There are a number of widely held beliefs about kittens which simply aren't true. Here we take a look at ten of these 'kitten myths'...
A kitten is probably less work than a puppy. But taking care of a kitten for the first time requires quite a lot of time. You will need to kitten-proof your home, making sure that there is nowhere where your kitten can hurt himself, and remember, kittens can get into very tiny spaces. You will need to provide him with a litter tray, food and water bowls, toys, and lots of attention and handling, if he is to grow up into a happy and well socialised cat. If you aren't prepared to do all of that, you really shouldn't get a kitten.
Even if you plan to keep your kitten indoors all the time, it is still important to vaccinate him. He could catch something by coming into contact with objects which have been near a sick cat, and he could also pick up an infection when in the vet's surgery for some other reason. So you need to make sure he has regular vaccinations, as well as regular flea treatments and worming.
Even if you don't intend to let your kitten out, he could still escape. Kittens are very quick, and can be through your legs when you're opening a door, and off outside. If this happens you are far more likely to be reunited with your kitten if he has been microchipped. Microchipping is not a legal requirement for cats, but it is certainly sensible.
Many people think they won't need to spay or neuter their kittens until they are a year old or thereabouts. But this is not the case. Female kittens can come into season at four months, and have kittens at around six months. Male kittens mature a little more slowly, but even they can start looking for females to mate with when they are only around eight months old; they may also start spraying. So it is sensible to neuter your kittens while they are still young, before they reach sexual maturity. Be guided by your vet, but four months is a good age for female kittens, six months for males.
Following on from the above, some people adopt both a male and a female kitten from the same litter, but think that they won't mate with their sibling. But cats have no social boundaries, and they certainly will mate if they are not neutered. This is not a good idea even if you are planning to have a litter of kittens, as inbreeding increases the chances of kittens being born with genetic defects. So get your kittens neutered so that this can't happen.
This myth has been around for a long time, along with the related one that it is good to let cats have one litter of kittens before they are spayed. This is completely untrue, and is responsible for many cat rescue centres being packed with kittens every year. Female kittens who come into season call loudly, are restless and often unhappy, and attract every entire male cat for miles around. It is definitely not good for your kitten, so have her spayed before she reaches sexual maturity.
Kittens do not need milk after they leave their mothers, and many of them have trouble digesting it; it can upset their stomachs and cause diarrhoea. If you really want to give your kitten milk there are 'cat milk' substitutes which you can buy which are easily digestible. However, kittens do perfectly well on fresh water; they do not require milk.
Although it is not as easy to train a kitten as it is to train a puppy, it is certainly possible, and it is advisable in some cases. For instance, if the kitten's mother has not taught him to use a litter tray, you will have to train him to do so by putting him in it at regular intervals, and rewarding him when he 'goes' there. You can also train kittens to come when called, accept a cat carrier, and not go in certain places, eg on the kitchen stove or other dangerous areas.
Although this sometimes works, in many cases it doesn't. An existing cat, especially if he is elderly, may not be impressed with a new kitten. Cats are generally solitary animals, and while they can sometimes get on with other members of their species, this is by no means guaranteed. So if you have an existing cat, introduce the new kitten to them carefully, and watch to make sure that both cats are happy. If you want two cats, it may be best to get two kittens at the same time from the same litter, as they are more likely to form a social bond than unrelated cats of different ages.
Cats and dogs are not always enemies. Kittens and puppies who are brought up together are often the best of friends. So if you already have a dog, and he is used to cats, there shouldn't be too much problem introducing a new kitten to him. If he is not used to cats, this may be much more difficult. It may be best if you acquire your kitten and puppy at around the same time. But whatever the situation, you will need to watch carefully, to make sure you can trust both dog and cat, before you leave the pair of them alone.
If you take the above points on board, hopefully you won't have too many problems. So enjoy your new kitten, and here's hoping he will be with you for many years to come.