Bringing home a new pet is a very exciting time; be it a dog or a cat, from a rescue centre or breeder, your first pet or your twenty first. But it does pay to be prepared so you can make the most of enjoying the time with your new friend knowing that they’re happy, healthy and safe. Kittens especially are incredibly popular and it’s not hard to see why. Many cats can happily live into their late teens but that early life care is vital. As always, if you have any queries or are in need of any advice, your vet is the best person to speak to. However, below are ten pointers to get you started.
Table of contents
1. Adopt or shop?
The first big question to answer is whether you want to buy your kitten from a breeder or re-home them from a rescue centre. If looking at re-homing, the rescue centre should help you choose the right kitten for you. And ensure that you know how to care for them properly. If looking at buying from a breeder, you may need to do a little bit of homework yourself.
Kittens should be kept with their mother until they’re at least eight weeks old. They should have been gradually socialised so they are used to people, noises, being handled and ideally other animals too. Sadly, there are some unscrupulous breeders out there. So make sure you are able to see the kitten with it’s mum in the family home, that the kitten appears happy and healthy and comes with any relevant paperwork such as microchip documentation and proof of any vaccinations already given.
2. Compile a shopping list
Kittens don’t travel light so be prepared to spend some pennies to make sure they will have everything they need to make themselves at home. Some of the essentials you will need to purchase include
- food and water bowls
- litter tray and litter – cats don’t like sharing. So make sure you have at least the same number of litter trays as cats, plus one extra.
- kitten food – ideally the same initially as what they are used to. Then if required, you can change them over gradually to a food of your choice.
- cat bed – but be prepared for them to prefer your bed!
- toys – ensure they are suitable for kittens with no parts that could come off
- cat carrier – ought to be well ventilated and sturdy
- cat brush – groom them every day to strengthen the bond between you and to keep their skin and fur healthy
- scratching post – to (hopefully) save your sofa!
3. Preparing the house
In order to help your kitten settle in comfortably, there are a few things to consider.
- Allow them to go at their own pace. A new environment can be very overwhelming for them so give them time to adjust and make sure they have a safe, quiet space they can go to with food, water and a litter tray available
- If possible, provide them with something from their previous home such as a blanket or toy that they are familiar with
- Make safe any areas that the kitten will be in. And section off any areas that you don’t want them to be in such as the kitchen
- Consider using a feline pheromone plug-in to aid in relaxation
- Play with your kitten as much as they’re happy to, which will help to create a bond between you.
4. Register with a vet
Although hopefully your new kitten will come to you in perfect health, you will still need to register them with a vet so they can get preventative healthcare such as vaccinations and treatment if they do become ill. You may already have a vet in mind from previous or other pets but if not, speak to family and friends for recommendations and ensure you know the vets’ location, opening hours and provisions for out of hours care.
5. Ensure you insure?
Pet insurance is by no means compulsory but it can be helpful to have some sort of means to pay for any unexpected veterinary bills. This may be by taking out an actual pet insurance policy or by putting money aside into a separate bank account every month. There are pros and cons to each option so again, speaking to family and friends who may have been in a similar position can be helpful.
Even if your kitten has already had a good amount of socialisation before they come to you, it is important that you carry this on. Introduce new things gradually so as not to overwhelm them. Consider how they see the world and make sure they have exposure to different people, including children, different animals, different noises, sounds or smells and experiences such as travelling in the car or having their nails clipped.
7. Feeding your kitten
Generally, what you feed your kitten is completely your choice, but there are a few guidelines to follow:
- start with what they are used to and if you want to change it, do so gradually over a week or two to help prevent any gastrointestinal upset
- feed a food appropriate for their age as kittens have different requirements from adult or elderly cats.
- ensure the food is ‘complete’ which means it contains everything they need and there is no need to supplement with anything else
- you can feed completely wet food, completely dry food, or a combination of the two
- feed little and often, especially when they’re young. Classically, cats are ‘grazers’ so some people leave food down all the time. This may well suit your kitten eventually but keep an eye on their weight as some cats can become overweight by feeding this way.
Although not yet compulsory as it is in dogs, microchipping cats is a very useful thing to do. Most cats will spend at least some of the day outside, during which time they can wander and unfortunately could get themselves in trouble. Some simply go missing for a while before returning home, but sadly some may be involved in accidents.
If a stray, injured or deceased cat is taken to a vet, it will be scanned for a microchip and if found, the chip number can be looked up and the owner’s details obtained so they can be traced. Microchipping is most commonly done at the same time as vaccination or neutering but should certainly be done before the kitten is allowed outside. Even indoor-only cats ought to be microchipped in case they escape.
Vaccinations are vital at preventing many serious diseases. The routine vaccinations in cats will prevent against feline flu, enteritis and leukaemia. Normally, a kitten would have his or her first vaccination at eight weeks of age, then a second vaccination at 12 weeks of age, though there is some variability and other considerations to take into account so it’s worth speaking to your vet about the best plan of action.
10. Flea and worming
Although the main risk period for fleas, ticks and worms is when the kitten is going outside, it pays to put prevention in place before that time, especially if there are other pets in the house. The preventative treatments used can be given in a variety of ways such as tablets or ‘spot-ons’ and although many are available over the counter, veterinary prescription products may be more suitable, though your vet can advise you further.
As your kitten gets older, you will also need to consider things such as neutering and dental care, but for now, enjoy the early weeks and use them to allow your cat to become a part of the family. Give them the chance to show how loving and loyal they can be and you will be rewarded with soft cuddles, head bumps, and dribbles for many years to come.