Bringing a new kitten home and caring for her is a wonderful experience and a responsibility that you need to take seriously. Don’t get me wrong; raising a kitten is not all work; it is also a lot of fun.
If you provide adequate care and attention to your kitten in the early years, you can look forward to enjoying the company of a well behaved and healthy adult cat once she is all grown up.
Bringing a new kitten home can be less stressful if you prepare yourself in advance. The below tips will help you to get organised and give the best care to your kitten:
The right age to adopt
Kittens stop nursing from their mother when they are around four weeks of age, and by about eight weeks of age, they start having solid food.
A kitten that is younger than eight weeks relies on its mother and siblings for body heat as it cannot regulate its body temperature.
However, feral kittens should be separated from their mothers at four weeks to help with socializing them.
If you have the option to pick a kitten, look for one that is curious, naughty, and not shy.
What do I need for a new kitten?
You need to get the following crucial items before bringing your kitten home:
• Age-appropriate food specially made for a kitten
• Collar and ID tags
• Metallic or ceramic food bowl
• Litterbox and cat litter
• Cat bed
• Cat carrier
• Scratching post
• Kitten safe toys
• Grooming brush
• Cat toothbrush and toothpaste
How to get your home ready for your new kitten?
- As your kitten will be inclined to explore its new surroundings, ensure windows and vents are closed and if there are cracks and crevices, make sure that they are repaired or filled in
- Loose or looped blind, curtain and electrical cords pose a safety hazard, and you should keep them out of reach
- Keep objects that can pose a choking hazard such as string or ribbons, tissue paper, toilet paper, rubber bands, jewelry, and other tiny items out of reach
- Make sure that the toilet lid, the washing machine door, etc. are closed.
- Keep cabinets closed as detergents, and bleach, etc. can be dangerous to your kitten if ingested.
Prepare a quiet place for your kitten:
- To help your kitten adjust to its new surroundings, place the carrier in a quiet place such as a spare room that has everything the kitten will require – food, water, bedding, toys, and a litter box.
- You should not allow children or other pets to enter this space without adult supervision.
- Cats don’t like having their litterbox next to their food, so make sure that you don’t keep them next to each other.
- Please wait until your kitten gets its shots before introducing it to other pets in your home.
- If your kitten has trouble sleeping, you can wrap a ticking clock in a blanket and keep it in its carrier.
- When picking toys, go for stuffed animals and trackballs as they tend to be safe and promote exercise.
How long to keep a new kitten isolated?
- It may take a kitten up to two weeks to get accustomed to its new environment and so it’s best to limit too much interaction with family members. You can introduce the family gradually so that she has time to be familiar with each person’s touch.
- If your kitten is spending a bit of time outside its carrier and waits longer than usual before going back in, you know it is ready to explore its surroundings.
- Socialization is critical to ensure that your kitten grows into a healthy and well-adjusted cat. It would help if you exposed your kitten to noises, strangers, walking on a leash, etc to ensure that they don’t get anxious as they grow into adulthood. However, remember to make the socialization a positive experience for your kitten.
Age-appropriate nutrition for your new kitten
- 0 to 4-week old kitten – If you happen to adopt an orphaned new-born kitten, you will have to bottle feed it. However, you need to provide extra care and attention for kittens that are separated from their mother early, including providing bottle milk every two hours up to the age of four weeks. Remember to use a milk replacer, which is similar to the mother’s milk, and do not use cow’s milk. Check with your vet for detailed instructions.
- 4 to 8-week old kitten – You can start weaning from week four and introduce a solid food diet, which has all the essential nutrients to support their development.
You can begin by mixing wet kitten food with a bit of water and kitten formula (cat milk substitute). Gradually increase the wet food content and reduce the formula.
Initially, you can feed this slurry mix from a bottle and gradually transition to feeding from a bowl. Once your kitten starts eating wet food, start adding dry food along with formula. However, as your kitten starts having solid food, you should also provide plenty of clean water.
How to bottle feed a kitten?
When bottle-feeding your kitten, make sure that she is not lying on her back. Your kitten should be standing upright (her stomach should be parallel to the ground). It would help if you tilted the bottle.
Check out this video on how to bottle feed a kitten.
Make sure to burp the kitten
Just as with babies, you have to burp kittens once the feeding is over. To burp place the kitten on your shoulder or its stomach and pat until you hear the burping sound.
See this video to understand how to burp a kitten
How often to feed a kitten?
- 4 to 8-week-old kitten – You should feed kittens in this age group 2 to 3 times a day.
- 8 to 16-week-old kitten – You should start giving an eight-week-old kitten solid food; this can be canned food or kibble, fed two to three times a day. Just make sure that you provide food specially made for kittens.
- 4 to 6-month-old-kitten – You can include some treats along with the kitten food; continue to feed two to three times a day. You can refer to the feeding instructions on your kitten’s food to decide how much to give.
- 6-month-old-kitten – At six months, your kitten will look more like an adult cat in size, but you should still provide a kitten specific diet. You can reduce feeding frequency to two times a day. You can include some treats as well.
- 12-month-old-kitten – You can transition to an adult cat diet once your kitten completes its first birthday
Don’t forget to keep your kitten’s water bowl filled with clean water at all times.
Spaying or neutering your kitten
A kitten attains sexual maturity between 4 to 6 months of age.
Please speak to your vet about getting your kitten spayed or neutered before your kitten gets to this phase of its life to avoid problems like territorial spraying or unwanted litters.
According to the ASPCA, it is generally safe to spay or neuter kittens that are around eight weeks old but make sure to consult your vet.
The right way to hold a kitten
The right way to hold a kitten is to have one hand behind the front legs and the other under their hind legs.
Teach your kitten to use the litter box
Though your kitten may start using the litter box instinctively, you can make the process a bit faster by placing your kitten in the litter box after meals or playtime. However, ensure that the litter box is accessible and kept clean.
Handle and pet your kitten frequently
- Kittens who have plenty of interaction with their human parents while they are between 10 to 12 weeks old, tend to be comfortable around people.
- You need to pat, groom, hold or pick up your kitten often to get them used to being handled. Handling or petting your kitten often can make it more responsive to the owner as it grows into adulthood.
- If you have a newborn kitten, limit handling to a minimum during the initial three days after birth. You can handle the kitten from the fourth day onwards daily. Handling your kitten helps them to bond with your scent.
Grooming your kitten
Comb and groom your kitten every week to get them accustomed to the experience.
Teach good behavior
- Provide scratching posts and reward with treats or praise when your kitten uses it.
- Discourage biting and scratching during play by distracting your kitten with a toy.
- Provide opportunities for your kitten to interact with other cats or kittens once you have completed all the required vaccinations. However, please don’t leave them unsupervised.
- Introduce your kitten to rides in the car while in a carrier. You can provide treats along the way to make sure that she associates the ride with a pleasant experience. Check out these tips to get your kitten to carrier trained.
- Always remember to reward good behavior with treats or praise.
- Don’t scold your kitten for bad behavior but instead ignore it.
- Teach your kitten new tricks.
Start vet visits early
Take your kitten to the vet as early as possible, preferably within a week of getting your new kitten.
Early and regular visits to the vet will help your kitten get familiar with the experience and also allows you to assess its health and get expert guidance essential for your kitten to grow into a healthy cat. You can enquire about intestinal parasites, fleas, heartworm and so on.
Check with the vet for details of essential vaccinations; you will have to get the required shots when a kitten is around eight weeks of age, and there will be booster shots and adult cat vaccinations. Your vet will be able to advise.
Check out this article on what to consider when choosing a vet.
Training your kitten
You can train cats though people generally feel that it is difficult. Kittens are intelligent and can learn simple commands. Cats are curious by nature, and you can use this to your advantage when training them.
You can teach them commands to sit, come when you call, fetch, to shake a paw, stay, lie down amongst others.
Remember, you need to be patient during the training and use positive reinforcement. Do not punish, hit, shout, or shake the kitten. Reward good behavior with affection, praise, or a treat.
Try to ignore bad behavior or redirect your kitten’s attention to a toy or something that can be of interest. For example, if your kitten suddenly bites or scratches your hand distract her with another object. If she tries to scratch furniture in your home, show her the scratching post. For more training tips check out How to Train A Kitten – 9 Obedience Training Tips
Kitten play and exercise requirements
You should set aside some time daily to play with your kitten as it helps to develop a bond between both of you. Playtime is also necessary for your kitten to get sufficient exercise.
Plenty of play and exercise are necessary to make sure your kitten burns off excess energy and doesn’t damage your house.
How long should you play with your kitten in a day?
It would help if you aimed to play with your kitten for about 20 minutes every day. It is essential for the physical and mental development of your kitten.
How many times should you play with your kitten in a day?
It would help if you played with your kitten at least two times a day; the best time is early morning or evening.
What should you play with your kitten?
You can engage your kitten in games that involve hiding, climbing, chasing, or pouncing. Cardboard boxes, paper bags, or tunnels can serve as perfect hiding places. You can play chasing or pouncing games using feather teasers, fishing rod toys, and laser beams.
How much should a kitten sleep?
Kittens require a lot of sleep, anywhere between 18-22 hours a day. You don’t have to be alarmed; it is typical for kittens to sleep for such long durations. Sleep helps with their development into healthy adult cats.
Ensure that your kitten has a comfortable sleeping area in your house. Don’t keep the kitten in your room unless you are okay to have the litter box in the same space. Ideally, you should provide a separate area for your kitten in your home so that she can be comfortable without disturbing you.
Kittens can sometimes wake up at night and start meowing to get your attention. However, it would help if you ignored the cry to teach the kitten that it should be sleeping at night.
Kitten biting and clawing
Your kitten should know from the beginning that your hand is not a toy. In the heat of play, it is normal for kittens to get excited and resort to biting and clawing. However, if you don’t correct this behavior early, your cat may attack your hand even as an adult. Use only toys when playing with your kitten and don’t tolerate your kitten biting you.
If your kitten attacks your hand during play:
- Stop the play and redirect them to toys
- If they start scratching, redirect them to the scratching post
- Give out a cry of pain and gently pull your hand from its clutches
- Give the kitten a timeout by leaving the room or putting the kitten back in its carrier; you can go back after 15 minutes
- Don’t feed your kitten for around 20 minutes after a biting or scratching incident to avoid reinforcing the wrong behavior
If you don’t stop biting and clawing early, your kitten will scratch and bite your hand when playing and also when upset or angry.
If your cat is in the habit of biting and clawing your hand, the chances are it will do the same thing when visiting the vet or meeting new people and other pets. Read our article on how to stop a kitten from biting for more tips.
Raising a kitten can appear to be a difficult job, but with a little effort and patience, you will be rewarded with a well-adjusted and healthy companion.
Now that you know how to care for kittens and provide them with a comfortable living environment, you should go ahead and enjoy the company of your new little fluffy ball of joy. We hope that you have lots of fun playing, bonding, and simply hanging out with your new companion.