Taking on an 8-week old kitten and making sure that it adjusts comfortably is a huge commitment. Many cat breeders label this age period to be that of high susceptibility. Therefore, you’ll have to be extra cautious during this time. Besides that, this is an ideal age to wean them off their mother feed and place them under human care.
Upon arrival, these furry creatures may exhibit highly timid, hesitant and apprehensive behavior. This is due to the sudden change in the environment and separation anxiety from its mother and littermates.
It can also sleep up to 20-hours a day. However, for the remaining 4 hours, it can be a ball of energy to be reckoned with. Positive environmental nourishment and human interaction is the key to establishing long term bonds with your pet. This preliminary socialization will mold your cat permanently.
At 8 weeks you can expect well-developed paw and eye coordination. Additionally, there will be some good motor skills in the form of running, jumping, pouncing, scratching, etc. As they are unaware of right and wrong you will have to be very patient and encourage play. This promotes healthy mental and physical development.
Pet your kitten frequently during this phase. The window of opportunity to bond with human scent and handling is the primary foundation of long-term ease. Reward good behavior with treats as a reinforcement technique.
Moreover, do not reprimand bad behavior harshly. This may plant the seed of fear and distrust. Instead, use negative reinforcement in the form of avoidance when the kitten displays naughty behavior. Do not allow it to scratch, bite or rough house with you as this will encourage aggressive behaviors.
Introduce Your Kitten to Your Family
Slowly but surely introduce your kitten to more people, louder noises, new walking surfaces and gradually even expose them to other cats under monitored visits. It is risky to take a kitten out without a lead or carrier.
There will be moments when you feel that your kitten is being unaffectionate or refuses to cuddle; you will need to give it space and respect. Try rebuilding affection without coercion by petting it without moving it.
Moreover, approach it with a closed fist rather than a grabbing gesture. Also, use the cat shift move i.e. lie on the floor with your kitten, do not make eye contact and use soothing noises to create a presence, bribe the affection with a snack and do not make sudden movements.
Although instinctual to kittens, one can train them to use the litter box at any age. You can do so by introducing the kitten to the litter immediately. Place it in the box after every meal, water drinking session and play session. However, a dirty litter box will discourage your kitten from using it. This can also cause it to urinate or defecate in other places.
Vaccinating Your Kitten
Seeing as preventative care should be a priority, at 8 weeks you can begin administering tropical flea preventatives. They must be free of worms (roundworms or pinworms). One can do so through medications that the vet gives like Strongit, which are then followed two weeks later by a second dose of medication or fecal test to effectively eradicate parasites.
If you still see mushy stools with blood or mucus you will have to go back to the vet. The 3-course vaccination begins at 8 weeks to prevent Feline Enteritis, Cat Flu; Feline Respiratory Disease, Feline Chlamydia, and FIV Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Furthermore, at this stage, administer the first distemper shot to prevent Feline Distemper.
Fleas are a pesky nuisance that can be discovered via flea combs and eliminated via insect growth regulators (IRGs) or by oral or topical treatment. 8-week old kittens can be treated with Advantage ||, Frontline Plus or Revolution Prescription.
Under 12 weeks of age, it is extremely dangerous to use flea collars as they contain pyrethrin which if ingested by a kitten is extremely toxic and can lead to a gastrointestinal upset or damaged heart and central nervous systems.
To ascertain the sexual/ gender identity of your kitten at home, gently lay your kitten on its belly on a clean surface and lift the tail to find out. Immediately you will be exposed to an opening directly under the tail which is the anus, below the anus is the genital opening.
The distance between the two is smaller in females than it is in males. In females, this opening is a vertical slit i.e. the vulva, whereas, for males, it is round i.e. the penis.
With further examination, you will observe the male testicles becoming more apparent with growth. To confirm the testicle presence, gently but firmly place a forefinger and thumb around the scrotum, and bring the fingers together. If it is a male, you will feel two smooth and ovoid shaped structures located parallel underneath scrotal sac skin.
Do not under any circumstances forcibly pull out the penis enclosed in the prepuce of prepubescent male kittens to identify their gender and keep stress minimized. Moreover, take clues from their coat coloring; Tortoiseshell cats i.e. cats colored orange, white and black have a high probability of being female, whereas, ginger cats tend to be male.
As expected, kittens are available in a diverse breed and mixed strain range, hence their size and weight vary accordingly. On average, a kitten at this age should weigh approximately 2lbs +/- 0.5lbs and is very vulnerable, initially.
Larger breeds like Persians or Main Coone Kittens will be noticeably larger than smaller breed Munchkin kittens or a Singapura Kittens. Either way, this is the best time for you to neuter or spay your kitten, professionally.
At every progressive stage of their growth, caregivers will have to keep adjusting the food type, serving size and feeding times. At 8 weeks, kittens are safely able to consume solid or dry food rather than mother’s milk.
A kittens’ diet should consist of highly digestible, protein-rich and energy-dense elements. Their fatty acid, vitamins and fat needs mimic that of an adult cat, but in contrast, they should be getting higher (30%) of their energy from proteins, higher requirement for minerals, amino acids, and other vitamins. Feeding them the occasional treats is acceptable only if it stays in the 10% total calorie ratio intake.
Canned wet food is a famous recommendation in comparison to dry food, even though dry food is not messy, is lightweight, relatively odor-free and has a long shelf life. The downside to dry food is male kittens falling victim to agonizing crystal formations in their bladder from this form of food. So, you should always have clean and fresh water available to them.
Their weight and growth are seemingly explosive, as are their activity levels. This is the point where food preferences and eating habits can be conditioned for a lifetime. Seeing as their stomach sizes are pretty small, they should be fed up to three to four small meals a day. Any less could compromise their nutritional and caloric intake needs. A preferred method of eating wed food straight out of the refrigerator is to heat it up. However, dry food can be left out and the kitten can freely munch on it.
Best Cat Food Brands
Approved brands should meet the complete and balanced nutritional standards set by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which will eliminate the need for additional supplements.
Homemade meals should be approved by a veterinarian or nutritionist as all-meat diets may be lacking calcium, inadvertently leading to hyperparathyroidism, which is very common in growing kittens. There are certain brands that are reputable:
- Blue Wilderness High Protein
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Dry
- Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula Premium Dry Cat Food
- Indoor Kitten Dry Cat Food by Hill’s Science Diet
- Royal Canin Nutrition Kitten
- Pride by Instinct
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Canned
- Fancy Feast Kitten Gourmet Wet Cat Food by Purina
What Foods your kitten should stay away
Avoid grapes, tea, raisins, coffee, onions, garlic and chocolate as they can prove fatal to your furry friend. Also, a common misconception is kittens loving cow milk.
However, this will sicken them and cause diarrhea. Sidestep raw meats and liver as they contain harmful bacteria and parasites. Even raw fish can lead to Vitamin B deficiencies which results in a loss of appetite, skin and coat problems, seizures and in extreme cases may even cause death.
If you begin to see symptoms of a negligible appetite, start by mixing water into the dry food to increase the appeal and ease of eating. Feeding 8-week old kittens mixtures of kitten food, kitten milk and kitten biscuits in a porridge-like form might appeal to the kitten.
You should contact the breeder from whom you procured your kitten and consult with them as to what brand of what they were feeding it as they may not be used to a new diet. If the starvation exceeds two days, the kitten will need medical attention.
A lack of feces production or constipation may become obvious when you see a lack of stools in the litter box, crying when trying to pass stool, litter box straining or hard feces.
Normally, a kitten will pass feces 3-4 times a day. This may occur due to dehydration when there’s a lack of water consumption or increased consumption of dry food, changes in the diet and the presence of hairballs can obstruct normal peristalsis movements in the stomach or intestine.
Miscellaneous item ingestion can also cause a blockage, worms or heavy intestinal parasite burden prohibits normal defecation and if a kitten hasn’t been properly weaned off.
There are several methods you can undertake to relieve your feline of its ailment:
- Massage the belly and urge your kitten to move around more to encourage smooth intestinal peristalsis.
- Wipe and rub the rear end region of the kitten with a warm, damp washcloth or cotton after feeding to imitate a cat mother stimulus.
- Place the kittens’ rear end in a warm water bath to stimulate defecation.
- You can use a nasal bulb syringe with warm water, to inject into the kittens’ rectum to provide more lubrication for hardened stools.
- Increase the hydration levels of your kitten. Water fountains have been proven to prompt kittens to drink frequently.
- Increase the fiber intake of your kitten by feeding it bran and pumpkin puree.
If none of the above improve the conditions, it is vital to take your pet to the veterinarian.
Catherine Bono is a blogger, who is passionate about dogs and cats. She created Crittersitca.com to shares her experience as she studies to become a qualified vet.