New kitten parents: What to expect in the first 12 months!
Are you about to become a new kitten purr-rent? Is this your first kitten ever and you’re feeling a mixture of excitement and nerves? Or maybe it’s your second or third (or even fourth kitten!) and you’re looking for a quick refresher on what to expect?
Firstly, congratulations on your new kitten and welcome to kitten purr-renthood! This is an incredibly exciting time for you, your family, as well as your kitten, and there will no doubt be a lot of purring, cuddles and loving ahead! There can, however, also be a number of challenges as you and your kitten grow and learn, so here is a guide to help prepare you for those first 12 months of life and be the best purr-rent that you can be!
Week 1-2: When your kitten is born, they are blind and deaf and completely dependent on their mum. Your kitten will likely weigh around 100 grams and will be spending most of their time eating (they may double their weight by the end of the first week!), sleeping and looking cute. If you have chosen a reputable breeder, they will hopefully start sending you photo updates of your kitten so this is the perfect time to start a photo album!
Week 3: Your kitten’s eyes and ears are open and they will continue to develop their sight, smell and hearing in the coming weeks. They will be a bit more aware of their littermates, more responsive to their environment, and will start to purr. All kittens are born with blue eyes as they don’t develop their eye pigmentation until later at around 6 weeks of age.
Week 4: By now, your kitten is standing and wobbling around, expanding their horizons and interacting with their littermates more.
Week 5 – 7: Your kitten is quickly growing up and developing their physical coordination by playing with their littermates. They will also start weaning as their baby teeth continue to grow until all 26 baby teeth have erupted. They will also be learning to use a litter box from their mum so luckily for us, most kittens will already be toilet trained!
Week 8: At around this age, your kitten will be ready to go home with you! This will also be the perfect time to take them to the vet for their first visit and 1st kitten vaccination (if they haven’t received it yet) and worming preventative! At My Vet Animal Hospital, our first kitten consults are 45 minutes long with a thorough introduction to kitten care 101 (vaccinations, flea and worming prevention, diet, dental care, ear and skin care, desexing, insurance, etc.)! We strongly recommend keeping your new kitten strictly indoors to avoid the increased risk of being attacked, getting into accidents (especially with motor vehicles) and contracting diseases from other animals (especially stray cats). Most cats lead very happy lives living indoors and there are multiple ways to keep your indoor cat happy.
Now that your kitten is home, they are undergoing a critical socialisation period. It is important to immediately start desensitising and conditioning them (e.g. vacuum cleaner, loud music, etc.). Start playing with your kitten’s ears, face, teeth and feet regularly. This will make your life easier in future when you need to start cleaning your kitten’s ears, brushing their teeth, and clipping their nails. Your kitten is due for their 2nd kitten vaccination and worming preventative at around 12 weeks of age. Kittens should be wormed every month between 3 to 6 months of age. Don’t forget about your kitten’s flea preventative! Different products have different frequencies (e.g. monthly vs. 3-monthly) so make sure you check with your vet and stay up-to-date!
Your kitten is due for their 3rd kitten vaccination and worming (+/- flea) preventative at around 16 weeks of age. They will also start losing their baby teeth so don’t be surprised if you look inside your kitten’s mouth and see some wobbly loose teeth!
Your kitten is due for their monthly worming (+/- flea) preventative! Keep a close eye on your kitten’s mouth to allow for early detection of any teething abnormalities such as malocclusions or misalignments, overcrowding, fractured teeth and/or reddened and inflamed gums.
In general, most kittens will be old enough and big enough for their desexing procedure at around 5-6 months of age. Your kitten is also due for their monthly worming (+/- flea) preventative. After 6 months of age, kittens should be wormed every 3 months for the rest of their life.
If you are not planning to desex, and your kitten is a girl, she will likely have her first heat around 6-8 months of age. It is uncommon to observe vulval discharge from a cat in heat, however, you will likely notice some changes in her behaviour (such as increased vocalisation, increased (almost demanding) affection, and raising her hind quarters in the air when being stroked along her back). Just like boy kittens when they reach sexual maturity, they may also start urine marking (often indoors) on all your favourite places!
Your kitten should now have a fresh set of 30 permanent adult teeth and this is the perfect time to start their dental care at home – nothing beats brushing their teeth with pet toothpaste daily! Prevention is key when it comes to dental disease in cats! At My Vet Animal Hospital, we also offer free dental checks to help you keep on track with looking after your kitten’s teeth.
Your kitten is building up confidence and growing up into an adolescent cat, testing boundaries and establishing dominance. They may occasionally be a bit moody and rebuff your affections, but don’t worry adolescence doesn’t last forever! If they have been desexed, monitor their weight closely as kittens will often gain some weight after their dexing procedure. It is important to adjust the amount of food you feed your kitten accordingly and to continue encouraging play and exercise. It may be tempting to just ‘wing it’ but you will likely be making some mistakes when it comes to feeding, so don’t be shy and make sure you have a chat with your vet when it comes to your kitten’s nutrition. Your kitten is also due for their worming (+/- flea) preventative at around 9 months of age and they will continue to be wormed every 3 months for the rest of their life.
Your kitten is ready to transition from kitten food to adult food. We absolutely understand how challenging brushing your cat’s teeth can be, so if your kitten has no existing conditions that restrict their diet, at My Vet Animal Hospital, we recommend Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d (dental care) Feline. They have the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) registered seal for controlling plaque and tartar on your kitten’s adult teeth. Also, don’t forget to keep up-to-date with your kitten’s flea and worming preventative.
Your kitten is 1 year old now! Well done on raising your wonderful fur child and navigating all the ups and downs in the first 12 months. You will no doubt have made plenty of fond memories already and become much more proficient in interpreting their subtle cat language. Every cat is a unique individual with their own quirky behaviours, so don’t forget to snap a photo and capture the moment!
Introducing a new kitten to your life can be both rewarding and challenging! At My Vet Animal Hospital, we are here to help you navigate this journey from kitten to adulthood, so feel free to give us a call on (02) 8484 2020 or pop by with your newest furry family member!