Five Questions and Answers Concerning Kittens

Five Questions and Answers Concerning Kittens

Breed Facts

Kittens are gorgeous, but they are not the same as adult cats. If you are thinking of getting a kitten, here are the answers to some questions you may have...

What age should a kitten be when you get it?

Ideally kittens should stay with their mothers until they are ten to twelve weeks old. Many private advertisers, shelters and cat rescue organisations will let you take them home as young as eight weeks, and this is usually fine, but younger than this is not a good idea. Four to six week old kittens look adorable and may seem to be quite independent, and they can certainly eat solid food by then and probably use a litter tray. But they miss out on a lot of social and other conditioning if they leave their mothers this young, and this could create problems in the future.

If you are getting a pedigree kitten, you will probably not be able to collect it until it is at least twelve weeks old, perhaps thirteen or fourteen weeks. This is because most reputable breeders make sure their kittens have all their vaccinations before they leave home, and they will not have had these before they are twelve weeks old. It is probably better for the kittens to stay with their mothers a little longer anyway, so try not to be too impatient. You will have your kitten for many years, so be willing to wait a week or two more in the beginning.

Are all kittens born with blue eyes?

Although adult cats have different coloured eyes, all kittens have blue eyes at birth. This is not an actual iris colour, but is a result of the eyes still developing. If their eyes are going to change colour, it generally starts to occur at four to five weeks of age, but may be later than this. They begin to darken, but do so very gradually. So you cannot always tell exactly what colour eyes your kitten will have until it is a little older, perhaps as much as six to nine months old.

Cats with points such as the Siamese and Colourpoint Persian will keep those blue eyes into adulthood. White cats will have blue, green, gold, or copper eyes – or even two of different colours. Other cats will have green, gold, or copper eyes. But don't believe the stories you hear about all blue eyed white cats being deaf. Some are, and blue eyed white cats should be tested for hearing. But many blue eyed white cats can hear normally.

Is it true that string and balls of yarn are dangerous for kittens?

Many cute kitten pictures show a kitten playing with a ball of yarn or a toy on a string. Yet we often hear that such things are dangerous for kittens. The problem is that kittens tend to chew things, particularly when they are growing their adult teeth, i.e. teething – and they can easily end up swallowing a length of wool or string. If that happens, the kitten could end up having emergency surgery to have it removed! Also, kittens have been known to become tangled in long strings, and even get them around their necks and strangle themselves. So yes, such things can be very dangerous for kittens.

This does not mean that your kitten cannot play with yarn or toys on a string. But only let her do so when you are there to supervise things and make sure that she stays safe. You need to make sure that such toys are put safely away in a secure place when you are not there to play with your kitten. I have all of them in a special drawer. I think my kitten knows where they are, as he keeps eyeing the drawer, but he can't open it.

Similarly, put away all items such as gift wrap ribbon, needlework, knitting, and other craft projects, which could be dangerous for your kitten. And be especially careful of plastic bags, as he could get stuck in one and suffocate. And finally, use a covered rubbish bin, as kittens love to turn over ordinary waste bins to see what fun stuff they can find in them!

What is the best way to introduce a new kitten to my older cats?

If you have older cats, introduce your kitten to them very gradually. Don't just let the kitten out and hope things will sort themselves out – they may do, but they may not. It could be very frightening for the new kitten, and the resident cats may not appreciate what they perceive as a new intruder in their core territory.

Some people suggest you keep a new cat in a separate room for a short while. This is fine for older cats, but might be frightening for kittens, who will probably have lived with mum and littermates all their short lives, and never been completely alone. Ideally, get hold of a large metal pen, such as that used for dogs, and put the new kitten in there in the living room. That way, the new kitten and the other cats can see and smell each other, but not touch each other yet. It is a good idea if you can be there to supervise things, in case the new kitten or other cats get upset – in which case you may have to separate them entirely. But usually you will find that after a few cautious sniffs and perhaps one or two wary hisses, everyone calms down. So after a few hours or days, depending on the individuals, you can start to let the kitten out for short periods for supervised introductions. It may be a good idea to still feed him separately, and maybe let him go back in the pen if you can't be around. Fairly soon, hopefully, he will be accepted into the family. But be prepared to be patient if necessary.

Can kittens born in the wild be tamed enough to be good pets?

Yes, usually. Adult feral cats will rarely adjust to life as a pet, but young kittens certainly will. If rescued young and handled lovingly, these little ones can almost invariably make the transition back into human society. It does depend on the kitten's age at adoption, but if you have your eye on an ex-feral kitten, then go for it. He will probably turn out to be a lovely cat.

By the way, there is a great deal of difference between a cat which has always been wild, i.e. a real feral, and domestic cat which has gone wild, usually out of necessity. These latter cats would usually like nothing better than to find a home and family again. They may be nervous initially, but they will soon some round.

Hopefully that has answered all your kitten questions, so now enjoy your new baby - as she will grow up all too soon!

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