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Feeding your kitten is an essential part of building a bond. Start with the food he’s used to eating. If you want to change it, gradually mix in the new food over a week to 10 days to limit tummy upset. Feed him three times a day until he’s 6 months old; then you can cut back to two meals daily.
Consider talking to your veterinarian about feeding your kitten canned food instead of dry food. A high-protein diet is typically better for cats than one with lots of carbs. Cats also really need to stay hydrated, and feeding wet food is a good way to help them take in more water.
One thing I can’t emphasize strongly enough is to avoid free feeding your kitten; that is, leaving food down all the time. Cats who have constant access to food often never get satiated. It can make them prone to obesity and diabetes. Giving canned food at a regular mealtime ensures that your kitten has something to look forward to and helps you to gauge whether he’s eating more or less than usual — both are potential clues that he might not be feeling his best and needs a trip to the veterinarian.
If you want to include some dry food in his diet as a treat or as a convenient alternative when you’re away from home, place it in puzzle toys, so he has to work and hunt to get at it. He’ll enjoy the crunch of the kibble, and pushing the toy around to get the food out helps him to stay active and stimulates his brain.
Other fun playthings for kittens include large peacock feathers or pole toys at which your cat can bat, catnip-stuffed mice (by the way, did you know that not all cats react to catnip?), small tennis balls or Ping-Pong balls he can chase down the hall and toys that crinkle, chirp or make other intriguing sounds. Choose toys that are tough — they shouldn’t have any pieces that your kitten can chew off and swallow (especially strings of any kind) or stuffing that can be ingested if he rips the toy apart.
A scratching post is another kitty essential. Scratching is one of the ways cats mark their territory, so make sure the post is tall, sturdy and in a prominent position in your home.
You don’t have to send him to kittygarten — your kitten is always learning. One of the fascinating facts about felines is just how early they start learning and developing social behavior. By the time they are 5 to 7 weeks old — much too early to go to a new home — their early experiences have intertwined with their genetic heritage to shape whether they will be friendly, active and curious or antisocial, sedentary and grumpy. It’s best if your kitten has had plenty of early human handling before you take him home at 8 to 12 weeks of age.
Confident and happy kittens seek out attention from people and bounce back quickly from unexpected experiences. You should already have a good idea of your kitten’s temperament from observing him before bringing him home, but you can still help mold it by providing him with an enriched environment.
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