How to Care for a Kitten
It’s always a very exciting day when you get a new kitten as the latest member of your family, but it’s also important to be prepared. Getting ready for your new addition, as well as knowing how to look after it in the long run, is all about doing your research.
Here’s our guide on caring for your new kitten.
Before you get your kitten
It’s important to get things ready for your new arrival before you go to pick them up, from buying food and bedding to making sure your home is safe. Firstly, you’ll need to buy the essentials:
- Carry case
- Kitten food
- Food and water bowls
- Litter tray and cat litter
- A cosy bed
You can find out more about each of the items on this checklist below.
Check your house for hazards such as awkward corners or gaps a kitten could get stuck in, and check windows and doors to outside are secure. Be sure to swot up on other things to consider when you bring your kitten home for the first time with our useful guide.
Introducing your kitten to your home
It’s a good idea to slowly introduce your kitten to one or two rooms at a time, as a whole house can be overwhelming for a tiny kitten. Let them get used to their surroundings gradually, and they’ll soon be confidently exploring and feeling more at home.
If you have any other pets, you’ll also need to gradually introduce them to your new arrival, and always closely supervise their first meetings.
A place to sleep and hide
Everyone needs somewhere they can feel cosy and safe, and it’s no different for your kitten. As any cat owners will know, a cat will sleep in lots of different places, but they still appreciate a comfy bed to themselves.
For a kitten it’s also a good idea to get a covered bed, as it gives them somewhere they can hide if they’re feeling nervous or startled.
Feeding your kitten
Kittens need their own special type of food while they’re still growing, and you’ll be able to find lots of different varieties at any good pet shop. You should start by finding out what they’ve been eating so far, and get the same food so as to avoid any upset tummies. You can gradually change to another food if you want afterwards, but a sudden change in diet can cause problems, especially combined with stress of moving home.
There are lots of different kitten foods available, and some are higher quality than others. As a general rule, take the same approach as you would with your own food shopping - if a kitten food is full of additives and ingredients you don’t recognise, or cereal fillers for dried food, it’s probably not the best quality. For dried kibble, look for high protein (meat) content, and a low number of ingredients. For wet food, as near to 100% meat as possible is best.
Ask for advice from the pet shop on the different types of food available, and they’ll be able to show you all the options.
When you get your new kitten, chances are it should already be used to using a litter tray, but they might still need a hand. Just keep an eye on them and make sure to show them the litter tray when they look like they might be about to go to the toilet – often after meals or when they wake up.
Make sure the litter tray you buy isn’t too high on the sides as they’ll struggle to get in and out while they’re still small. You should also place the tray somewhere easily accessible but out of the way, and put some newspaper around to catch any spillage from your kitten digging in the litter.
The type of litter you buy is up to you, and you can consider different things such as ease of cleaning or environmentally friendly materials. Of course, it’s also up to your cat, and they’ll soon let you know if they don’t like digging in the litter you’ve provided. As with food, check what they’ve been using already and try to get the same at first.
Cats are naturally clean and hygienic animals, and like to wash themselves with their tongue and paws throughout the day. You can help them out by brushing them regularly, especially for medium or long-haired breeds, as brushing will help reduce the amount of loose hairs.
It’s a good opportunity to get them used to being brushed when they’re little, and most will soon learn to enjoy it. Just be gentle and patient, and give your kitten plenty of praise and attention so they can feel positive about grooming.
Your cat shouldn’t ever need bathing– it’s perfectly true that most cats hate getting wet and they certainly won’t appreciate a bath, and it’s usually unnecessary unless for a medical reason.
Toys and playtime
Playtime is very important for the health of your cat as well as to help them get to know you and bond with you. Kittens love to run around and chase things, and will happily play with all sorts of toys, especially if you join in.
You’ll find lots of fun things to try at your local pet store, and you’ll soon learn what your kitten most likes to play with. It’s a good idea to get a variety of different types of toys, and rotate which ones are out to play with to keep things fresh and engaging for your cat.
Whether you want to allow your kitten to go outdoors or not in the long run is up to you. Cats can be perfectly happy and healthy living indoors, and this can often be necessary if you live near a busy road or in an apartment.
If you do have space and you want your cat to get used to going outside, you can start introducing your kitten to the outdoors about a week after its first vaccinations.
At first you should closely supervise them, and pick a dry, calm day for you new kitten to take its first steps outdoors. You should only let your kitten outside unsupervised once it’s at least five or six months old, and you’re confident they know their way around the garden and how to get back into the house.
You should register with a local vet when you get your new kitten, and visit them for an initial general health check. This is when they can also advise you when it’s time to get their vaccinations done and other routine healthcare milestones.
When you get your kitten, you should find out if they’ve already been neutered and if they’ve had any other healthcare or problems so far, so you can let your vet know.
Your kitten will also need things like regular worming and flea treatments, and your vet will be able to advise on how and when this needs doing.
Can a kitten be left alone during the day?
While your kitten is very young, it’s best not to leave them alone in the house. Once they’re a bit older at about five or six months, most kittens can cope with being left alone for a few hours. It’s a good idea to start slowly and build up to leaving them for longer periods, and once they’re fully grown they’ll be happy entertaining themselves for hours.
What age is a kitten no longer a kitten?
Most kittens will reach cat status by 12 months old. Smaller breeds might get there a couple of months earlier, while larger breeds might take up to 18 months. Your vet will be able to advise you of their life stages, and when it’s time to move to adult cat food.
Do kittens get lonely?
Cats are known for their independence, but they still need and enjoy company, especially when they’re kittens. Getting two kittens at once means they have each other as playmates and comfort, but a single kitten will be perfectly happy so long as you give them plenty of attention and playtime.
Before long, your new kitten will be like another member of the family! For more ideas on how you should care for your cat in the long run, we've written a helpful blog to help get you started. You’ll also want to think about getting pet insurance for your kitten. It can help you pay for vet costs if your kitten gets ill or is involved in an accident. At Asda Money we have a range of pet insurance types and levels of cover available. Find out more about Asda Pet Insurance, underwritten by Fairmead Insurance.