Make the best of your time with your cats when they are kittens because it doesn’t last long! Raising both Cinco and Manna from their kitten days has taught me a lot. There is so much that I know now that I wish I would have known back then. It is a lot easier to get a cat started on good habits when they are a kitten than to change their habits as adults. If I was able to do it again, there are 5 things that I think I would do differently.
#1 Socialize your kittens well.
I can’t help but wonder what life would be like for my shy cat, Cinco, if I would have put more effort into socializing him as a kitten. He still might have turned out to be shy, but maybe it would have helped a little with his anxiety.
Socializing a kitten isn’t very difficult, but it does take time and patience. Introduce your kitten to as many friendly people as you can. Let people gently pet and hold the kitten. Allow the kitten to experience as many different sorts of people as possible – women, men, children (always watch children around animals), tall people, short people, skinny people, fat people, men with facial hair, people wearing hats, etc. The more positive experiences they have with people, the better off they will be. Try introducing one or two people at a time so they aren’t too overwhelmed.
#2 Feed your kittens wet food from day 1.
While dry cat food shouldn’t be considered some kind of enemy, it really isn’t ideal for cats. It is bad for them in the way that eating a diet of nothing but fast food would be for me or you. Carbohydrates make up a large portion of the ingredients in dry cat food – which cats can’t get any nutrition from. Cats are obligate carnivores which means that their bodies can ONLY get nutrition out of animal proteins. Cats also get almost all of their hydration from the food they eat and very little moisture is in dry food. The combination of high carbohydrates and low moisture content in dry foods leads to problems like feline obesity, diabetes, and difficulties in the kidneys and urinary tract.
Had I understood all of these points about feline nutrition when Cinco and Manna were kittens, they would have been on wet food from day 1. Truthfully, it has only been the past year or so that I have been finding out about this. The switch to wet food is a lot harder now than it would have been back then. Slowly but surely they have come along. They eat mostly wet food now, but for whatever reason, they want the bowl of dry food there even if they aren’t going to touch it. If I take the dry food away, they get picky about eating the wet food. Goofy kitties.
#3 Train your kittens to ride in the car.
Cinco and Manna are definitely not fans of riding in the car. They won’t even go near their carrier. It takes a lot of trickery to get them in there. Lucky for them, they have been amazingly healthy cats and it hasn’t been necessary to take them on rides very often. They will sing the song of their people from the moment they are put into their carrier to the moment they arrive back home.
Getting your kitten used to car rides is a good idea. If they are comfortable in their carrier and the car, it will be a ton easier to take them with you when you need to. For the most part cats are home bodies, but they do need to travel for visits to the veterinarian, groomer, if you take them with you on vacation or board them somewhere, and if there is an emergency where you need to evacuate your home. You might find that it would just be nice to be able to take them places with you too.
Take them on random car rides – not just to the vet. Give them some really positive car experiences. Don’t ever leave them unattended in your vehicle as it could get very hot or cold in there depending on the weather. Leave the carrier out somewhere in your home so the kitten can explore it and make it their own.
#4 Leash train your kittens.
There isn’t really a reason that it is necessary to leash train your cat, but it is a really convenient option. I wish that I would have leash trained Manna when she was a little kitten. She is such an outgoing, friendly cat that I think she would enjoy taking walks around the neighborhood with me. We used to live in a house where we had huge garage sales and she would love to mingle with the customers, but I didn’t want her out there wandering free. I tried using a leash on her, but she just wouldn’t have it. I may still try to leash train her, but it will be a lot more work now that she is an adult than it would have been when she was a kitten.
#5 Take lots of photos of your kittens.
When Cinco and Manna were kittens, I didn’t own a camera of my own. I borrowed one from my mother-in-law and took as many photos as I could. However, I still only have a handful of photos of each kitten. I wish I had more! There are a ton of things I would have loved to have captured. I treasure the few that I have.
Those little kitty days go by so fast! Take as many pictures of your kitten as you can. They are great to look back and reminisce. Kittens do the funniest things too. As cats get older, they get smarter, calmer, and less clumsy. Those silly kitten moments are the best.