You've picked your brand new kitten from a litter, and you're now ready to bring him home. You naturally want to give him the best possible start in life. Here are 10 tips to help him develop into a confident, affectionate adult cat who'll give you years of stress-free pleasure.
1. Make sure you're fully prepared for his arrival. Have his toys, food, litter box, scratching post and bed all ready for him. This will help him to settle in more quickly.
2. Handle him - a lot. If kittens are handled a lot when they're young, they get used to it and learn to enjoy it. As a result, they're much more likely to turn into affectionate adults that love to be cuddled and stroked. Your new kitten should always be handled gently. If you have young kids, you'll need to supervise them with Kitty at first, to make sure they don't accidentally hurt him.
3. Get him used to receiving everyday care from you. This includes grooming him, washing his face, bathing him and cleaning his ears and eyes. If he gets comfortable with all this when he's a kitten, you'll have few problems with it when he's an adult.
4. Safely introduce him to the everyday things that will form part of his world as soon as possible. This may include other people, kids, other pets, travelling in your car, boarding at your sister's house when you go on holiday etc. etc. Doing this will turn him into a confident, happy, adaptable adult.
5. Play with him and talk to him every day. Bored kittens and cats often seek amusement in activities that you won't be too keen on, such as destroying the furniture. Playing with your kitten will build your relationship with him and help to prevent boredom.
6. Feed him a wide selection of foods that are suitable for kittens. This gets him used to a varied diet, and reduces the risk of him becoming a gourmet cuisine snob who'll only eat fresh wild salmon caught in the Scottish Highlands...
7. Gently and calmly set boundaries. Kittens are like kids - they'll push their luck to see how much they can get away with. Common naughty kitten behavior includes scratching, biting, jumping on the kitchen worktops, scratching the furniture and abseiling the curtains. If your kitten is being naughty, stop him, say "no" (don't shout) and move him away from the scene of his crime. It's much easier to train a new kitten to be good than an adult cat, so setting the boundaries whilst he's young can save you years of frustration in the future.
8. Don't give in to vocal blackmail. Some kittens try to get what they want by meowing non-stop. If you keep giving in to this, your kitten will turn into a very vocal adult cat who'll drive you nuts with his constant noisy demands.
9. Keep him safe. Nasty frights - for example falling down the toilet, being tormented by a kid or having a dog bark in his face - will have a negative impact on him. The more unpleasant experiences he has as a kitten, the more likely he is to become a nervous, mistrusting adult.
10. Accept that your new kitten is a baby with loads of energy. Whilst you can discourage him from acts of willful destruction, you'll need to accept that your house is unlikely to survive completely unscathed. But hey, he's worth it!
Liz Allan is a cat behavior expert with 25 years experience of caring for cats. She lived and worked in a cat rescue centre for 3 years, and has fostered hundreds of cats at home. Click on this link for lots more useful tips on kitten care.
For advice on cat care, breeds, illnesses and behavior problems, visit her website: http://www.cat-behavior-explained.com/index.html