Boy, those cute, hilarious balls of fur are fun to watch and cuddle! But what do they need?
#1 Kitten food. Picking a food is a more complex decision with wide ranges of options and varying nutritional advice. A good place to start is to continue using the same kitten food they were previously eating, if you know what that is, but often you don't! The next decision is dry or canned or both? Dry provides easy, clean and economical feeding choices but it often linked to overeating/obesity and is less desirable in cats with certain disease conditions (kidney, bladder). Canned food is more palatable and preferred with certain disease conditions because of the water content but is less economical, produces more garbage and smells worse. Maybe the best thing is to feed them both, with dry food being the main food while they are healthy and of good weight and canned food offered as a treat once a day to several times a week. By offering canned food early, you are establishing a feeding experience they recognize, so later in life if you have to feed them canned food because of disease conditions, they are not likely to refuse the canned food. Generally, it is best to pick foods with a recognizable name brand, that are easy enough to find that you won't run out and a AAFCO (complete and balanced) guarentee.
#2 Bowls. You probably have many acceptable options in your kitchen. Small bowls, saucers or small flat plates can be used for food, while a bowl is needed for water. Ceramic, stainless steel and plastic all are reasonable surfaces that are easy to clean.
#3 Litter box. There are many decisions with litter control. For the more adventurous, there are self-cleaning litterboxes and toilet based litter training solutions! But for most of us the standard litter box and scooping system works fine. Litter boxes should be large and easy to enter and exit. The typical recommendation is have one more litter boxes than the number of cats. With multiple cats, it is best to offer a variety of litter box styles (high sided, hooded and open sided) in various locations to increase compliance. Most litter box options seem limited, so consider shopping for your next litter box in the storage bin area. Large storage tote options (think Rubbermaid) can work as a litter box. The large flat under bed storage boxes for clothing work great for a litter box , not using the lid. High sided clear storage totes can have a U shaped opening cut in the end or side to make an easy to enter litter box that prevents litter scatter by the cat that scratches vigourously in the box.
#4 Litter. Again, a variety of choice makes this a harder decision. Clumping litter is a popular choice as it makes scooping easier. Many ecologically friendly choices like pelletted recycled newspaper are available. Old style clay litter is cheap and easy to find, but very heavy to carry back and forth. Most young cats will get used to using whatever you choose, but older cats are often unwilling to use new or foreign litter types.
#5 Toys. Kittens love to play and many toys can be made using simple at home objects. For safety's sake, make sure the toy is not ingested, with long strands like string, yarn or ribbon being particularly dangerous if ingested. Laser pointers or even flash lights make great toys for kittens. Small, light balls are a fun and can be store bought or fashioned at home from squashed paper, tin foil, felt, or fabric. Ping pong balls and even golf balls work well. The fishing pole toy is a favorite and is made of a light, flexible rod with attached string/ribbon or yarn often with feathers or fur-like material to stimulate hunting instincts. Pet stores have great toys where a ball in trapped in a plastic circle. Many kittens love to play with an old shoe box with holes cut in it and a hidden ball or treat inside.
#6 Perches and Hiding Places. Happy indoor cats need options for perches (high areas) and hiding places throughout the house. While many will naturally use a large windowsill or high shelf for a perch, you can offer other options like cat trees and securely attached box shelves. Pinterest and other online sources show many ingenious ideas for cat perches. Hiding places are often under beds and in closets but other options like cardboard boxes, baskets under a table and opened paper bags are often appreciated.
#7 Scratching Post. Cats with nails need a scratching post. The best scratching post is a surface that is NOT found on furnishings or the floor. Kittens get used to scratching a typical surface, say upholstery, and are loathe to switch to a new surface. So get your kitten used to scratching cardboard or rope or bark surfaces, because you are unlikely to have a cardboard, rope or bark couch! Scratching posts should have vertical (up and down) plus horizontal (flat) options. Vertical scratching posts should have a steady base or be secured to a wall so they don't fall down and scare the cat away from using the scratching post.
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