Bringing home a new kitten will enrich your life immensely. These little balls of fur are an unflagging source of love and laughter. Whether a kitten is your first pet or an addition to your current pet family, it is always exciting and fun. You’ve suddenly got a cute, cuddly, and incredibly curious new friend!
Cuteness aside, caring for a kitten is a huge responsibility. Like human babies, kittens require special attention. Being prepared on how to safeguard your kitten, bond, train and provide proper care will help ensure your newest furry family member has a long and healthy life.
Provide a safe space and kitten supplies
Whether you’re adopting your kitten from a shelter or taking one in from your neighbors across the road, getting a new home will be a big day for them. Your kitten will be curious, confused and excited — all at once. As much as it’s tempting to let them roam, they’ll adjust better if you limit access at first. Having a smaller secure area to explore initially will help your kitten get comfortable with the new place.
Have all the essential kitten supplies ready for your new kitten’s arrival:
- A litter box
- A cozy bed
- Food and water dishes
- A scratching post
- Safe toys
- Grooming supplies (shampoo, brush/comb, furminator)
- Collar and ID tag
Make sure to keep the litter box away from the other items — even kittens like their privacy when it comes to bathroom functions.
Your kitten may hide at first, but it will explore when no one is watching, becoming more comfortable with his new home. Making sure the room has hiding places will help your kitten feel secure. If there isn’t furniture to hide beneath, place paper bags or cardboard boxes near the walls or cut holes for doorways into them — your kitten won’t notice the difference.
Schedule a vet visit
The sooner you bring your new family member to a veterinarian, the better. That will ensure the newcomer doesn’t have any parasites, diseases or other medical problems, and gets necessary vaccinations. If your new kitten isn’t going to be the only pet in the house, you need to make sure it isn’t bringing anything in that could get the rest of the household sick. You should have it tested for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus.
The vet visit is almost as important for the owner as it is the kitten. It not only helps uncover health issues, but allows you to ask all of the important questions from a pet care professional, including advice on litterbox training your kitten, establishing a daily feeding routine, or having your kitten microchipped. Once your vet has cleared your kitten as being free of disease and parasites, it’s safe to let your new kitten explore its new surroundings and other pet roommates.
Ensure proper nutrition
Kittens are growth machines in their first year and need two to three times as many calories and nutrients as adult cats. Extra protein for muscle and tissue development, fat for fatty acids and plenty of calories are key to kittens' health. Specially formulated kitten foods fitting their nutritional requirements should be given until the kitten is a year old.
You may assume your kitten needs or wants milk, but it shouldn’t have any. A mother cat’s milk provides everything a kitten needs during the first four weeks of life. Once a kitten is weaned, don’t offer milk, as it can give kitten diarrhea. Additionally, milk should never be given to a kitten as a replacement for water because it can lead to dehydration.
Kitten-proof your home
To a playful kitten, your whole house will be a toy, and it could be dangerous. Before you give it free run of his new home, make sure it is thoroughly kitten-proofed. Put away or cover up anything that could possibly hurt him: electrical cords, yarn, string, medications, poisonous plants, and toilet lids. Keep kitchen and bathroom cabinets closed so your kitten doesn't encounter bleach, detergent, dental floss and other household items when exploring.
You never know where a kitten’s curiosity will lead it, so it’s crucial that you go through your house room by room. Washers and dryers may seem out of reach but some resourceful kittens can easily find their way in there. A kitten may climb into a warm dryer for a nap or crawl into a pile of dirty laundry and hide there. A recliner can be another hiding spot for a kitten. Keeping it in the upright position can keep your little monster from danger.
Train your kitten
Most people believe that cats can’t be trained because they are so independent. Cats do respond to training but the process of training can be a bit more challenging. Felines are extremely intelligent and can be trained to use litter boxes, obey commands and even perform adorable tricks. Begin training your kitten as soon as you bring it home. Your tools are patience and providing positive rewards. You can train your kitten to sit, lay down, enjoy their crate and even flush the toilet!
Bond with your kitten
If you want your new kitten to grow into a loving, happy member of your family, human contact is important from an early stage. Nap with your kitten, hold it while watching TV, or find other times to snuggle. Handling and playing with your kitten a few times a day will help your furry little friend form a strong emotional bond with you.
Make sure that all human interactions with your kitten are gentle. Kittens are especially fragile before 12 weeks of age. If you have children, monitor their introduction to the new kitten to make sure it’s a positive experience for both the kitten and child. When your furry bundle of joy is comfortable, it should start purring. That’s when you know you’ve got a winner.
If you are away at work for most of the day, invite a neighbour or a pet sitter to keep your fur baby company. A Petcube pet camera can also be a creative solution to watch, chat, and play with your kitten during the day. Even if you can't play with your pet one-on-one, auto-play mode can give your pet a game of laser tag when they're feeling active.
It’s no doubt caring for a kitten can be a lot of work. Keeping him safe and happy takes planning and patience for everyone in the household. But it is all compensated by their adorableness and companionship. By keeping experiences positive from day one, you’ll be laying the foundation for many years of happiness and will help your kitten grow into a confident adult cat, making life more enjoyable for you both.