Kitten Care

Help, My Kitten Won't Sleep Through the Night!

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My kitten is three months old and she wakes at 4AM and eats my hair, hits me in the face, and scratches and nibbles my face and hands. I try to ignore her but she just carries on. I have started taking her to the living room and shutting the door which she seems fine with, no scratching or meowing. My question is, is it okay to shut her in the living room when I go to bed or will she be on her own too long? Any other suggest welcome!
— Lisa C.

Lisa, most cats engage in this sort of behavior, but its especially prevalent in kittens. In most cases, they simply have a hyper kinetic rhythm and need contact like they'd have with their mom or siblings just before dawn. The easiest method of dealing with this is to adopt a second kitten. Two kittens are actually easier to care for than one, but there are also expenses to consider. Honestly, two kittens are much better for their own health and mental well being long term if you can afford it.

You're doing the right thing in ignoring Maisie. If you get up or interact with her in any way, she's training you, not the other way around. We encourage you to stick it out even though that can be difficult. If you need a break, we understand. Yes, she'll be fine in the other room alone, but she'll bond more closely to you if she's allowed to sleep with you. If you choose to put her out of the bedroom at night, it's imperative that she has her pick of warm comfy places to sleep. This is also where that second kitten can come in handy.

You see, the bed is the scent center of the household to cats. It's the one place that smells most like you. Maisie will feel very comfortable there. Excluding her from the bedroom at night can send a message that she isn't a part of the family. Of course, a lot depends on the individual cat. Some cats need more contact than others. Some will prefer to sleep in other rooms or near windows during summer months, but dive right back into the bed at the first hint of a chilly evening.

You can help to minimize the early morning “wake up and play with me” behavior by creating a nighttime routine for Maisie. A cat's natural rhythm in life is hunt-eat-sleep. You can use this to get her to sleep when you're ready. 30-60 minutes before bedtime, give Maisie an intense play session. Really work her out and get her running around the room for at least 20-30 minutes. Then feed her a big meal - as much as she can eat. When she's done, tell her it's time for bed and go through your evening routine. By the time you develop this into a daily routine, you should see Maisie begin to anticipate what will happen next. She may even prompt you to do what she expects. When she gets in bed to sleep, she should fall asleep after the play and feeding. That doesn't insure she'll sleep through the night, but it's a good start. Also remember to put away all of Maisie's toys before bedtime.

If you can afford it, you can also get her her own bed or blanket. The softer the better. You want something that feels like Maisie's mother's belly. She may find comfort in kneading her paws against it and give you a break. She may not use it at first, but don't get discouraged. Give her some time to be curious about it. Cats love to make choices and most rotate their sleeping locations frequently.

Of course, she's a kitten so she's going to wake you up during the night sometimes. Even adults do this sometimes, but you can minimize the behavior by following the steps I've outlined. Good luck!


Do Cats Have Baby Teeth?

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Biologically, cats are very different from humans, but they’re also very similar in a number of ways. Nicole L. writes:

I have two little five month old boys named Boba and Lando, and I found a little bloody baby tooth in Boba’s fur that I *think* came from Lando while playing but it is hard to check his mouth and know for sure. I think this is an age-appropriate milestone, my question is do they need any aftercare when losing teeth? Anything I should look for? Neither boy shows any discomfort.

Thank you for your question! Cats develop their first set of teeth when they’re around four weeks old. These teeth are relatively fragile, being smaller and less dense than adult teeth. They help to promote weaning since they irritate the mother during feeding. Then, around four to seven months of age, kittens begin losing their baby teeth as their adult teeth develop. The roots are often absorbed while the crowns fall out , but they can be so small that humans don’t even see them. It sounds like Boba and Lando are right on schedule. 

There isn't much you need to do. If you notice either of them rubbing their faces with a paw, you may want to put some crushed ice in a washcloth for them to chew on. It'll be a bit messy, but the cold will soothe their gums if they're bothering them. You should also make sure you're feeding them a pate-style wet food. All cats should be on wet-food diets, but it's especially important during teething. If they feel pain when they eat, they may connect the pain with the food and avoid eating altogether.

 
 

This is also a good time to get the kittens used to having their teeth brushed. A small, soft-bristle brush designed for cats along with a high-quality toothpaste or gel will help them to get many years of use out of their new adult teeth. We especially like Oxy-Fresh gel. Check with your vet for their recommendations.

It goes without saying, but Boba and Lando shouldn't be allowed to make any deals with Darth Vader for the time being. :)


Help, I Found Some Abandoned Kittens!

The world is filled with cats who haven't been spayed or neutered. Some are feral and others are pets. In both cases, mothers can sometimes go missing just when the kittens need them the most. Margaret M. writes:

I found a nest with four kittens in it underneath a shed in our backyard. I didn’t approach them yet, but the kittens are crying and I’ve not been able to find the mother. What should I do?

Margaret, it's important that you confirm whether or not the kittens' mother is still around before you relocate her litter. You can interact with them (your scent will not cause the mother to reject them) and even tend to them but don't move them if you suspect the mother is still around.

Some rescuers will put the kittens into a box that they can't get out of and then scatter flour around the box. If you leave the box for a few hours and come back to find paw prints in the flour, the mother is probably still tending to her babies. Also note the cleanliness of the kittens. Mother cats take care of cleaning their kittens, so the longer they're away, the dirtier the kittens will be.

If you discover that the mother is still around, your best bet is to try and help her to provide for her little ones. You can make an inexpensive shelter like this one and provide food and water without interfering with the family. Once the kittens have been weaned at 4-6 weeks of age, they can be socialized and adopted. Of course, the sooner the socialization takes place, the better. If the mother is friendly, it may be possible to relocate the family and socialize the kittens even earlier.

If you determine that the kittens have indeed been abandoned, it's time to take action. The first thing the babies will need is warmth. A plastic bottle filled with warm water and wrapped in a towel will do in a pinch.

Newborn kittens need constant care. Most shelters won't take them because they simply don't have the resources needed to turn them into adoptable cats. Even if they do take them in, the kittens will probably be euthanized. If you have the time and resources, please, by all means, do what you can to save the kittens' lives. If not, you'll need to try and locate a local rescue that does and get them there as soon as possible.

If you decide to care for them yourself, there are plenty of good online resources. Caring for newborn kittens is quite an undertaking, so we usually refer people to the best resource we know: THE KITTEN LADY. She's been rescuing kittens for years and has kindly provided a wealth of information about all aspects of newborn care on her wonderful web site. All the information you might need is there for the taking, including links to product sources and very specific instructions on kitten care.

Last but not least, please see to it that the kittens and their mother are all spayed or neutered, even if you choose to allow them to remain feral. This includes following up with adopters if the kittens are adopted out before they're old enough to have surgery. 

We certainly thank you for being concerned about these little lives, Margaret. We wish you and the kittens all the best!

Do Kittens Need Kitten Food?

Commercial pet food manufacturers have done a great job convincing the general public that they know best what our pets need, when in fact all they want to do is sell more of their inferior products. These days, they're looking for new niches that they can use as marketing tools and one of the most successful is "kitten food". Jim H. writes:

At what age do I switch my cat from kitten food to adult food?

Jim, we feel very strongly that a kitten will be healthy if fed a high-quality, low carbohydrate, all wet adult cat diet immediately after they've been weaned. There's nothing really wrong with kitten food but it's more a marketing ploy than an actual need. It's understandable that so many people now feel strongly that a kitten should be fed a special food. After all, that's what we do with our own babies, right? But weaned kittens aren't infants. Weaning generally happens around four to six weeks of age and the average cat reaches puberty in four to six months.

In the wild, a cat would begin eating the same prey as their parents right after being weaned. The trick is to make sure you're feeding a complete diet and have food available at all times. While there is a lot of debate on this topic, we feel that it's imperative that a growing cat gets the food that he or she needs throughout the day, and not just at human-designated meal times. While this can certainly be more difficult in a household with multiple cats with different dietary needs or in homes with dogs who enjoy cat food, it can be managed.

An all-raw or freeze-dried raw diet is highly recommended for all cats and kittens. We have a good post on our specific food recommendations, including links to several sources of real info (not marketing) about commercial cat foods here: http://kittyhelpdesk.com/hel.../best-cat-food-and-food-bowls .

We wish you and your kitten friend all the best!