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November 30, 2006

Need kitten advice!

Kittens are cute.

Exciting news! I received word this morning that my baby kitten is just about ready to come live with me. I am thrilled, of course, but also rather nervous. See, I've never lived with a baby kitten before. And even when I've gotten adult cats, I haven't been the only person around. Scary. So. Some questions for all of you experienced kitten parents:

1. The kitten is almost two months old. How self-sufficient is it at that point? How much do I have to worry about leaving it alone in the apartment while I'm at work? (I'm referring to it as "it" because I don't know yet whether it's a boy or a girl.) For the first few days, at least, I can go home once or twice during the day to check on it. Should I leave it in one super-kitten-safe room at first, rather than letting it wander around? Hmm.

2. I want to get a book with general kitten care/development stuff, as well as first aid and, um, troubleshooting? There must be a better word than that. But you know, like "if your kitten is doing A, the issue could be B or C." Any book recommendations?

3. Are there kitten-proofing issues that I might not think of? For example, I'm planning to put the litter box in the bathroom, and it just occurred to me that there's a dryer vent pipe thing open in there that a kitten could probably fit in, so I should cover that up. Any other non-obvious things like that I should watch out for?

4. Ideally, I'd like to end up with an affectionate lap kitten. I know that a lot of that has to do with innate personality, but I'm sure that upbringing affects it as well. Any tips on encouraging that behavior?

5. And how about encouraging a healthy respect for yarn and knitting?

6. And a fun question: I know there are lots of patterns out there for cat toys, beds, etc. Any favorites?

Posted by Kat at November 30, 2006 09:14 AM

Here's my advice: Have more than one litter box in the house for the first few weeks, so you can insure no accidents (especially on the knitting). For easier clean up put some newspaper or padding underneath...kittens can get messy when they learn potty training. For an affectionate and easy going kitty, pet him/her often. Especially their ears and paws. This really helps with Vet trips. I don't have any advice on safety issues, because I've never really had a cat get stuck anywhere. Most kittens are pretty curious so just keep a mindful eye on him/her. Congrats on a new kitty! :)

Posted by: aj at November 30, 2006 12:21 PM

re 6: a cardboard box. my kitten(s) [they live with mum now] want nothing to do with anything we bought them. cardboard boxes make them happiest. I am going to make both cats small acrylic blankets and at least sleep with the one for my cat for a few nights before sending it to them as she will curl up in ANYTHING that has "my scent" on it these days.

re 1: i don't know. hopefully soon i'll be able to ask the same question as i've been told i can get a kitten when we move. (though i might also want to give an older cat a home too)

re 3: i'm thinking more hamster (as she's my current concern) but look around your kitchen .. anywhere she could squeeze into easily? my cat likes to go under the recliner at mum's house and has gotten "shut" in a few times. but she was much older (at least 3yo) when it happened the first time.

re 4: if you find any good gems that work, please let me know. animals like to sit NEXT to me. it could be i have a small & boney lap, but i'd love for an animal to curl up with me. kind of like that bunny at rhinebeck that was being spun. [I'm waiting for my husband to upload the picture] actually perhaps leaving an old tshirt or something for your new kitten to curl up in so she's really used to your scent ...

Posted by: penny [aka peninah] at November 30, 2006 12:45 PM

One point: kittens are seriously inquisitive, and will poke their lovely little noses into anything they can reach (which is far more than you think possible, really!).

For the first couple of days, it might be a good idea to put the kitten and its food and water dishes into the same room as the litter box and close the door while you're out of the house.

Never, EVER, close a closet door until you're sure of where the kitten is. This is especially true if you're about to leave the home for several hours. I had to learn this lesson the hard way.

Posted by: AuntyNin at November 30, 2006 01:37 PM

Been a while since I had a cat, but I can remember a couple of things.

A kitten that young is still figuring the world out. Which means that everything is worthy of tasting, chewing, climbing on, etc. By all means, keep the kitten in a safe space when you're not home. Until you know more about how it behaves with the stuff in your house.

Electrical cords are especially chew-worthy. I've known stories of kittens found dead because they chewed on a live cord plugged into an outlet.

Small objects should be kept out of reach. Stitch markers, etc., dropped on the floor could be picked up as playthings and accidentally swallowed.

Lay down on the floor and look around the room from a kitten's perspective (as close to it as you can get, anyhow). Kittens can climb into anything their head will fit in - but may not be able to squeeze out. This includes climbing into the springs of your couch and chair upholstery from the underside, climbing into the space behind the books on your bookshelves, crawling up inside your mattress. Block access to those spaces, or keep the kitten in a different room when unsupervised.

You might consider getting a wire kennel to keep the kitten in when you're not home. It's not cruel - it's much safer, and the kitten will come to think of that as "their safe space". Look at the ones they keep the kittens in at some pet stores, that's what I'm talking about. Yes, it costs a bit of money - but the piece of mind is worth it when you can't be home all day.

All the best with your new kitten, Kat! I look forward to the day I live in a place that allows them again myself!

Posted by: Jen at November 30, 2006 02:29 PM

Ah, now here's an area where I can say I have a LOT of experience - I currently have NINE cats ranging in age from 6 months to 7 years :)

Definitely cover up the vent - if they can squeeze in somewhere, they will!

Kitten proofing - anything you care about that can be knocked off of furniture, put away. Anything that they can chew and eat that might hurt them, put away (really think about everything that's out).
Make sure there are no cords hanging from blinds, etc.

As for leaving her/him home alone - he/she'll be fine as long as there is water, food, and a litter box and you have made sure there is nothing to hurt him/herself with.

As for the yarn - mine pretty much know if I throw a ball of yarn on the floor - it's theirs. If I'm knitting, they rarely bother my yarn. Occasionally, I'll have to shoo them away.

NEVER, EVER, leave yarn (or bamboo needles) out where he/she can find it (even in a bag - they are great at getting inside a bag). Keep it tucked away behind closed doors when you aren't around.


Posted by: Julie at November 30, 2006 03:05 PM

Oh yeah, one more thing. To encourage the lap kitty behaviour - spend a lot of time holding and cuddling. But beware - they can become pretty demanding :)

Posted by: Julie at November 30, 2006 03:07 PM

Congrats on your new baby. I doubt you'll need to do much for your kitten really. Show him the litter box so he knows where it is. Perhaps stick him in the box after eating so he gets the idea really quick. If you have drapes hang the ends up so your kitty doesn't climb them. Alos if you get a christmas tree tie it seculaly as all of my babies climbed the tree until they got old and fat. Unless she's sick she won't need any extra care or worry. Kittens are really really easy compared to a dog.

Posted by: Maryellen at November 30, 2006 03:12 PM

Kitten! Exciting! Do you have a name picked out?!

At eight weeks s/he should be fairly self sufficient. It will obviously need the kind of things all cats need (feed me, water me, litter me) but other than that s/he should be fine. You may want to bring something home with him/her that smells like its mom, and leave that in a place where kitty will probably be spending a lot of time.

Kittens like wires, and spraying water at a cat near electricity is a Very Bad Idea. We have a bunch of noisemakers that we use to deter Charlie from doing stupid things, I'll give one to you. (My favorite even has a kitty on it!)

Do you have a bed for kitten? Someone gave me one that I know Charlie will never use, would you like it?

Posted by: ali at November 30, 2006 03:19 PM

IKitten! Yay! As for the trouble he/she can get into, think of it as a two year old without thumbs. I would lock him/her in a kitten proof room the first several days, and then watch carefully when you are home for any trouble. What fun!

Posted by: Jeanne at November 30, 2006 04:35 PM

Oh, Congratulations on the baby kitty....

I have a really good book and I think I found it at a discount place called: Help! The Quick Guide to First Aid for your Cat...by Michelle Bamberger DVM. It's not a huge book - but it covers typical emergencies to life saving stuff.

So, you want a lap cat...When I first adopted Killian from the pound - he was about six weeks old. I really wanted to encourage him to be a loving little thing - so at night when I went to bed I would hold him against me and wrap my arms around him and he would snuggle so cute. (I was single then) Now - 10 years later and at 24 pounds - he will jump up in the recliner with me and sleep cuddled next to me...he also will sleep right next to me on top of the covers in bed...usually down around my knee...

You might consider keeping the baby in one room for the first few days - so that he doesn't get overwhelmed with all the exploring and he will get used to his new home...

Again, good luck and I hope the new kitty brings you great joy!!!!

Posted by: Sara at November 30, 2006 04:40 PM

Kittens are so much fun!! You are so lucky. If you are anything like me when you first get him/her you'll want to go home lots to play with it. I'd start off with one room then let the kitten explore with you around then they have somewhere to retreat too if it gets too much. Stroke your kitten lots and let them get used to you handling it.

Posted by: mrspao at November 30, 2006 04:54 PM

I've raised four kittens so far and each one is unique. That said, a kitten that age is normally pretty self-sufficient. Show it the litter pan, the food, and the water. It needs to be told where these things are at least once when it gets into its new home.

Most times you can let it roam around without a problem. If it's scared it'll have accidents and that's when you need to confine it to a small space (the bathroom is a good choice) at first and let it acclimate one room at a time. Is there a chance you can take custody on your day off? That will let you gauge the situation. That will also help you kitten proof. Follow the kitten and see what he wants to get into that he shouldn't.

I don't think you need a kitten book so much as the phone number to your emergency animal hospital. If something happens, call them. Really, cats love being the exception to the rule. It's their nature.

The best thing I've found to making a cat affectionate is to be affectionate to the cat. Take kitty to bed with you (unless you have a rule about no cats on the bed). Kitty will wander off. If you wake up for something, get the cat. She or he will feel very loved by this. Spend a lot of time with the cat. They love people who seem to love them.

Kitty must have a healthy respect for yarn because the fiber can wrap around the intestines of a cat and kill them. For some cats, overload seems to do the trick. Candy has seen so much yarn it doesn't phase her anymore. Keep your yarn in ziploc bags, or out of reach, so kitty can't get to it. While we're on the topic, cats don't drink milk. It can get them very sick. Water is the right beverage of choice for kittens and cats.

For cat toys, I have gone through hundreds of them and nothing pleases quite so well as the hollow core of a roll of paper towels. Your cat will like what your cat likes, however. Be sure if you knit it you felt it so the fibers can't come loose and be swallowed.

Congratulations on the new arrival. :)

Posted by: Ivy at November 30, 2006 05:12 PM

1. At two months a kitten should be pretty well weaned from its mother and able to handle hard or canned food (though kitten chow is preferable that young). You'll want to watch closely at first to see how well litter-trained it is; that's the biggest concern I can think of with leaving it alone. Depends on how mischievous it is, too, e.g. whether the drapes are safe and such...If you can keep an eye on it at first to make sure it goes to the litter box when necessary and isn't getting into everything, it'll probably be okay to wander; but until you can see how it behaves a single room when it's alone would help.

2. I don't know about any kitten-specific books, but The Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook - http://www.amazon.com/Cat-Owners-Home-Veterinary-Handbook/dp/0876057962/sr=8-1/qid=1164925042/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-7891722-2191303?ie=UTF8&s=books - has been invaluable in emergencies, and it has a section on caring for kittens.

3. Houseplants? Some are poisonous to cats: http://www.cfainc.org/articles/plants.html

6. My cats generally like this crochet pattern: http://terrathree.livejournal.com/31571.html

Posted by: Becki at November 30, 2006 05:18 PM

kittens are like babies. anything small and moveable they're going to get it. so get on your hands and knees and look around and see what little trinkets it could get to.. you should go get some cat toys like the balls with bells in them or make some cat nip toys for it. also a scratching post or something for it to scratch on and climb up on. also any yarn you probably want put away not up but in a cupboard so it can't get it. b/c it will play with it.. but really kittens aren't hard at all. they're lovely.
i hope that helps you out. our kitten is 6 months old and is wonderful! they're pretty easy you just need to show them first thing where the litter box is and their food.

Posted by: allena at November 30, 2006 05:56 PM

Unfortunately, I'm NO help here whatsoever (dogs, not cats, in this house), but I'm sure you'll do fine--and I'll bet that kitten will be adorable!

Posted by: --Deb at November 30, 2006 06:44 PM

Can't offer much advice, but I can't wait to meet him or her!

Posted by: Cory at November 30, 2006 06:52 PM

Ah a friend of mine recently lost her adult cat (she -- the cat -- had had a long life) and she got a couple kittens. I've never had kittens (we're a dog family) but from listening to her experiences, having forgotten how rambunctious kittens are, it seems that they like to climb curtains, eat plants, and chase felted mice on strings.

Good luck and WE WANT PICTURES!

Posted by: twig at November 30, 2006 09:36 PM

Oooh! I can't wait to hear cute kitten stories.

1) Your kitten will be able to find its food and litter box by itself and stuff. (You might want to get a small, shallow litter box to use at first.) But kittens are very curious, somewhat stupid, and teeny tiny, and thus prone to getting in a lot of trouble when left unsupervised. When I first got Rowdy, he crawled through a teeny tiny hole under the molding for my kitchen cabinets and spent a morning in a corner space between cabinets. Scherzo used to climb into the fridge, oven, and dishwasher all the time, and once fell into the toilet when I wasn't home. I would definitely recommend setting up a safe room where kitty will stay when you're at work--possibly for quite awhile, depending on the how naughty it is. Also, kittens are supposed to eat a small amount of food every few hours, so you might want to look into getting a timer dish for when you are at work or sleeping.

2) I recommend Cats for Dummies. It will tell you what supplies you need, how to tell if its sick, what plants are poisonous, etc.

3) Check and make sure there aren't any holes under your kitchen cabinets! Make sure you keep the washer and dryer closed. A lot of cats and kittens are attracted to drawers, so always check for a kitten inside before you close one--they can also get into the space back behind your drawer, and then they might get smushed if you close it.

4) I don't really have any tips for encouraging affection. I think you're getting it young enough that this is likely to happen on it's own. I guess just pick it up and hold it often.

5) Be VERY careful about leaving yarn around. Like, no unattended yarn, ever. I have a drawstring bag that I stick my current knitting project in, and keep all my extra yarn zipped up in a big duffel bag.

6) I've never knitted anything for my cats because I'm too worried about the safety issues that might come with unraveling. Some cats are chewers, others aren't. But if you make your kitten a sweater, I want to see pictures.

Posted by: AmyK at November 30, 2006 09:58 PM

Congrats!!!!!!! The eggroll (from feline dim sum in knitty) was a favorite toy of young Chaos. In fact, he loved and destroyed it. :)

The best way to make an affectionate kitten is to play with the kitten, talk to the kitten, hold the kitten, praise the kitten, play with the kitten, comfort the kitten.

I left Chaos out and about when he was a kitten, since he was the only one here. I removed all yarn, needles, string, breakables, etc, from his environment so he couldn't hurt himself to easily. He managed to break a few things, but no injuries to him. And he didn't kill any plants - just succeeded in scaring himself away from playing with them by breaking a pot or two. May has also broken a pot or two, but has since backed off from the plants.


This book had surprisingly useful info: http://www.amazon.com/Cat-Owners-Manual-Instructions-Troubleshooting/dp/1931686874/sr=8-1/qid=1164944008/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-5744945-5775264?ie=UTF8&s=books

The Humane Society's book on cat care is also good.

Good luck to you both and feel free to email with questions!

Posted by: Chris at November 30, 2006 10:34 PM

Kittens are adorable, also psycho. Yep, they can eat on their own and are litter-trained by that age. As far as cuddly goes, some is personality, but I really think you can encourage the lap cat. Rewarding for good and disapproving of bad seems to work the best.

My daughter's cats love wool, mostly to cuddle in, rather than to play with. There are a number of knitted/felted cat beds (much loved by our kitties) patterns out there. I've done the one by Cat Bordhi.

Enjoy your new family member!

Posted by: Diane at November 30, 2006 11:26 PM

Lucky you!

It's been years since I had a cat, but can tell you to make sure that your closet doors are closed at all times. My cats favorite occupation was to sneak in to the closet, leap up onto the clothes and 'parachute' back down. They had fun, I did not enjoy replacing the work wardrobe.

Posted by: Kat at December 1, 2006 12:35 AM

To encourage lap sitting you do need to spend a little time cuddling, holding, and petting your kitten. Especially in the first few weeks so it can bond with you. As far as yarn and fiber go I'm not to sure. Our kitten Max who is about 5 months old now still gets into my yarn and his favorite thing to do is sit on my lap while I'm knitting and batt at the yarn dangling from my project. Good luck with your new kitten!

Posted by: Kelly at December 1, 2006 08:44 AM

You might want to be sure to keep the toilet lid down, as well. My cats really are that dumb, so I was always careful to keep the toilet closed when they were wee, so they wouldn't fall in.

Congrats on the new kitty!

Posted by: KnitPrincess at December 1, 2006 09:12 AM

Congrats on your new kitty! Aaah, it seems like so long ago when I brought mine home. Sigh...

Anyway, some answers to your questions:

1. Both of my kitties (brought home separately at ages 6 weeks and 6 months) were very self-sufficient and I could leave them for whole work days. Of course, the first few days, I managed to get home home in about 5 hours to check on each. Both could use the litter box. One liked to fall asleep in plastic bags so if you can't find your new kitty, you might want to check your bags. Also, he once fell asleep in the dryer; I've since become very good at closing dryer and washer doors. I once came home and found him stuck (by his claws; both of my kitties still have their claws) on the screen door several feet above the floor; it was funny, but I felt bad for him. Yes, I think it's a good idea to keep the new kitty restricted to a safe room for a few days when you're not around.

3. I'd keep dryer and washer doors shut firmly, as well as toilet lids. I'd also make sure all tubs and sinks are empty of water lest kitty fall in. Granted, one of my kitties is not the sharpest crayon, but she did fall into a tub. We were lucky she somehow got out. You can be sure we never left a tub full of water unattended ever again! And finally, my first kitty had an awful reaction to the kitten-designated flea/tick collar I put on him, so if you decide to use one on your new kitty, I'd make sure to do it when you can supervise him/her fully for at least several hours...and remove it immediately if there's an adverse reaction. I also called the help-line and the vet.

4. I just gave each kitty plenty of affection, pets, rubs. The older male cat is a bit more aloof and tolerates being held until he squirms away. The younger female seems to like being held so her belly is up, and she'll put her little paws on our faces, all the while, keeping her claws retracted so as not to scratch us. I also tried to get each used to having others pet them so they are less freaked by "strangers" or "visitors."

6. I would love to knit Wendy's Kitty Pi bed:

And I love her cabled catnip mouse pattern (cute, fast):

I like to tie (firmly) a jingle bell to the end of the tail. The cats seem to appreciate it.

Good luck and may you and your new kitty have decades of wonderful times together!

Posted by: Rossana at December 1, 2006 10:28 AM

When my parents got kittens, one of them latched onto my brother because my brother held him on his lap until he wasn't afraid in the house anymore. This was only a couple of hours.

If you're afraid to leave your baby alone, I'd be willing to look in on him/her. Let me know. :)


Posted by: Kristy at December 1, 2006 10:39 AM

Love Cat Bordhi's Cat Bed...think it is in a second treasury of magical knitting....but check her website...it may now be one of her free patterns. Good luck with your new kitten!


Posted by: angelarae at December 2, 2006 02:29 PM

Hooray for the kitten! I can't wait to see her-him. Pix.Pix!

Over the course of my life, I've raised 5 kittens, 'helped' a cat give birth, and played with those really teeny kittens in those first few weeks, so perhaps I can offer a couple tips:

1. A 2 month old kitten is pretty self-sufficient, in that it can take care of basics. The mother cat will have taught the kitten to use a litter box, so this won't be a problem, but should you get a kitten that's not litter trained, it's very simple to do -- you put them in the box, grab their front paws and make them scrape through the litter. For some reason, they know exactly what that means. Strange, but true. And, cats don't like their food to be placed near their litter boxes. If they're in the same room, put them in opposite corners. Also, take the kitten to the vet soon after getting it. Kittens regularly get ear mites (sign: itchy ears that look like they have pepper flakes inside) and kitty colds (sneezing and running nose--such a human thing), and you'll get the schedule for immunizations and spay/neuter/etc.

As for long stretches at home, when you're not at home, I would leave the kitten in one room for a week or so. When you're home, follow the kitten around and enforce good manners. However, even after learning all the rules, adult cats -will- misbehave when you leave the house.

The biggest issue with kittens at home is the toilet. Apparently kittens regularly drown in toilets. Get firm about keeping the lid down and you should be OK.

2. Good book with clear answers:
I have a great all-around cat care book, my bible if you will, but I can't remember the name. Once I start unpacking the book boxes, I'll send you an email. "The Total Cat" by Wilbourn is fine for the heady-psychological perspective on cat emotions. Mostly I think it's hokey, but sometimes I find it useful.

3. Toilet lids. Other than that, you can crawl around on the floor to look for other weird crevices they could get stuck in. But ultimately, kittens don't really get stuck very often. They're usually able to squeeze back out. I'd be more worried about things like your curtains (yes, they -will- climb them), your bed corners and furniture edges being used as scratching posts, etc. Are you ready for a pet to ruin things?

4. Unless the cat is naturally that way, you won't get more than 30 seconds of cuddling until the kitten is about 1 - 1 1/2 years old. Plan to play play play, and sometimes pick it up, flip it over on its back and cuddle it like a baby (for 30 seconds). When it starts to wiggle, let it down and play some more. Talk sweet to it. Pet it every time you get home. Bring it to bed with you (and expect the midnight attacking of feet and head). Carry it around on your shoulder (and expect teeny claws in your shoulder). Most importantly, do not inadvertently teach the kitten that hands are toys. Only play rough with a ball, catnip toy, or feather on a fishing pole (buy this at a pet store, and it'll be your cat's favorite toy, and will make you howl with laughter, I swear). When (not if) the cat grabs your hand, play dead and slowly move away from the claws. Kitty needs to understand that your hands are not for scratching.

5. This applies to most/all disciplinary needs: buy a small water bottle. In fact, buy one for each room of your house and adjust the sprayer to that long narrow strong spray. Every time kitty jumps on the counter, scratches the couch, hangs from the curtains, approaches the wool, etc... give it an immediate squirt from the bottle. Immediate is important. If you're close by, try clapping loudly and saying the name and NO in a stern voice. The most important thing is consistency. They'll get the idea.

6. I must confess ... I've never knit for the cats, but they would surely love that bed on Wendy's site. All cats LOVE a place to curl up with walls on all sides. If you have the cash and space in the house, a cat condo is a kitty mercedes.

Lastly (geez this is long!) you might consider another kitten from the same litter. The best toy for a kitten is another kitten. If you, like most people, won't be around the house for normal working days, the cats will keep each other entertained and lessen the use of your curtains for fun. If you opt for this, watch the litter of kittens play together and pick the two most compatible.

That's also a great way to pick which kitten will be best for you. My Mom has always said that pets choose their owner, and it's absolutely true. I don't know the circumstances for you, but if it's humanly possible, spend an hour watching the litter and see which kitten approaches you. One will, and it'll be 20 years of magic.

Posted by: The Feminist Mafia at December 4, 2006 04:50 PM
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