Normally we like kittens to stay in the cattery until they are 14 weeks old. Kittens start weaning at 4 weeks and by the time they are 8 to 10 weeks old they don't really "need" to stay with their mother... right? Wrong. A 12 week old kitten is a lot like a 3 year old child. Sure it can eat and go potty on its own but it needs the love and sense of security its family gives it. Busy family schedules often mean a new kitten is left home alone for much of the day so it is even more important the kitten have the time it needs here before leaving us.
That has been our hard and fast rule from day one... and then... along came covid.
What happens if 2 weeks before you are due to pick up your kitten it starts to look like we are heading into another round of shutdowns? Well, we would rather your kitten were here until it is older but we are realists. Barring unusual circumstances we feel fairly comfortable with letting a kitten go home a little early. How early is going to depend upon a lot of factors like how mature the kitten is both physically and mentally. Litter size plays a big part in that. So does your kitten's place in the pecking order of its litter. It is not all about the kitten either. Are you home all day? Good. That means the kitten won't be all alone. Do you have half a dozen dogs, six kids and a pet walrus that lives in the bathroom? OK, I am a little weirded out by the walrus but I am still willing to talk to you about your safety plan for the kitten. Basically older kittens can cope better than younger kittens so I have to make sure you can give them the love and protection they need to feel safe and happy.
On the flipside we also realize we might be faced with a situation where you cannot pick your kitten up on time. Again, we will work with you. When you live in a world that comes complete with murder hornets and pandemics you have to have a certain level of flexibility.
The short version is your kitten is better off staying with us until it is 14 weeks old. However, covid is causing shutdowns so we are willing to work with you as long as it does not harm the kitten in any way.
Cats are obligate carnivores. That means their bodies are designed to live on meat. Meat is wet so your cat does not feel the same need to drink as a dog or human. They drink a little but not enough to stay properly hydrated so it is extremely important they have wet food. This prevents dehydration, UTIs, kidney disease etc. Meat is also carb free so your cat is not really able to cope with a diet high in carbs and fillers. They are fine in a young kitten that is growing quickly and full of energy. Older cats do better with a high protein low carb diet to avoid tooth decay, diabetes and heart disease. Our favorite brand is 4Health from Tractor Supply but Blue Buffalo is equally good just not as reasonably priced. Due to supply chain issues we find that the best consistently available brand of wet food is Friskies so that is what we are using at the moment. Are there better wet foods? Yes, but we want to make sure that the kittens do not go on a hunger strike when they get to their new homes because we picked some exotic brand that you cannot find in your area. When they are older please do switch to 4Health wet food or another high protein / low carb food.
We use a pressed pine pellet cat litter because it does not bother Paula's allergies. To be honest, the pine does not kill odor as well as clay litter does but for us it is the best choice. Many people with serious allergies do better with the pressed newsprint pellets. Dollar for dollar and taking ease of availability there is no beating clay litter from the grocery store. Just remember, allergies are often a package deal and while your cat might be hypoallergic if they get perfumed litter dust on their fur you might still react to them. The big thing to avoid is clumping litter. In kittens it can cause all kinds of health issues and even kill them.
Do yourself a favor and go with a simple open litter box that is easy to find in the beginning. Have you ever raced around the mall looking for a well hidden bathroom for a child who is becoming increasingly desperate? Don't do that to the kitten. No covered, well hidden litterboxes that are designed to keep visitors from knowing your cat poops. When he is older and knows what you expect from him you can get creative and play hide the potty. For now just accept that you are working with a baby that doesn't know your rules.
We consider one or more cat trees to be a necessity. Ours are planted firmly in front of the windows so the cats can watch the outside world. You don't have to go that far and you don't need as many of them as we have but cats like high places and need somewhere to scratch in order to take care of their claws. Why not make life simple for you and the cat?
The all important spray bottle. Are cats trainable? Yes, and so are humans. Guess what... yelling at the cat does not work. Neither does hitting a cat or throwing things at it. What does work is to use a spray bottle with water in it. Make a quick hissing noise while spraying it and soon your kitten will understand that when you make that noise you mean no.
We like 4Health or Blue Buffalo dry food in combination with wet food. For younger kittens a high carb wet food is fine. Friskies seems to be easy for everyone to find. Litter must be NON clumping. We use pine (Feline Pine) pellets but you can also us clay or any other litter as long as it does NOT clump. Unscented litter is a good idea for some people.
A lot of our families come from the DC area and make the 4 hour drive the night before, stay at a local hotel and then drive home the next morning. Even then it can be a bit of a journey if you don't plan ahead. We wish we could make things easier by shipping but it is too hard on the kitten.
Our farm is slightly off the beaten path so we like to meet families at the local Shoney's
2042 Carrollton Pike
Hillsville VA 24381
Is the address and it is right off the interstate. That saves you from spending an extra hour wandering around looking for our farm. You are welcome to come to the farm as well but due to covid restrictions we are not having people in at the moment.
If it is possible to have a friend or family member accompany you the drive home will be much more pleasant. Not just so you have someone to talk to but also because you will have someone to hold the kitten. A cuddled kitten is a happy kitten. It will be quiet and fall asleep. Please don't decide the best way to make the kitten happy is to let it have the run of the car. You might love it but from its perspective you are still a stranger. It could hide under the car seat and then slip out the door when you try to retrieve it. Alternately it could decide it wants to play and rub against your feet while you are trying to drive. Kittens under your brake pedal is not a good thing.
If your kitten suddenly starts foaming at the mouth on the way home don't worry it does not have rabies. It is however car sick. Bringing a roll of paper towels along is a good idea.
Some of our families are fairly local but many of the ones who are traveling a long distance worry about the kitten suffering on the drive home so they over feed / give too much water. A semi empty tummy is best while traveling. A light snack or quick drink is ok if you stop for a while to eat but free access to food in the car can be a disaster.
Wee pads are better for long trips than trying to bring a litter box. You can find them in the dog section of the grocery store and they can be a real blessing as they do not spill like a litter box would.
For long trips it is best to bring two people so one can hold the kitten. A lonely kitten in a carrier can be noisy. Do not let the kitten loose in the vehicle it could get out of the car when you stop or under your feet while driving. Feed and water lightly and only when you can stop for half an hour to avoid car sickness.
When you arrive home the best plan is for the kitten to have a small area all its own for a while. A small bathroom or laundry room is idea. Your bedroom is another option as long as you don't mind the kitten sleeping with you. Remember if you let it sleep with you the first night you are doomed, doomed I tell you doomed. Seriously, you will never sleep alone again which is not exactly a bad thing but it is something to be aware of.
If you have other pets introduce them slowly. The best way we have found is by using a dog crate that does NOT belong to your dog. Remember a dogs crate is its den so it might get jealous if some interloper invades its space. Instead put the kitten in its travel crate or a small dog crate bought for the purpose of meeting the other pets. There it will be safe and can spend the next few days getting to know them without anyone being in danger. Don't think if it as kitty prison. Think of it as a playpen.
It is not a good idea to leave small kittens unsupervised with large animals until you have gotten everyone used to one another. The same is true with small children. Kittens are still delicate when they go home. Little bones break and any cat will scratch if it is being hurt. Your little one would not intentionally hurt the kitten but lack of experience can lead to painful mistakes so start slowly and let them learn to play together with adult supervision.
Start small. Let the kitten have one room with an easy to find litter box that first night. Build from there.