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How to Care for Your Kitten

Caring for a kitten is a lot of work. With her high energy and intense curiosity and sense of adventure, raising a kitten will keep you on your toes. Careful attention during the first year of life will set a strong foundation for a long, loving relationship with your cat.

Kittens aged 8-12 weeks need four meals a day, 3-6 months three meals, and kittens over 6 months old, two meals.

Follow the guidelines on the food packaging as to how much to provide in each feeding. Give your kitten both moist and dry food, so she is less likely to become a finicky eater later. When you offer moist food, be sure to pick it up after about 30 minutes. Cats love moist food, but if you let them eat it at their leisure, they will become "lazy" eaters. Limit the availability of the good stuff, and your kitten will learn to "get it while the getting is good." It is a good idea to leave dry food out all day so she can snack on it as she pleases. It is vital that your kitten learn to eat dry kibble, as the crunchy food helps keep her teeth and gums healthy.

Your kitten will likely spend a lot of time licking her fur, so you won't need to bathe her. Both she and you will benefit from regular brushing sessions, however. Time spent grooming your kitten gets her used to handling and lets you monitor her health and development. Many kittens are afraid of a brush at first, or think it are a toy. If you are patient and loving, you can teach your young cat to enjoy the soothing sensation of being brushed. Cats often mutually groom each other, so by brushing her you are expressing your "love" to her.

While you groom your cat, begin getting her used to having her ears, eyes, mouth and paws handled. Move your hands over her body, restraining her from time to time as you touch and manipulate different body parts. At first you may only be able to touch her lip, but over a period of days and weeks you should be able to lift her lip and touch her gums. When you handle her paws, gently squeeze her toes to extend her claws. This the technique you will use later to trim her claws, and the sooner you begin getting her used to it the less traumatic it will be for both of you.

Kittens have a lot of energy. If you don't provide an outlet for it, she will find one of her own. Chasing a wind-up toy or ball, stalking and pouncing on a lure attached to a string or just racing around the room are all positive outlets for her energy. Be careful, however, to keep the rough play under control. Never use your hands or feet as a lure. Strongly discourage her from attacking your hands or feet; what seems cute when she's a kitten encourages her to be aggressive with you. Always keep a stuffed toy within reach so that if she tries to attack you, you can rub the animal against her tummy to encourage her to wrestle with it.

To care for a cat you will need to:

* Provide plenty of human companionship

* Provide regular, suitable meals with a constant supply of fresh water

* Provide a clean and comfortable bed

* Provide the cat with outdoor access or be prepared to empty and clean a litter tray on a daily basis

* Groom it regularly. Longhaired cats require daily grooming

* Have it neutered between 4 and 6 months old

* Vaccinate against the major feline diseases regularly

* Worm regularly and provide treatment for fleas

* Take the cat to the vet when it shows any sign of illness - pet insurance can help offset the cost of veterinary treatment.

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