten always has access to clean, fresh water. You may notice they like to play with their water, spilling it in the process, which is completely natural. If they do, you should leave out two full bowls to allow for any spillages and make sure your kitten has access to plenty of water while you are out. Ceramic or glass water bowls are the best option as plastic bowls can release harmful chemicals over time.
Keeping your kitten occupied
Your kitten will need to be provided with mental stimulation to occupy them and stop them getting bored. This can help both your kitten’s physical and emotional well-being and stop them from displaying destructive frustration behaviours. Here a few ideas to help keep your kitten occupied:
Toys they can safely play with on their ownThese will allow your kitten to exhibit their natural hunting behaviours. Knitted mice, ping pong balls and even scrunched up paper balls are great options. Make sure that your kitten’s toys are safe for them to use when you are not around, e.g., string toys should not be left out unattended as the kitten can become tangled and may choke.
Boxes and paper bagsBoxes with holes cut out and scrunched up paper balls inside can provide hours of fun for your kitten. Paper bags with handles removed are also another cheap and cheerful option.
Giving them food in different waysGiving your kitten their dry food in different ways will encourage their natural foraging behaviours and keep them mentally stimulated. Try scattering some in a cardboard box with some scrunched up paper, or even in small piles around the house.
Scratching posts and cat treesIt’s important your kitten has a good-sized scratching post to help keep their claws in good condition while offering them opportunities to perch and hide. Placed near a window, they can also give your kitten a place to occupy themselves watching the outside world. We would suggest investing in a standard-sized scratching post and cat tree with different levels as this will mean your kitten gets a lot of use out of it as they continue to grow.
If your kitten has been left home on their own, it is important you play with them and give them some appropriate attention when you arrive home. String fishing rod toys on sticks can be a great way to play with your kitten, and will encourage them to exhibit natural predatory behaviours like pouncing, stalking and chasing.
The general rule for cat litter trays is one litter tray per cat, plus one extra. If you’ve only offered one litter tray for your kitten until now, a second litter tray will ensure they always have the option of a clean tray when you’re out at work. If your kittens are a pair, it’s best to offer three litter trays. We would recommend using large, adult-sized litter trays from the outset as this will make sure they have enough space to turn around, rake the litter and feel comfortable when using the tray and they will only have to get used to one type of tray.
For more information, take a look at our advice on cat litter trays
Keeping your kitten safe when you're not home
If your kitten is under 4 months old and you are leaving them at home alone the safest option would be to keep them to one large room that you have made safe, with everything that they need. This will protect your kitten from common household hazards and ensure they can stay safe while they’re not being supervised.
Choose a room which is big enough for your kitten to be able to sleep, rest, play, go to the toilet and eat without feeling cramped. Your kitten must have access to everything they need, but they need to be some space between them. This includes:
- Litter trays
- Scratching post
If your kitten is 4 months or older, they should be big enough to have free run of the home, as long as it has been made safe and any potential hazards have been removed and/or secured.
Kitten proofing and household hazards
Kittens are naturally curious and inquisitive when it comes to anything new. They will climb and explore around any new environment but this can sometimes get them into trouble. If you’re now returning to work or spending more time out of the house it’s important to make sure that the space your kitten is being left in is safe. These are some things to look out for:
Washing machines and tumble dryersKittens and cats are attracted to the warmth of an open washing machine or dryer. Always keep doors closed when not in use and when you are not home, and make sure to check your laundry pile before placing it in the machine in case your kitten has cuddled up in there for a snooze.
Chemicals and cleaning productsPlace these well out of reach in a secure cupboard or another area that your kitten cannot get to. Be careful to clean up any spillages too. If your kitten steps in something harmful and then licks their paw it could be very dangerous.
MedicinesEven in small amounts, human medicines can prove fatal to cats. Make sure these are always stored in a locked cupboard up high and never leave medications out unattended.
ChimneysKittens and cats like dark, enclosed places. Fireplaces should be covered so your kitten cannot find their way up into the crevices of the chimney.
Plants and cut flowersSome houseplants and flowers can be very dangerous and sometimes lethal to cats and kittens and so should not be kept at home. International Cat Care provides an extensive list of plants and flowers which are harmful to cats.
Bathrooms and sinksAlways keep toilet seat lids down to prevent your kitten falling in. If your kitten’s litter tray is not located in the bathroom, it may be best to keep this room out of bounds while you’re out of the house.
Wires and electrical appliancesKittens will find chasing and chewing wires an exciting game so these may need to be covered, at least temporarily. The same goes for electrical appliances with cords, such as irons. Your kitten could easily pull down a hot iron by playing with the cord if left unattended. You can secure wires and cables with plastic tubing which can be found quite easily on the internet. This will cover any loose wires and cables, and means they can’t be chewed.
Plastic bagsPlastic bags should be kept out of reach of cats and kittens as they could suffocate them. You should also cut the handles of any bags before you recycle them as they could get caught around your kitten’s neck.
Rubbish binsKeep these covered with secure lids and be careful when you take rubbish out, especially with swing-bins, as kittens could get trapped inside them. It is also important to ensure kittens aren’t getting their paws on anything they shouldn’t be as eating the wrong foods can cause your kitten to become unwell.
Kitchen surfaces and hazardsEnsure knives and other sharp objects are stored away in drawers. Magnetic or standard knife blocks should be kept away or out of reach.
Balconies and windowsBe careful not to accidentally leave these open. Balconies can be secured with wire mesh, and fly/insect screens are a useful solution for open windows.
Fish tanks and other small animal enclosuresEnsure any fish tank lids are securely fastened and never leave a kitten or cat unattended with a small animal, such as hamsters or gerbils.
Human food and drinkLots of food and drinks can be toxic to both cats and kittens such as milk, onions, chocolate and alcohol. Human foods should be properly stored away and out of reach from your kitten. Kittens naturally have more sensitive tummies and human food can make them sick. For more information take a look at our advice about toxic items for cats.