Most female cats will make good mothers. They’ll feed, wash, and care for their kittens. But what about male cats? Do they make good parents, too, even when they didn’t father the litter? Many of us have at least heard that male lions kill all the cubs they didn’t father when they take over a pride. I’ve sometimes wondered if that extends to other feline species. Can kittens and male cats be good together?
One woman’s experience with kittens and male cats changed her whole outlook
Dianne Meriwether answered that question, which originally appeared in the question form Quora, in a blog post that appeared in The Huffington Post. In it, she said she would have thought that male cats did not make good daddies. Her experience involves a male feral cat that approached their house after her female cat had kittens in the house. She had always heard that male cats eat kittens, so this frightened her. She thought he was after a meal.
What happened, though, surprised her. At first, she held one two-week old kitten up to the screen door, and the male cat responded by rubbing his cheeks on the screen. She finally let him in when the kittens were about four weeks old. He spent time washing each of the kittens, while their mother spent time trying to stay out of their reach. He also taught them to hunt, and fend for themselves. They followed him everywhere.
Male cats can sometimes take over mama’s role in her absence, but it’s wise to be careful with kittens and male cats
The Nest has an article with its own take on whether male cats can make good daddy cats. Author Elle Di Jensen of Demand Media advises people to keep an eye on mothers and their kittens if male cats are around, because they may still pose some danger. She also discusses some anecdotal evidence that male cats have actually shown up at people’s doors with litters of kittens in tow. Kittens wouldn’t follow a cat that threatened them; they’d run and hide.
Other answers to the original question on Quora insist that male cats can’t be good fathers. The bottom line appears to be that there’s no one way to answer this question. So, if you have a new litter of kittens in your household and male cats around, protect them, and perhaps introduce the male cats very slowly when the kittens are older. If the males show any aggression towards the kittens at all, keep them separate.
A sad truth about free-ranging cats is that they’re often killed, leaving kittens behind. The younger the kitten, the slimmer its chances for survival without a surrogate. With that in mind, Pima Animal Care Center in Tucson, Arizona, has come up with a unique solution to that very problem. They’re working on saving orphaned kittens by putting them with seniors living at Catalina Springs Memory Care.
How is saving orphaned kittens beneficial to seniors?
“This partnership is an amazing way to enrich the lives of the memory care center’s residents while saving the lives of our community’s most vulnerable pets.”
The two kittens who are part of the test program are called Peaches and Turtle. In mid-October, when they first arrived, they were only two weeks old and needed bottle feedings around the clock. They also needed lots of love and attention. Saving orphaned kittens is very, very difficult without fosters because they need very close attention to make it.
The residents of the memory care center have Alzheimer’s and dementia. They need the benefits and feelings that come from caring for another living being. Sharon Mercer, executive director of the memory center, says that there are skills and emotions that even people with these two devastating conditions never forget:
“The desire to give love and receive love remains. The kittens have given us the opportunity to nurture this human condition that lies in each and every one of our residents.”
Catalina has someone on staff who’s an expert at saving orphaned kittens
Peaches and Turtle only weighed in at seven ounces when they first arrived at PACC. The memory center’s health service director is a veteran kitten foster, and the staff ensured the kittens never missed a feeding. Under the residents’ care, they didn’t just survive, they thrived. They became very social and outgoing, and they doubled their weight. And the residents got to feel loved and needed again.
Peaches and Turtle will soon head back to PACC to be spayed and adopted out. Catalina Springs Memory Care is very optimistic about saving orphaned kittens this way because it helps the kittens and their residents. They hope to continue this program.
So, there’s this cat on Instagram named Monkey, who could look like your run-of-the-mill, beautiful black cat if you couldn’t see his upper fangs. They’re so long Monkey looks like he could be a vampire cat – but fortunately, his killings are limited to leaves and various plants.
I only sort of have a vampire cat or two
We have two cats with long fangs, but not nearly as long as this vampire cat’s fangs. Monkey’s teeth extend so low that they’re easily visible, even when his mouth is as closed as he can make it. With Chase and Kali, you can see their fangs, but they’re shorter than Monkey’s so they’re harder to spot.
To be honest, I’m kind of jealous of Monkey’s person, Nicole Rienzi, here.
How did Rienzi come by this pretty vampire cat?
Rienzi was driving with her mother when Monkey, then a young kitten, ran in front of their car. She almost hit him, stopped, and got out to make sure he was okay. He was underweight, full of fleas, with both eyes infected and just all around filthy. Kittens that are alone in the world like that often are in this condition.
Vampire Cat Monkey didn’t yet have his vampire fangs yet, so Rienzi had no idea she had such a unique-looking cat. She was going to find him a home, but ended up keeping him because he was giving her something she needed, too. It took about a year for his vampire fangs to grow in.
At that point, she took him to the vet to make sure the long canines weren’t a problem. Thankfully, they aren’t. They’re just very long. Long enough to suck blood, but Monkey only carries leaves and things around, since cats can’t suck blood.
Monkey has more than 24,000 followers on Instagram, and his “vampire cat” photos regularly get thousands of likes. Some of the photos are quite artistic, and others are Monkey just being a cat.
Do you have a new kitten, or are you considering getting a new kitten sometime soon? Basically, a kitten is like a small child. Anything she can get into, anything she can play with, anything she can capture, she will. So, before you give kittens the run of your house, you should try to kitten-proof your home as much as possible. This is both for her health and safety and for yours.
Kitten-proof your home by limiting her hiding places
The above picture is Kali when she was about four or five weeks old. She was the risk-taker. The explorer. And if she could find a way out of the pen in which we kept her and Chase, she would. And then she’d hide and we couldn’t find her. We’d tried to kitten-proof, but we didn’t put that speaker and her little claws together as a potential escape route.
So, the first thing you should do to kitten-proof your home is find all the possible hiding places your kitten could use. That includes places like inside the washer and dryer, behind them, under and behind furniture, inside closets, inside cabinets and drawers, and even inside furniture like your sofa or box spring. You kitten might be able to squeeze herself into nooks and crannies you can’t imagine.
Dr. Karen Becker recommends trying to limit her access to these kinds of hiding places as much as possible, especially when you’re not going to be home. This way, not only is she easier to find, but you also lower the risk that she’ll get herself stuck, and possibly seriously injured while trying to get out (this was our biggest worry with Kali). Also, when you’re doing laundry, check the washer and dryer very carefully before closing the door, to be sure she didn’t sneak in under all the clothes. Or just keep her out of your laundry room altogether.
Fragile or breakable items should be put away when you kitten-proof
You will also want to put away things you don’t want knocked over or broken as you kitten-proof, at least until you can teach her where she can and cannot climb. Cats climb, jump, explore, and they want to explore vertically as well as horizontally. Because of this, simply putting things out of reach, as you would for a young child, isn’t likely to work. Case in point – when we first brought Aria in, she jumped from the floor to the top of the mantle above the fireplace, and knocked our wedding goblets off. Of course, one of them shattered. We can replace it, but it’s not quite the same.
Putting these things inside cupboards, drawers and cabinets until she knows where she can and can’t go will help protect these things, and help protect her, too.
Be sure you keep cleaning supplies and anything else that might be toxic to her—like medicines and plants—locked away, or throw them out entirely if you can. She’ll get into anything and everything, especially when you’re not home to stop her.
Choking hazards should also be put away when you go through and kitten-proof
Other things you’ll want to put away, or make inaccessible or unappealing, are dangly things, and things she can swallow or choke on. Ribbons, rubber bands, hair ties, yarn, string, thread, needles, even packing peanuts, can all be dangerous for her. These may be things we don’t often think about, but with a kitten in the house, you should be very careful what you leave out. Put these things inside a latching drawer or cabinet to ensure she can’t get to them
Covering or hiding wires, cords and cables is necessary to kitten-proof your home
Another potential problem is the wires that are all over your house. Kali loves chewing wires. She chews them everywhere – we still haven’t been able to break her of it. So we’ve had to resort to putting things she doesn’t like on the wires because otherwise, she’ll just chew, and chew, and chew.
You can try bundling wires together in plastic tubes, but that may not stop your kitten from chewing them near the outlets. To truly kitten-proof this way, you should put something on the wires themselves that she doesn’t like. Unplugging wires you’re not using will help keep her safe as well.
To keep her away from them altogether, you can put something like Tigerbalm, or Vick’s VapoRub, on the surface of the wire, but test this first. Make sure she really doesn’t like the smell. The last thing you want to do is coat the wire in something she’s just going to lick off and possibly get sick from. Some cats really like menthol, so be sure it’s going to serve as a repellent before using it. This works for Kali, but not for Aria (but Aria’s not a wire-chewer).
You can also put aluminum foil, or something else noisy, down on the floor near the outlets, so she’s startled when she steps on it. The goal here is to make the environment surrounding your wires create negative associations, so she associates bad things with those areas or objects, and not with you.
This can also work for keeping her off the kitchen counters, and off of any furniture you don’t want her climbing. By the same token, you should replace what you’re taking away with acceptable outlets for climbing and chewing. So cat trees, shelves, and toys are a must.
Another kitten-proof method is putting strangling hazards out of reach
You will also want to get things with which she could potentially strangle herself out of reach. Cords on your blinds, and certain fabrics that she could put her head through, can be dangerous for her. In fact, one of our bed skirts has a hole in it, and when Kali was about six weeks old, she put her head through it, and then couldn’t get back out. She panicked and began struggling hard, turning over, and the fabric twisted around her neck. Fortunately I was right there and saw this happen so I was able to free her before she hurt herself.
After that, we tucked the bed skirt up under the mattress so that wouldn’t happen while we were out. To kitten-proof your home in a way that will help you avoid this potential tragedy, you’ll want to coil up cords and hang them on a tack or nail, or the curtain rod. Tuck away fabrics that she could stick her head through.
Finally, eliminating escape routes is a great way to kitten-proof your home
Her natural curiosity to explore will grow, so kitten-proof by blocking off or eliminating her potential escape routes. This applies even if you’re going to let her outdoors, because you don’t want her to slip out unnoticed. Chase once bolted out our back door faster than I was able to react. He only made it to the middle of the yard before he stopped and looked around in wonder, but had he run all the way to the back fence, he could have gone under it and been gone. You may want to consider an outdoor enclosure for her, especially if she just doesn’t seem happy staying inside all the time.
In the Midwest, flea season generally starts in May and goes on until winter. In fact, it’s possible for fleas on your cat to peak in the fall, not the summer as is commonly thought. Generally, temperatures outside need to stay consistently below freezing before flea season is over, and even then, if they’re already in your house they will likely continue to flourish. What do you do if you find fleas on young kittens in your house?
It’s not smart to treat fleas on young kittens with the usual flea and tick treatments
Products such as Frontline, Revolution, flea shampoos and flea dips can help you get rid of fleas in your house and on your older pets, however, you can’t treat fleas on young kittens this way. Flea products like those listed above can cause serious illness, injury, and even death in young kittens. It’s best to avoid using these altogether. The best thing to do is to take her to your vet and let your vet handle it.
What you can do with fleas on young kittens
If you can’t take her in within a few days of noticing the fleas, consider giving your kitten a bath in lukewarm water with baby shampoo. Baby shampoo is very gentle and ideal for young kittens. You can also use Dawn dish soap for fleas on young kittens, because it has been proven to be safe for wildlife that has been rescued from oil spills. Make sure it’s diluted first, though.
Your kitten needs to be in a warm place while doing this, so start by using a space heater to warm up your bathroom. Fill the sink with a few inches of lukewarm water (not hot, it should feel like a warm swimming pool) and gently put her into it. Keep her head out of the water at all times. You want her to be neck-deep when she’s sitting, but absolutely no deeper; it’s very important you keep soap and water out of her eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.
Once she’s in the water you’ll see her fleas running to her head and face to escape. Start working a dime-sized amount of soap into her fur as the fleas try and run, and use a flea comb to brush them off her head and face. You won’t get them all this way but you’ll get many, and many more will drown when she’s put into the water. Flea combs are readily available at your local pet supply store.
Make sure you take good care of your kitten following the bath, too
Drain the water and rinse her off thoroughly; there shouldn’t be any soap at all left on her when you’re done. More fleas will die during this part of the process, and you may also want to run the comb over her head and face once more before taking her out of the sink.
When you’re done bathing her, dry her fur as much as possible with one towel, and then use second towel to wrap her up, leaving her face exposed. If she’s younger than 6 weeks, she will need to stay wrapped up in the dry towel because very young kittens have trouble regulating their own body temperatures.
Do NOT leave her body exposed to the air while her fur is still damp; she can get a nasty chill this way. In fact, the best way to keep her warm is to cuddle her while she’s drying because your body heat will help a lot. This may take a few hours so it’s best to actually set aside a good chunk of your day to do this.
To effectively fight fleas on young kittens, you’ll have to repeat this until you can get her to the vet
Effectively treating fleas on young kittens involves doing this once to twice a week, especially before you’re able to get to your vet. Also, you’ll need to vacuum your house daily and wash every blanket and towel that your kitten uses or sleeps in on a daily basis to keep the infestation from spreading as much as possible.
If you have adult pets in the house you can use products like Frontline or Revolution on them to keep them from getting fleas as well, and that will also help keep the fleas from multiplying as quickly as they otherwise might. Don’t use these to treat fleas on young kittens, though. There’s no way to emphasize that enough.
It is time-consuming and labor-intensive, but it’s also the best and safest way to handle fleas on young kittens. Remember, ALL flea products are a type of poison and are very dangerous for young kittens. Further, over-the-counter flea products can be toxic even to adult cats. DO NOT use these on your kitten no matter what the label says about age or body weight. Once you get her to your vet he will be able to recommend a course of action that’s both safe for your kitten and effective at getting rid of the fleas.
Chase and Kali weren’t ordinary kittens for us. When we took them in, they were only three weeks old, and we had no idea whatsoever how to raise young kittens like that. We didn’t know what to look for in terms of worrisome behavior or symptoms, what was normal, or even really how to feed them or calm them down. Raising young kittens like this was a great, amazing learning experience, but it takes commitment, a lot of time and effort, love, and learning how not to be afraid to ask questions.
How did we end up raising young kittens in the first place?
Chase and Kali were strays. It was actually my sister’s neighbor that found them, and she took them in at first because her neighbor couldn’t care for them. My sister couldn’t keep them, because she already had too many pets, so we took them in. As near as we all can figure, their mother was probably hit by a car and killed, leaving her litter all alone.
I didn’t know what I was getting into with raising young kittens like this, so the first thing I did when I picked them up from my sister’s place (and got over the fact that, when they were hungry, they seemed to want to crawl up my nose), was call my vet and say, “Help!” I made an appointment for them to be checked out, but they were too young for blood tests and shots, so our vet recommended we keep them away from our other cats until we were sure they were healthy.
What do you feed kittens that can’t eat solid food?
Once I was home, I told my husband he needed to stop at Petsmart and get kitten milk replacer, or KMR, for them, as per our vet’s recommendation. I made up half a carrier with a heating pad on the lowest setting in just one part of the carrier, and a thick, flannel sheet folded up on top of the heating pad. I figured that would be a good bed for them.
They didn’t think so, though; they wanted to be on me. So I let them be on me while we waited for their milk. They were hungry and squirmy and crying, and I didn’t know what to do for them, but at least they would calm down a little bit if they were allowed to cuddle on me.
When my husband got home with their KMR, he mixed it up and we put it in little bowls for them. They eagerly lapped it up as best they could. We had a bottle-feeding kit, but they’d already been eating off of bowls and saucers for long enough that they wouldn’t drink from the bottle. So we just let them figure out how to drink their KMR on their own. We gave them some wet kitten food, too, just to see how they’d do with it.
What other interesting things do you learn when raising young kittens?
That night, I learned one interesting thing about raising young kittens. Kittens of that age often need an enclosure to feel safe. We didn’t want to put the top half of the carrier on and close them up, but we didn’t know what else to do because we didn’t want them to be able to wander around all night.
We didn’t need to worry. Their reaction to getting closed in the carrier was stunning. As soon as the door was shut, they passed out. They were exhausted little kittens.
We took turns sleeping on the couch in the living room for the next two weeks, so they would never be left alone, and we could feed them and let them out as needed.
That was just my first day of raising young kittens. Over the next few weeks, the amount of stuff that we both learned about cats and kittens was amazing. I learned, for instance, that Chase and Kali were looking at the laser pointer, at toys, even at bugs that got in the house with confusion because they were just barely at the age where kittens start learning to play.
The problem with flea treatments and anti-parasitics
I also learned (thankfully not the hard way) that raising young kittens involves knowing what you can and cannot give them in terms of medication and flea treatments. They had fleas. We couldn’t bathe them with flea shampoo, and we couldn’t put Frontline or Revolution on them. These products are dangerous, even deadly, for kittens that young. We got Revolution for our two adult cats, but all we could do for these two was bathe them in warm water with baby shampoo (you can use blue Dawn, too), and pull the fleas off of them with a flea comb as we saw them run to their faces.
We also vacuumed every day and changed their bedding twice a day. Fortunately, that, plus the Revolution on Aria and Gizmo, kept a potential flea infestation at bay, and we were eventually able to get half-doses of Revolution for them at the vet’s office. All flea medication, flea dips, and flea shampoos—basically, all anti-parasitics—are very dangerous for young kittens. Call your vet and make an appointment to handle fleas, ticks, ear mites, etc., if you have to. It’s far better to be safe than sorry.
Litter box training is a vital part of raising young kittens
Of course, an important part of raising young kittens is litter box training. We first started litter box training Chase and Kali with a thick layer of paper towels, which was changed frequently, in a box. They’d found a corner of the living room carpet to use, which we didn’t like, so we blotted up their little puddles, and put those paper towels into the box we wanted them to use. Amazingly enough, that was all it took to tell them where the “bathroom” was. Just that one time.
As far as teaching them to use real litter, when raising young kittens, it’s important to remember that they’re exactly like children and they will try to eat anything and everything. That includes litter, so clumping litter is not a good idea for them. We just got regular clay, non-clumping litter, and a box with a ramp so they could easily climb into it.
We thought their tummies were round because they had worms, even though their stool samples had shown no evidence of that. It turns out that their tummies were round because they were holding their bowel movements as much as possible. Yes, they had had bowel movements, but only when they couldn’t hold it anymore.
What were they doing? They were waiting for something that would allow them to dig and bury. As soon as we gave them a proper litter box and put them inside it, they dug, squatted, and went. And then they buried it. It was amazing.
Raising young kittens isn’t always this easy, or full of joy
This isn’t everything we learned from raising young kittens. They were a journey, and raising young kittens can be a wonderful journey and learning experience, but it can also be difficult, and even heartbreaking. We’re lucky. Chase and Kali were healthy, and we were able to work our schedules so that someone was almost always home with them, able to feed them on schedule, and able to watch them all the time.
Sometimes, young kittens don’t survive, even when they’ve got their mother there to raise them. That’s difficult. I knew that, and the number of times I’d wake up in the middle of the night, or pick up my cell phone at work, and be dead certain that they’d died, was off the charts. And every time I was relieved to find that wasn’t the case. Not everyone who’s raising young kittens is that lucky.
Today, Chase and Kali are seven years old, and they’re still both healthy and happy cats. This is an experience I’d never trade for anything, even if it didn’t have such a happy ending.
When considering whether to adopt a cat or a kitten, it seems that most people would rather get a kitten than an adult cat. It makes sense; kittens haven’t yet developed their personalities so the general assumption is that they grow into the families they live with and become an excellent fit. But it may not always be a wise idea to adopt a kitten. Many times, adopting an adult cat is the better option. How do you know whether to adopt a cat or a kitten?
Here are some reasons to adopt a kitten
Kittens are playful, small and cute
Kittens learn very quickly and are therefore easy to train.
Kittens are very, very social and affectionate
Kittens provide lots of entertainment when they’re playing
Kittens have a lot of energy, so they’re extremely playful. It takes a lot to tire them out. This is great for people who want a pet with a lot of energy; a kitten that is played with a lot will grow into an adult that loves to be played with. Also, if they’re young enough when they’re adopted (on the order of 6-8 weeks), they can grow to see their owners as surrogate parents so they’ll grow up to be wonderful lap cats and companions.
However, kittens are basically little children. They can get into everything. They need to be trained to stay out of cabinets and off furniture, and not to scratch and bite. They need frequent supervision AND a lot of attention and because of this, kittens are not right for every household. Whether or not you’re home is a major consideration in deciding whether to adopt a cat or a kitten.
Should you adopt a cat or a kitten, then? Here are some pros of adopting an adult cat
Adult cats already have an established personality
Adult cats tend to be mellower and quieter
Adult cats are often already trained
Adult cats are social and affectionate, but not as intrusive as kittens often are
Adult cats can have sweetness and quietness and mellowness already built into their personalities. Also, many adult cats have already received a lot of training from previous owners so they already know not to scratch and bite, not to get into cabinets or onto furniture. They know how to love their people and they may even know when to be around and when to stay away. They’re curious creatures, but not as curious as kittens can be.
Choosing the right adult cat to adopt can be more difficult though because their personalities and training are already established. In this instance, it’s important to talk to the current owners (shelter, pet store, breeder, neighbor, whoever the owner currently is) about spending time with the cat to get a feel for what kind of pet it would be and whether it’s a good fit. This, too, is important in deciding whether to adopt a cat or a kitten.
So the decision to adopt a cat or a kitten requires a lot of thought and insight into one’s needs and desires. Careful thought and planning will help a prospective cat owner make the right decisions.
These are just a few pictures that show how cute and silly our cats can be. The second one down includes a picture of Kitty, who is no longer with us. She died in 2006, at the ripe old age of 15, and I don’t have nearly enough pictures of her.