Mental and Physical Development
Rapid Growth and Eye Color Change At nine weeks old, kittens begin to physically lengthen, giving you an idea of what size they'll be as adult cats. At this stage, kittens are lots of fun to play with and watch as they run around and chase tails -- but there is an important reason behind the craziness.
Kittens are now in their most active play period, which is designed to improve motor skills and help their rapidly growing bodies develop physical coordination. Your kitten will begin to enjoy toys (choose kitten-safe ones) at this age. Don't be surprised to see your kitten tossing, licking, leaping, mouthing or pawing -- it's all practice for the adult feline world.
Take a closer look at the iris of your kitten's eyes; the color will begin to change from the universal baby blues all kittens have to his true eye color - which may be gems of solid green, gold or true blue. Those eyes are busy watching everything around them as your kitten takes social cues from mom, littermates or her human family.
Canned Food vs. Dry Food Should you feed your pet canned food or should you feed your pet dry food (or "kibble")?
Dry food is better for the teeth of kittens because the abrasive action of crunching the kibble is similar to the scrubbing action of teeth-brushing. However, canned food is healthier for the bladder and kidneys because of its high water content.
Feeding canned food is also a good way to prevent bladder crystals and stones from recurring. The extra moisture in the canned food helps to dilute the urine, which prevents the most common type of bladder crystals. Bladder crystals and stones can have serious consequences, including the possibility of a fatal blockage or the development of behavioral problems such as urinating outside of the litter box. For this reason, many feline specialists recommend feeding primarily canned food, with the option of feeding an additional small amount of dry food to serve a teeth-cleaning function.
For kittens, the ideal feeding routine would consist of feeding high-quality canned kitten food several times per day (such as morning, evening and before bed) in addition to offering "free-choice" dry kitten food. Free-choice means the dry food would be available to the kitten 24 hours a day. If possible, kittens should have access to food all day long, so that they can grow big and strong.
Health and Veterinary Care: Rhinotracheitis
Rhinotracheitis is a very common ailment of cats and kittens. It is very possible that your kitten may have already experienced it. This is the cat version of the common cold (or feline upper respiratory tract infection). It is caused by feline herpesvirus.
Feline herpesvirus, along with feline calicivirus, is responsible for 90 percent of kitty colds. Kittens who have become infected with a cold typically sneeze and experience nasal or ocular discharge. This virus commonly causes a low-grade, life-long infection that only reappears when the adult cat is stressed (due to such reasons as a diet change, an owner going on vacation, a new pet joining the household, etc.).
This disease is usually self-limiting -- meaning many kittens can get better on their own without any help. Sometimes the veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics if it is suspected that bacteria are involved in addition to the virus.
A vaccine is available and is considered a core vaccine (one that every kitten should receive). This shot is usually given in combination (in one syringe) with panleukopenia and calicivirus. It is given every three to four weeks from the time the kitten is eight to nine weeks of age until she reaches 16 weeks of age.
Training: Introducing Your Kitten to Other Pets
The key to a successful introduction is patience. If you want your kitten to get along with your other pets, you must not rush things. Ideally, this will take three to four weeks to accomplish, so it's a good idea to begin the process now.
Start by keeping your kitten completely isolated from the other pets. They will know that she is there because they can smell and hear her. Keep them separate for about one week. The idea is to create anticipation and curiosity so that these emotions will overwhelm any anxiety or aggression.
When it is time to introduce them, open the door and place a baby gate at the entrance. Allow them to interact nose-to-nose for a few minutes (or until someone growls or hisses). At this point, do not discipline anyone; just close the door and try again the next day. It may take several days before your pets can interact nose-to-nose without hissing or snarling.
When this happens, you can attempt supervised visitations in the same room. Again, stop the interaction if it gets negative, and repeat the process the following day. After three to four weeks, your pets should be able to interact peacefully with each other.
For additional suggestions, consult with your veterinarian or trainer.