Frisky, feisty, funny, affectionate — a 6-month-old kitten is basically a tiny toddler wrapped in fur. If a 6-month-old has recently joined your household, learn how you can help him navigate his way through kittenhood. We’re sharing what you need to know about a 6 month-old kitten when it comes to health, mental well-being, behavior, diet and grooming.
If you haven’t already taken 6-month-old kitten to the vet, now is the perfect time! For kittens who have already visited the veterinarian, schedule a checkup when your feline friend reaches the 6-month milestone. At the appointment, you can expect the veterinarian to perform a thorough examination of your kitten’s eyes, ears, mouth and body. He will want to ensure your kitten is developing as expected.
Your vet may also recommend vaccinations if your kitten hasn’t already received them, as well as spay or neuter surgery. Have this surgery performed while your pet is still young to help prevent him from developing unwanted behaviors like spray marking.
Your veterinarian may also ask about your kitten’s social behaviors. As a 6-month-old kitten, your cat is becoming much more curious about his world, but he needs to learn how to interact with other animals and humans to remain a friendly, outgoing pet.
“Kittens in the early months need interaction with their own and other species to develop social skills,” says Heidi Pavia-Watkins, DVM, of the Airport Irvine Animal Hospital in Costa Mesa, California.
One of the best ways to socialize your kitten is to simply spend time with him. Hold him, stroke his fur, gently look inside his mouth and softly stroke his paws. Regular handling will also help you when it comes time to clip his claws or brush his teeth — he will already be used to you touching his mouth and feet.
While your 6-month-old kitten is still at this curious young age, introduce him to new people of all ages. Let your friends know they should approach your kitten slowly and not force themselves on him — the goal is for your kitten to view new people as safe, not frightening.
This is also a great age to help him learn to love (well, at least not fear) his carrier. “Keep the carrier out and routinely feed your kitten in there, toss treats in there, and create a cozy hideaway by lining the carrier with a soft towel,” suggests Pam Johnson-Bennett, a certified cat behaviorist (catbehaviorassociates.com). “Periodically place your kitten in the carrier, carry him around the house and also take him for rides in the car.”
You can also use treats to help your kitten associate his carrier with fun, rewarding experiences. High-quality treats formulated for cats and kittens can be a healthy part of your kitten’s diet when fed in moderation.
When you first visited the vet with your kitten, he likely recommended a high-quality kitten diet formulated to meet your pet’s high-energy needs. Like with younger kittens, a 6-month-old kitten needs access to frequent, small meals throughout the day. Expose your kitten to more than one flavor of food, so that he doesn’t develop finicky preferences as an adult. Your vet can help you select foods that you can feed interchangeably.
Your 6-month-old kitten is definitely growing into his personality and developing behaviors he’ll follow throughout his life. Kittenhood — from as young as 8 weeks and up to about one year — is an ideal time to help your pet establish good habits to make him a model pet in his adult and senior years.
“Spend time helping your kitten become comfortable with the experiences he’ll encounter in his life: car travel, getting groomed, having his ears cleaned, teeth brushing, nail trims, unfamiliar environments, unfamiliar sounds, unfamiliar people in his home and so on,” Pam says. She also offers tips for helping your kitten adopt good litter box habits.
First, if you haven’t already, provide a box that is easy for a kitten to climb in and out of. “A high-sided box will be too difficult for a youngster to crawl over, especially with a full bladder,” she says. “Keep in mind a kitten won’t have the bladder control of an adult cat so when she has to ‘go’ it’s usually urgent.”
You can start to introduce a larger box when your kitten hits the 6-month mark and is more familiar with the litter box routine. “Place a larger box next to the smaller one to start a gradual transition,” Pam suggests. “You can even place the smaller litter box inside the larger box to get her used to the new setup.”
Gradual introduction of new items also applies to grooming tools. As you socialize your 6-month-old kitten to regular handling of his paws, mouth and body, you help condition him for regular grooming tasks. Brushing and combing sessions can become wonderful times for you to bond with your pet, and if he is already accustomed to your touch on his paws and mouth, he will be more receptive to additional grooming tasks such as nail trimming and tooth brushing.
In short, you can help your kitten develop into a friendly, affectionate adult cat by spending quality time showing him that the world is a safe place. As Pam says, “While kittenhood is a wonderful and fun time, it’s also a time for him to learn and process the experiences he has. The time you spend gradually introducing new things to your kitten, the greater the chances of him being more accepting of those experiences later in life and that will reduce everyone’s stress level.”
Thumbnail: Photography ©Casey Elise Photography.
A lifelong cat owner, Stacy N. Hackett writes frequently about cats, cat breeds and a range of pet-related topics. The inspiration for her writing comes from her cats, Jack and Katie, and her Cocker Spaniel/Labrador Retriever mix, Maggie.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.