Author: Dr. Clarissa G. Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS
Are you a kitten owner? Have you ever wondered what other kitten owners experience? Or perhaps you want to adopt a kitten and are wondering what it will be like? Then you should meet Onyx – our featured pet for this week’s blog!
At Lawndale Veterinary Hospital, we have a lot to share with owners about kittens (visit our Paws to Protect: Kittens section for kitten tips and info). But we also think that pet owners can learn some great tips from each other. That’s why we decided to focus a blog on adopting and raising a kitten – from a pet owner’s perspective. Larkin Herring, a Lawndale Veterinary Hospital client and new kitten owner, graciously agreed to provide us with her take on how things have been since she adopted Onyx. Read on – she has some very fun and insightful things to share!
Question: How did you find Onyx?
Answer: It’s Dr. Waterman’s “fault”! She had ordered some medicine for two of my dogs, and I had to go pick it up at the CVS up the road from the house. As I was pulling into the parking lot, this little midnight black fur ball wandered out of some tall brush and onto the shoulder of the road and I almost hit it. So I parked my car to get out and see what it was and it was this poor little kitten. No bigger than the palm of my hand. I am not a cat person, nor had I ever interacted for long periods of time with a cat. But I am a rescuer and have had several dogs, so I figured I keep her overnight or until I could find a foster or rescue to take her.
Question: How did you pick Onyx’s name?
Answer: I found her the last week of September, maybe the first week of October. All the names that were coming to mind were of the Halloween variety. However I didn’t want to name her something cliche for a solid black cat. I also didn’t know if she was a boy or girl yet. I couldn’t stop thinking about her and what her name might be. Then, out of nowhere, Onyx (like the gemstone) came to mind if she was a girl, and Drax (like Dracula but named after the Guardian of the Galaxy character) if she was in fact a boy. Onyx came I think, because her fur sparkles when the light hits it, just like the gemstone – so it stuck!
Question: Does Onyx have any ’siblings’?
Answer: Yes! She has two dog brothers (a Chihuahua mix and a Beagle-American Staffordshire Terrier mix) and two dog sisters (a Pit Bull-Bulldog mix and a Beagle-Boxer-Pitbull-Greyhound mix).
Question: Does Onyx get along with her ‘siblings’?
Answer: Yes! Until it’s bedtime. Onyx, is proving to be a night owl and the dogs are not! She gets bursts of energy, like “Pitbull zoomies” but for a cat, and she runs all over the bed and on top of the dogs. They play really well together and I swear Onyx will bark before I ever hear her meow. She loves going outside with them and running in the yard and playing chase. I think she loves it so much because she can get into places the dogs can’t so it’s more of a teaser for her!
Question: What made you decide to bring Onyx to Lawndale Veterinary Hospital?
Answer: I am 33 years old and have been going to Lawndale Vet with my pets since I was probably 5 or 6, when Dr. Eiler owned it. So there was no guessing on where to take her, when it came to what vet to go to! We adore Dr. Waterman.
Question: Has there been anything you have found to make Onyx’s trips to the vet easier and go more smoothly?
Answer: She hates loud sounds, and that might be a cat characteristic (I’m still learning). In the beginning, I will actually put her on my chest and zip my coat up around her. However once she gets comfortable, she will climb into her cat bed in the floor of the car behind the passenger seat. There is a toboggan of mine that she cuddles up in once she gets in the bed. She also usually goes with her four dog brothers and sisters (and ironically, I think that helps her more than anything). She does perfectly fine with her exam and vaccinations at the clinic, but she doesn’t like the nail trims!
Question: What are some of the exciting things you have experienced regarding having a kitten around the house?
Answer: She gets into everything! With dogs, you hear everything they do, but with cats, they are so quiet and stealth, I often “lose” her. She loves my shoes, which the dogs never did and she is so independent. As she has gotten a little older and bigger her personality is really starting to show now. She’s a lover of gazing out the front and bedroom windows using her window beds and she LOVES TO CLIMB, everything. She is easily entertained which is a nice change, because with dogs, or mine at least, they need/want my constant attention and she’s fine with a couple kisses, licks, and rubs and then she goes on her own. She will also take over the dog beds, especially the heated ones. She loves to cuddle with Darla, specifically, when she is sleeping on the heated beds. She loves the fireplace when it’s lit and enjoys lounging on the picnic table in the back and sun bathing.
Question: What are some of the frustrations and challenges you have experienced with Onyx?
Answer: Litter box training was a nightmare. I felt very anxious and often like a failure when it came to training her. Everything else I’ve done with her, as far as training, I’ve just used what I did with my dogs and it’s working, but the litter box….OH-EMMM-GEEE!!! I joined several Facebook groups and got a lot of tips from Dr. Waterman. It was a very long process, but it just took consistency and perseverance and now I feel like we are both pros! Another thing is her climbing. I’ve had to cut up boxes and close off certain sections of rooms because she will get behind things and use wires to climb to areas that are unsafe (she also tries to chew the wires). Also, her teething! Her teething is way worse than any of my dogs were. She constantly wants to chew on my hands and feet (especially if I have socks on). Hopefully we are almost out of the woods with this.
Question: What would you say helps you get through the challenges?
Answer: Consistency, consistency, consistency, and redirection – especially with the climbing and litter box training. I purchased tons of scratch pads and have them all throughout the house and bought her two cat climbing trees. One is in the living room and one is in her room. She was skeptical of them at first but now she loves them. I also have toys galore for her to choose from, so if she is doing something she shouldn’t, I can just redirect her with a toy. Also, I feel like if they have a playmate or someone to learn from, it makes their training a lot easier. Rewards always are a good choice too. When she moves from an area she isn’t supposed to be, I will always reward her with play or a tiny treat!
Question: What are the top 3 to 5 things you would tell a new kitten owner to “be ready” for once they get the kitten?
1. Be ready for litter box oopsies! When training a kitten to use the litter box they may go everywhere but the litter box at first. But just keep pushing forward with them.
2. Scratching of- ANYTHING! This was totally new to me. I was unaware of how much they just want to naturally scratch EVERYTHING! I have made sure to have scratching pads, posts, and boxes in every room of the house so that I can redirect her when necessary.
3. Independence- this was very new to me. As I stated before, I’m a dog person and never had a cat. The lack of need she had for me was new to me. Almost made me feel like I was doing something wrong. When they want you, they will tell you. When they don’t want/need you they won’t bother you.
4. Personality- Give your kitten time to adjust to the new environment. There isn’t a set time that will be needed as each kitten is different, but don’t give up or give in too early. I’ve had Onyx now for going on 4 months and she is just starting to come out of her shell and feel completely comfortable. If you’re not seeing your kitten as playful and as interactive as you’d like, just give him/her some more time. Eventually it will come out (and you can never put it back in, lol), so just take it slow!
5. TAKE IT SLOW- as with anything new, adjustment time is needed. Allow however much of that is needed. Don’t rush anything!