Today is a special day – it is two months since Sirius Black became part of our family (our kitten, not the falsely convicted mass murderer and Azkaban-escapee). In honour of this joyous occasion, I thought I would share some of my hard-earned wisdom on the subject of kitten raising (my family has had our fair share of kittens). Meow!
1. Don’t get a kitten because you want a kitten; get a kitten because you want a cat
News flash: kittens grow up. Really, really fast. They are only adorable balls of kitten fluff for a few short months before they enter their awkward ‘rebellious teenager’ phase. Cats can live for over 20 years, so realistically they are only kittens for like 1/60 of their life. So if you only like cats when they’re kittens – don’t get a kitten. Go and play with some kittens at a shelter maybe, or become a foster carer.
2. Kittens are EXPENSIVE
Seriously expensive. A purebred cat can cost up to $1000, but that’s just the beginning. They also need kitten food, wet and dry, as well as cat litter. If they haven’t been desexed, that costs a couple of hundred dollars. Kittens need 2-3 rounds of vaccinations after you get them, so you are looking at $150 at least right there, and then they need yearly vaccinations. Plus they need to have worming and flea treatments, which can also be pricey. These treatments are absolutely essential, because heart worm can cause all sorts of very serious illnesses in cats. So those are the upfront costs – then there are the “emergencies”. Heaven forbid you have an emergency.
3. Kittens: Less Work Than Training a Puppy, But Still A Lot of Work
People have this perceptions that dogs are trained by their humans, while cats train their humans themselves. I’m not arguing with this. But if you want to keep your kitty from chewing on your iPhone cord or your leather belt, biting people’s hands (or faces), jumping on your kitchen table or drinking from your water glass, you need to train them. Cats are very smart, so this can be challenging – sometimes they will break the rules just to show you that they can. But with a lot of time, patience and love, you will get the message across. One thing you (usually) don’t have to worry about too much is toilet training. Keep their litter tray clean and accessible, and they won’t have too much trouble.
4. The necessity of neutering
I have very strong feelings about this, so I’m just going to put it out there: unless you are a registered breeder, you absolutely should neuter your kitten. Not only does it have health benefits for the cat, it will save you a lot of headache. For instance, un-neutered males will often spray urine all over your house to mark their territory. But the main reason to neuter your cats is to prevent litters of unwanted kittens. Female cats can get pregnant from a very young age, so don’t wait. There are hundreds upon hundreds of cats in shelters, as well as around 15 million feral cats in Australia. We don’t need any more.
5. Kittens need love
Far from being cold and independent, cats are actually very loving creatures, and generally they don’t like being alone. Your kitten will get lonely if you work all day and are out all night, especially if it has come from spending time with its brothers, sisters and mum. If you are away from home a lot, you might consider getting two cats. If you do, a combination of male and female works well. Just like dogs, cats will often run to the door to greet you when you get home after a long day of work. And even better, they purr. :)
6. More time with mum is a good thing
When you decide to get a new kitten, the first instinct is often to get it as soon as possible, so you can enjoy its teeny tiny cuteness. However, this is not the best idea, for you or your kitty. Kittens learn everything they know from their mother, including how to interact with humans, other cats and other animals. They also learn toilet training from watching their mum, which is excellent. Leaving your kitten with its mother for as long as possible is a wonderful idea, as he or she will come to you well adjusted and already knowing how to behave (for the most part). Although some people (mainly pet shops, don’t even get me started) remove kittens from their mothers as early as 6 weeks (before they have even been weaned), 12 weeks is the optimal amount of time for kittens to stay with mum. Sirius was 12 weeks when we brought him home and he was so comfortable, adaptable and well behaved.
7. Keep your kitty inside – especially at night.
Cats and the outside world don’t mix too well. They can be hit by cars, chased by dogs or people, attacked by foxes, or even stolen. In addition, cats are born hunters, and the effect that they can have on native wild life is catastrophic (no pun intended, ha ha). They can also get into fights with other cats, which can lead to expensive vet bills, infections and even death. Giving your kitty some supervised time in a secure backyard is a great idea, but don’t forget that they can jump about 10 times their own height (once they grow out of their kitten clumsiness, that is!).
8. They will make a kitten-shaped hole in your heart
There is a reason that cat people are so often referred to as “crazy”. It’s because once a cat claims you for their own, you become hopelessly devoted. All of a sudden, you find it purr-fectly reasonable that your cat sleeps on your pillow, while you miss out and get a sore neck. “I can’t get up because the cat is on my lap” becomes an unassailable reason for not getting up to eat, go to the toilet or change the tv channel. Cat fur becomes a staple part of every outfit, and you don’t even care. Because it’s so totally worth it.
So there you go. That is my wisdom on bringing home a new kitten. I should also add that they will play with anything, eat (almost) anything, especially if it can poison them, and that their purrs are pretty much the best sound in the world.
Before I go, I also have some exciting (and relevant) news, which is that Sirius is getting a baby sister in a few short months :). She was born on the 4th of January to the same kitties who are Sirius’s parents. Sirius and his new sister are LittleStar Birmans. Irene, cat breeder extraordinaire, not only breeds excellent and very well-loved and well-raised kittens and cats, she is also a Harry Potter fan, so she is basically perfect in every way (just as an example of how awesome she is, she made Sirius’s pedigree name “LittleStar Padfoot”). We will be picking baby “Luna Lovegood” up just before Easter, and we can’t wait!!