New kitten checkist
Bringing your kitten home is an exciting time in any pet lover’s life, but does require some planning before the happy event occurs. Kittens should stay with their mother until they are 10-12 weeks of age to allow them to wean, have at least one vaccination and learn to socialise. Socialisation skills are taught by the mother and siblings.
What do I need to buy?
- Litter tray, scoop and cat litter: There’s a wide variety of cat litters on the market these days, some better than others. It is best to avoid clumping cat litter with kittens. Litter trays come in all shapes and sizes such as self-cleaning, covered (or hooded), uncovered.
- Scratching post: Cats need to scratch and enjoy scratching. Providing your cat with a scratching post will reduce the chances of your cat using your furniture or carpet.
- Food/water bowls: You can buy cheap plastic ones, metal ones, pottery ones, automatic ones and even drinking fountains.
- Cat carrier for those trips to the vet. Look for a carrier which is easy to clean (incase the cat has an accident on the way to the vet), impact resistanct, has a removable top half and is large enough for the cat to turn around.
- Grooming equipment: A brush, flea comb and nail trimmers. Even shorthaired cats can benefit from a brush once a week to remove loose hair.
- Toys: Select a range of toys such as wands to chase, mice, and interactive toys.
- Bed: There is a vast array of cat beds on the market from relatively plain to fancy.
- Cat food: A premium quality brand is the best, and select one for the appropriate age of your cat. For example, if you adopt a kitten, then buy kitten food etc.
- Catnip and cat grass: Not all cats respond to catnip, but most cats do enjoy a nibble of cat grass. Have one or two plants on rotation which you can swap out from time to time.
Preparing for your kitten’s arrival
It is essential to kitten-proof your home and also check out the list of plants which are toxic and non-toxic to cats if you have plants which are toxic to cats ensure they are out of reach. There are safe alternatives for your plant to nibble on should the kitten want some greenery.
Before the kitten arrives home, make sure you have set up a comfortable room for your kitten to be confined in for the first few days, just while he settles in. You can gradually open up your house over a few days.
Block off potential escape routes or places to hide. I recently watched a show where a kitten hid and was trapped in a chimney for four days, the RSPCA attempted to retrieve the kitten, but in the end, the fire brigade had to be brought in to extricate the kitten.
What do kittens eat?
It is best to stick with the food your kitten has been eating in his previous home. If you want to change to another brand, do so gradually, so you don’t cause a tummy upset. If you do want to switch him to a different diet, do so slowly, over a few days by adding a little of the new food to the old.
There are many premium brands of food specifically designed for kittens.
It isn’t necessary to give your kitten cow’s milk and in fact, may cause a tummy upset. Instead, provide your kitten with a bowl of clean, fresh tap water. Change water daily.
Settling your kitten in
Your kitten may be unsettled for a few days and miss her mum and littermates. So it is up to you to help ease the kitten’s transition into your new home.
Once your new kitten arrives home, confine your kitten to one room with a litter tray, food, water and a comfortable bed and give him/her some time to become familiar with their surroundings. Cats are fastidiously clean animals, and it is necessary to make sure the food and water bowls need to be kept as far away from the litter tray as possible. After a few days and when the kitten is well settled, you can gradually increase the area your kitten can explore.
Some ways to make the kitten settle in quicker include:
- Put a ticking clock in the kitten’s bed.
- Give the kitten a hot water bottle. Make sure it isn’t too hot, and wrap it in a blanket.
- Your kitten may be reluctant to eat; you can encourage it to take food by slightly warming it in the microwave. Make sure before you give the warmed food to the kitten that you stir it to ensure there are no hot spots.
Introducing the kitten to other pets
Let your new kitten settle in before you attempt to introduce it to other pets you have. The introduction needs to be slow and at the animal’s pace. Some pets will become firm friends almost immediately. However, it is common for resident pets to be upset at the arrival of a new pet for weeks or even months. This is completely normal behaviour and needs to be met with sensitivity and understanding. The worst thing you can do is rush the situation.
As with introducing pets, introducing your new kitten to children needs to be done slowly and carefully. Let the kitten settle in before you introduce it to children. If your children are young, never leave them unattended with the kitten. Ensure you teach your children how to handle a kitten properly and provide the kitten with a safe place it can retreat to should it need to get away.
Explain to your children that kittens and cats should never be disturbed if they are sleeping or eating.
All kittens will require vaccinations at the ages of 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks. There are core vaccines and non-core vaccines. The F3 (FVRCP) is a core vaccine. Some local councils also require cats to have the rabies vaccine. Other vaccinations you may need include feline chlamydia and feline leukemia for high-risk cats.
Desexing your kitten
If you adopted your kitten from a breeder or a shelter, there is a good chance that it will have already been desexed. If this isn’t the case, then it is up to you to ensure the kitten is desexed by six months.
It is now routine for kittens to be desexed from 8+ weeks, but some vets won’t desex until the kitten is six months of age. It is best to speak to your veterinarian to see when he/she recommends desexing of your kitten.
By the time your kitten comes home, he will have had several worming treatments, which start between the age of 2-4 weeks and continue every two weeks until the third month. There are many excellent products on the market to make de-worming so much easier; these include topical medications which are applied to the back of the cat’s neck. Worms to treat include tapeworm, roundworm, hookworm, and heartworm.
If fleas are a problem in your area, then you will also need to ensure you maintain a proper flea regime. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on parasites and medications for your cat.
It is always a good idea to take your kitten your veterinarian in the first week at home with you for a checkup. This will be an excellent opportunity to have your cat’s health properly checked and discuss vaccinations, desexing and feeding.
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