Bringing home an adorable new bundle of fluff is a seriously exciting time. But if you’ve never owned a cat before, it can also feel like a huge responsibility. Check out our eight must-know tips for how to take care of your kitten and make sure they grow up as strong and happy as possible.
1. Stock up on supplies
Kittens might be small, but they need plenty of stuff! It makes sense to get the basics before your kitten arrives. That way, you know that you’re covered for a few weeks at least. If your kitten ends up needing new equipment or toys after that, you’re not going to feel rushed into buying them. Before you bring your kitten home, we recommend investing in:
2. Make sure you have enough kitten food
Most kittens will travel to their new homes when they’re 8 to 12 weeks old, at which point, they’ve been fully weaned onto solid food. If you can, it’s a good idea to find out what food the breeder or shelter that you’re getting your kitten from uses. Maintaining the same diet can help minimize the chances of your kitten developing an upset tummy as they move to their new home.
Always choose a brand that’s been approved by the Association of American Food Control Officials for the growth and development stage of a cat’s life. That means the food contains all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that your kitten needs to thrive.
If you do decide to switch foods, make the transition to the new food slowly over the course of at least 1 week. Start adding just a spoonful of the new brand to the existing food, and gradually increase the amount until you’re feeding just the new brand.
Kittens up to 6 months old should be fed four times per day. You may decide to free-feed a dry kibble that your kitten can snack on in between meals of wet food. By 7 months old, you can reduce meals to two times per day. By 1 year old, you can transition your kitten to an adult cat food.
3. Train your kitten to use the litter box
Most kittens learn how to use their litter box with minimal fuss. As they’re getting used to their new home, expect them to have a few accidents. If your kitten is taking a little time to adjust, make sure you place a few litter boxes around the house, so they’re never far from one if they need to go. Heap plenty of praise on your kitten in the form of verbal praise and treats when you see them using their litter box properly.
4. Give your kitten time to adjust
Moving away from their mother cat and siblings can be a huge adjustment for your kitten. If they’re moving to a new home with a sibling, then the adjustment can be a little easier, as the kittens will rely on each other for support and comfort. If you’re bringing home a solo kitten, then be prepared for them to need more attention and comfort from you.
Spend plenty of time socializing and playing with your kitten, but also let them set the pace. If they’re nervous around new people or another pet, then keep meetings short and make sure you offer your kitten plenty of treats and praise. Kittens also tire out easily, and sleeping is a way of processing all the new information that they’re learning. Kittens sleep for between 16 and 20 hours per day, so make sure you allow your kitten plenty of quiet time to catch those z’s.
5. Take your kitten for their health check
Schedule your kitten’s first health check for around 1 week after you bring them home. Your vet will give them any vaccinations if they haven’t had them yet and carry out a general health examination. They may also prescribe medication for parasites or fleas if necessary.
Getting your kitten used to vet visits is a great way to help them feel comfortable at these appointments as they grow up. It’s also a great opportunity to ask your vet any questions about nutrition, socializing, or anything else that you’re wondering about.
6. Socialize your kitten
If you want your cat to be outgoing and well-adjusted as an adult, then socializing them while they’re still a kitten is crucial. Once your kitten has settled into their new home, consider ways to socialize them as much as possible. Get them used to being brushed, having their nails trimmed, and even having a bath, and you’ll find that caring for them is easy and stress free, as they’ll be confident enough to let you do these things as they grow up too.
Invite friends around, and encourage them to meet your kitten — and don’t be shy with the treats! If you have dogs and other cats, introduce your kitten to them slowly and allow them to get to know each other at their own pace. Allow your kitten time to rest in between these socializing sessions, and remember that they still need plenty of sleep and time to process the new sights and sounds.
- Related Read: How to Get an Older Cat to Accept a Kitten: 6 Easy Steps
7. Use positive reinforcement
As responsible kitten owners, we must find the best way to train our kittens. Positive reinforcement, also known as clicker training, helps your kitten learn what behavior they get rewards and praise for. They’re then more likely to keep doing it! If you don’t want your kitten to get up on the kitchen counter, don’t shout at them when they’re up there but instead, redirect them to their toys or a scratching post and heap praise on them (and give plenty of tasty treats) while they’re there instead. They’ll soon learn that it’s a good place to be. It can be fun teaching your kitten new tricks in general too!
8. Schedule plenty of playtime
Kittens love to sleep and eat but they also love to play! In between eating and sleeping, your kitten will spend most of their time playing. Make sure they have a wide variety of different toys. Some can be interactive, like fishing wand toys that you can wave around for them, and others are ones that your kitten can play with by themselves if they wake up in the night, like kicker toys.
Featured Image Credit: Serita Vossen, Shutterstock