[dropcap]M[/dropcap]aking the decision to welcome a pet into your home isn’t one to be taken lightly. First up you need to consider the type of pet that would suit your family situation and lifestyle. Never buy a pet on impulse. Many animals are relinquished to shelters because they do not fit in with the owners’ lifestyles.
While cats may all be a similar size, there are also important differences in the various breeds, both physically and behaviourally. “Temperament differences are mainly how affectionate and loveable they are,” says Dr Hurly. “Some cats love human attention and closeness while others are comfortable on their own. The Oriental breeds tend to be more vocal and some cat breeds are more playful.”
Finding the right breeder
Selecting a registered and reputable breeder will give you peace of mind. The breeders profiled in Animaltalk and Southern Africa’s Dog Directory 2016 are good resources for finding the correct person from which to purchase your pet. Ask for contactable references. Ask to meet the puppy’s parents, especially the dam, but preferably the sire as well, so you can gauge the temperament of the parents.
Preparing your home
Sam Walpole, a qualified trainer and accredited behaviourist, says that kitten proofing your home is essential as youngsters are curious! “They use their mouths, noses and paws to experience novel items,” explains Sam. “They do not come pre-programmed to know what is safe and what is legal to investigate, play with or destroy.” Get down to your kitten’s level and make sure all electric cords, breakables, household cleaners, pesticides, small objects and rubbish bins are out of reach. If you have a swimming pool, it must be covered. Also research the plants in your home and garden. Some flora may be toxic for pets and should be removed.
Nutrition for kittens
Kittens and cats have much shorter digestive tracts than humans and need food that can be digested quickly and easily. Not all pet foods are the same, so choose the highest quality food that you can afford. These foods provide superior quality ingredients using advanced nutritional standards of manufacturing. High-quality nutrition drastically improves the health and longevity of your pet. Prior to collecting the kitten, ask the breeder what food the kittens are eating and how often they are fed. Once the kitten is home, you can change the food to another brand by gradually mixing the new food.
Your kitten’s stomach is tiny so she will need small amounts of food more often, about three to four times during the day, to receive the calories she needs. Your kitten’s bodyweight may double or triple during the first weeks to months of life, so large amounts of quality energy and nutrients packed into small kitten kibbles are required in the correct proportions to support this growth.
Getting ready for your kitten
Before you pick up your new pet, purchase the items required and set up a place in your home for the new family member. It is better to start off in one room and get kitty used to that area first before moving on to other areas of the home over a few days.
- Soft bed and blankets
- Water and food bowls
- Collar (correct size) with identification, and a lead
- Safe kitty toys and chews
- Pet first aid kit
- Grooming kit
- Cat carrier
- Optional extra: child’s playpen or baby gate
- Scratching post for kittens
Chewing is natural for teething kittens. If you don’t want your new Nikes chewed to bits, hide them away and give your kitten safe toys to chew! Watch out for toys with small plastic parts like eyes, noses and buttons.
Kittens and litter boxes
Most cat breeders introduce these fairly quickly, so your kitty may be using the box already once you bring her home. Ask the breeder what cat litter the kittens are used to and stick to this. If you want to make a change, you can gradually do so once kitty is used to your home.
Picking up your new pet
Very soon the day will arrive when the breeder will call you to collect your new pet. If you have children, rather let them wait at home to meet the new addition. Take along another adult to help you in the car. Remember to collect the kitten’s vaccination card. This is to certify that the animal has received one or two vaccines and deworming by the breeder’s vet.
First day home
Head directly home. “Keep introductions low key and quiet,” recommends Sam Walpole. “If you have a big family, allow one person in at a time and supervise the children.” Place a collar on your kitten and start calling him by her new name. Spend some play and bonding time with your new pet. Any exploring should be under your watchful eye. Kittens sleep – a lot. So if your little one wants to rest, allow him to do so in his new bed, away from the bustle of the family.
Socialisation for kittens
While not a new concept, few organisations offer socialisation classes for kittens. Some have educational classes that are for owners only – the kitten isn’t involved. Many cat owners aren’t aware that kittens also need to be socialised with people and pets. Cats are often not exposed to anything when they are young. This poses a problem when the owners want to get another cat (or dog) or there are stray cats on the property. A well-adjusted and social cat will have less stress when changes take place in the household.
When adoption’s an option
You are generally spoilt for choice at shelters. There are usually dogs and cats of all ages – from puppies and kittens to young animals and older pets who would love a forever home. If you choose a dog, little may be known about the parents, so you will need to rely on the expertise of the shelter staff in determining the average adult size of the pup you choose.
Different shelters have different adoption processes. You will probably have to undergo a home check. You will be asked to pay an adoption fee, which should include vaccinations, deworming and sterilisation. Some shelters also require the owner to pay for mandatory microchipping.
Text: Gina Hartoog