While I love literally all the cats, I have a particular soft spot for kittens. Their teeny paws, their little meows, and just the fact that they’re so bloody cute. I’ve grown up with cats my whole life, and every cat we’ve owned in my family was brought to us as a kitten, so I’ve gotten pretty used to the things you should and shouldn’t do. So, I thought I’d put together a little post on kitten care, and the most important things I’ve learned as a cat mum over the years.
Disclaimer: There are no affiliate links in this post, and all advice is based on my own experience combined with advice from various sources, listed at the end of this post.
Getting a Kitten
Many of my regular readers will know that I adopted Tilly from Cats Protection when she was around 12 weeks old. As a child, most of our kittens were found via newspaper and shop window ads, but I made the decision as an adult to adopt one via my local charity. Not only did I want to give a home to a little kitty that needed it, but by adopting through Cats Protection it meant that Tilly was fully ready to come home with us. Adopting through an organisation like Cats Protection means that your new fur baby will be vaccinated, micro-chipped and neutered before you bring them home, although different animal charities will vary, so it’s worth checking this beforehand. If you’re looking at getting a kitten through a breeder, it’s worth checking out this page by Cats Protection, which has some great tips on what you need to look out for. Before bringing a kitten home, you should also make sure you have all of the essentials.
Your New Kitten Checklist – The Basics
- Litter tray and litter
- Cat bed
- Cat carrier
- Kitten food and treats
- Food and water bowls
- Kitten toys
- Scratching post
You’ll also need to look into sorting some pet insurance, as well as finding a veterinary surgery near to you. Make sure you set up each area for your new kitten too, such as where they’ll sleep, eat and use their litter tray. It’s also a good idea to do a little ‘cat proofing’ on your home too, such as removing any hazards and sealing off any areas where they can hide or get stuck!
New Kitten Care Tips
We brought Tilly home on the 4th November 2013. It was the first time that I’d looked after a cat solely on my own – beforehand it was always under my Mum’s supervision! Liam hadn’t had pets before, so it was all down to me. Tilly settled in pretty quickly and it soon became clear that she loved cuddles and attention! In those first few weeks of being a cat mum, I learned four key things:
1: Time It Right
We brought Tilly home on a Monday evening. At the time, I was working Thursday to Sunday, while Liam was Monday to Friday. I had to go on a training course that Wednesday, but I had all of Tuesday to spend with her, and it meant I could spend some time with her and give her plenty of cuddles. As I was only away for a shorter time on my course day, it meant it was a way of easing her into being left alone. My point being, time it right so that you can spend a day or two with your new fur baby. Consider your working hours before you bring your new kitten home – for example, it’s not fair to bring them home one evening and then head off to work for 8 hours the next day.
2: Let Them Come To You
Bringing a kitten home might be exciting for you, but for them, being separated from their mum and their siblings can be rather scary. It’s that when you first bring them home, they won’t want to socialise straight away. They may even hide away somewhere. It’s important to remember that this is perfectly normal, and you shouldn’t force them into playing or coming out of their hiding spot, as this can make them more stressed. Even if they don’t want to come out of the cat carrier straight away, that’s fine, leave them to it and they’ll come out when they’re ready. Tilly hid under the coffee table for three hours when we first brought her home, and while it was a bit upsetting to see her as anxious as she was, by leaving her to it, it meant she was able to come out on her own terms when she felt ready. She eventually came out and sat on the sofa next to us watching How I Met Your Mother. She loves a bit of telly.
3: Use the Same Food & Litter
When we first brought Tilly home we were advised to keep her on the same food and litter to start with, and if we wanted to change it later on to do it gradually. The food aspect is often because kittens have sensitive tummies, so any sudden changes in their diet might upset their stomachs. It’s often best to go for special kitten food instead of adult cat food too, as it’s designed especially for their small tummies and contains all of the nutrients they need. We started Tilly off on Felix Kitten, which is what she was being fed at her foster home, and to be honest she still eats Felix to this day. We tried her on different brands but Felix seemed to be the one she liked best, so we didn’t really see any reason to change it. Although this August, she’ll be old enough to make the transition to the Senior food – I’m not sure I’m emotionally ready for that.
Similarly with the litter, we were told to stick to the same type as it would make it easier for Tilly when it came to helping her find the tray when she needed it. Any cat lover will know that cats are creatures of habit, and they really don’t like change! We were also mindful of the fact that we were renting our house – our landlord was nice enough to let us get a kitten, so we didn’t want to abuse that fact by being careless with the toilet training! We still use litter to this day as Tilly’s a house cat, and we’ve always used the wood pellet type. It’s much better for hiding any smells, and as it’s biodegradable, it’s much better for the environment. Plus, you don’t get the dust cloud that you normally get with the typical cat litter!
The bottom line, start out with the same food and litter that your breeder or rescue centre uses to help make the transition easier for your new kitten. You can change it later on, but make sure you do it gradually so your kitten has plenty of time to get used to it!
4: Keep Them Entertained
Play is an important part of a kitten’s development, as it teaches them how to interact with other animals and humans safely and appropriately. Before they leave their mothers, they’ll often play with their siblings, which is where they learn to play without biting or using their claws. Of course, when we bring them home, it’s down to us to keep that up. Animal charity Blue Cross suggests that kitten toys such as fishing rods can be a good place to start as they’re designed to keep their claws and teeth away from our hands, while it’s also a good idea to throw toys so your kitten can be encouraged to chase and pounce. For an extra challenge, puzzle toys are also a good boredom buster, but make sure that you supervise your new fur baby while they’re playing! Shops such as Pets at Home often have specific kitten toys available too, which are designed to keep them active and happy, all while being safe sizes for little paws!
Of course there are plenty more lessons to be learned when it comes to getting a kitten, so it’s important to do your research beforehand to make sure you’re fully prepared! In addition to the references I’ve used to put this post together, I’ve also included a couple of links at the end of this post that have more handy information on finding kittens for adoption and advice for bringing a kitten home for the first time.
Fellow fur-parents! What lessons did you learn when you brought your new kitten home for the first time? Let me know in the comments!
References & Helpful Articles
Blue Cross – Caring For Your Kitten
Blue Cross – Kitten and Cat Advice
Cats Protection – Adopt a Cat Advice
Cats Protection – Buying a Kitten
Pets at Home – My First Kitten
Vets4Pets – Bringing a Kitten Home
Vets4Pets – Getting Ready for Your New Kitten
Vets4Pets – Litter Training Your Kitten