Blue-eyed kittens
Are you a kitten expert? If you’ve had a bunch of cats during the course of your life, you might well be. But, if you don’t happen to fall into this exalted category of cat people (not yet, anyway), you’ll surely have a zillion questions. Here are a bunch I get asked all the time:

1. Will her eyes stay blue? Once they open their eyes (around the first or second week of life), kittens’ eyes will typically appear a dusty grayish-blue. Alas, for most cats, this adorable color will not last. At about 4 to 7 weeks, their true eye color will develop. And who knows? It may well be more gorgeous than the blue of early kittenhood.

2. When can she start to eat solid food? Mother cats will start to leave their babes for more extended periods of time when the kittens are around 5 weeks old. That’s a pretty good sign that she wants to start shedding the kitten responsibility. At this point, kittens are perfectly able to eat solid kitten food and should be encouraged to do so at 4 to 5 weeks of age (even earlier for orphaned kittens).

3. How do I house-train her? Good news! Normally you do not have to house-train a kitten who’s old enough to move around nimbly. Here’s how it’s done: 1) Feed the kitten; 2) Put her inside a litterbox piled high with shredded paper or litter; 3) Observe the miracle of Mother Nature.

Having said this, there’s always the odd kitten who has to receive some repeated litterbox instruction. Never fear, though. They all seem to learn eventually.

4. Why does she meow so much? Cats meow because they want something. “Feed me!” is the most common translation, but “Play with me!” is a close second.

5. Can she transmit any diseases to my other pets or my kids? Yeah, she can. Internal parasites are the most common issue for people, but some fungal and bacterial infections are also potentially transmissible. Viruses are the biggest concern for other household cats, but parasites and fungal infections can be a problem, too. That’s why new kittens should see the vet ASAP for a checkup. A vet will test for parasites (including fleas), deworm as needed, administer vaccines at appropriate intervals and test for viruses that could be transmitted to other cats in the household.

6. She’s going to live indoors exclusively, so why do I need to vaccinate her? First, you never know what will happen in the future (other cats may be brought into the household, or she might accidentally get out one day, etc.) so vaccinations are a necessary precaution.  What’s more, all municipalities in the U.S. require rabies vaccination as part of rabies prevention. This is true whether you promise to keep your pet indoors or not. After all, if your neighbor’s indoor cat bit your child, you’d want to know the cat was vaccinated against rabies, right?

7. Why does she bite me so much? She’s learning how to stalk prey, that’s why. Oh, and because it’s fun, of course!

Don’t like it? Try to focus her attention on toys, rather than your hands, when you play with her. Or, get another kitten. That way, they’ll practice all that stalking on each other, and leave you out of it (most of the time, anyway).

8. When does she get her shots? Once you and your veterinarian discuss your kitten’s disease exposure risks, she’ll recommend the right vaccines and timing for your little one.

9. Why does she knead me?  It’s reminiscent of suckling and as such, it’s soothing.

10. How do I keep her from scratching up everything? Start early! Get a scratching post or scratching toy and get cracking.

11. Does she need a bath? Technically… no. Most cats don’t need to be bathed. However, there are some exceptions: 1) Some cats with skin diseases may require medicated shampooing; 2) Humans with allergies to cats often find that bathing cats helps control the allergenic dander significantly; 3) Some cats may stop grooming as they get older, if they are arthritic or if they are overweight, so they might need some help keeping clean.

12. When should I spay/neuter? In the interest of population control, many shelters spay and neuter kittens as early as 2 months of age. Most veterinarians in private practice, however, still recommend spaying and neutering around the 6 month mark, before a kitten reaches full-blown sexual maturity. Together, you and your veterinarian can determine the best time to schedule surgery for your kitten.

Any more questions? Chances are, your veterinarian has all the answers.

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