So you’re about to be the proud parent of a little bundle of fur? Congrats! Kittens are seriously fun, but they can surprise you in a lot of ways. Like, how the heck did they knock that over? Or why won’t they use this litter box or eat this dry food? The good news is we’ve seen it all. Here’s what you need to know when giving a kitten a new home and getting them used to the new surroundings.
THE NEW KITTEN KIT
CAT-PROOF YOUR PLACE
You know the saying about cats and curiosity? Well, that goes double for kittens, so you’ll need to create a safe area for them:
- Cover electric outlets and exposed wires
- Move breakable items
- Tie up blinds and curtain cords
- Keep toilet lids down and dryer door closed
- Clean up small items that could be swallowed
- Put cleaning products and pesticides baits away
- If you have a yard and plan to let your cat outside, consider a fence or enclosure
- Get rid of poisonous plants and other hazards
BE READY TO BRING THEM HOME
Whether they found you, or you found them, it’s official – you are a new pet parent! So what now? Knowing a few tricks and tips along the way will help you and your kitten happily adjust to the new environment. Kittens are small, but trust us, this will go a lot easier with a cat carrier on hand. You’ll also want to have collar and ID tag waiting — breakaway collars are the safest options for cats. If you want to leash train your kitten (yes, we said leash, cats like walks too), it’s best to start them young with a kitty harness as well.
HEAD TO THE VET
Try one of our in-store VIP Vet clinics for a check-up. After they shake paws and get to know each other a bit, the vet will make sure your kitten is microchipped and up to date on all of their routine vaccinations. Then, they’ll check for health issues like respiratory illnesses and ear mites.
TRANSITION THEIR FOOD
Kittens need a chance to get used to any diet changes, so keep some of the kitten food they’re used to on hand and stick with the same type of protein in their first new bag as well. A probiotic will smooth out any digestive woes plus improve their gut health and strengthen their immune system. Follow the instructions below, and remember if you’re switching them to a raw, freeze-dried raw or dehydrated diet, you’ll want to go even slower.
Here’s how the transition should go:
Days 1-2—75% old/25% new
Days 3-5—50 old/50 new
Days 5-7—25% old/75% new
Days 7-10—only continue to transition if the transition has been difficult.
BUILD THE RIGHT DIET
Need help to decide what kind of food to switch your kitten to? Cats are obligate carnivores (they require protein from meat), so look for food with meat as the first ingredient. Then, make sure it has lots of moisture. Unlike dogs, felines get most of their water from what they eat. Canned, raw, or freeze-dried (and rehydrated) foods are all good options. Save the kibble for between-meal grazing. It is also the time to start off feeding the wet food options as kittens will imprint the texture of food when they are kittens. Kittens grow (and eat) a lot in their first year, so feed them by the specific guidelines on the packaging. Now is also the time to vary the brands and protein sources as much as possible. It provides them with more nutrients and prevents them from becoming picky eaters. Serve dinner up in wide, shallow food and water bowls —cats hate when their whiskers touch the sides because it can lead to whisker fatigue. Lastly, consider a water fountain to entice them into a little extra hydration.
HANDLE LITTER BOX DRAMA
First off, if you have more than one cat, everyone gets their own box, including new kitten (cats are very territorial). It's even recommended to have one more litter box than cats for a multi-cat household. Keep the litter box in a secluded spot of the area you’ve cat-proofed, far away from disturbing noises or smell-amplifying heat. Don’t be surprised if your kitten doesn’t like the first box you bring home. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes for this very reason. Try placing your kitten in it after naps or shortly after meals. Help them figure things out by taking their paw and lightly digging. Try switching litter types and get a pet-specific stain cleaner for accidents — it removes odors so the same spot doesn’t get marked again. Consider these tips on choosing the right one for your household.
GIVE THEM THEIR OWN FURNITURE
If you don’t want your new kitten testing their claws on your couch, invest in a scratching post. And while you’re at it, they’re going to need their own place to hang out, including a cat bed of their own (remember what we said about being territorial?). Cat cave beds let them hide to feel secure and cat trees and towers are great for perching and providing cozy hiding dens or spaces. Just remember, nothing too high since they’re very little.
Hairballs happen. But reducing their likelihood starts with regular brushing. Long hair, don’t care does not apply here – long-haired cats need even more regular at-home brushing and grooming. Also, starting them young with a brush and comb to get used to everything will save you from years of bites and scratches. Hairballs can also be helped through proper nutrition which will create less shedding. Don’t forget about your kitty’s nails. Even with proper scratching surfaces, cats need their nails trimmed. Start working on this early and reward them with treats or play. We have many more tips available in our grooming guide.
CHOOSE HEALTHY TREATS
Who can resist spoiling a face this cute? The trick is to make sure you’re getting treats that add extra nutrients to your pet’s diet instead of empty calories. Try different types of treats to find the ones that your kitty likes the best. Different flavors, textures, and sizes can make the difference between a hit or a miss. But no matter what, be careful not to overdo it.
INVEST IN REAL TOYS
Kittens are little balls of energy that LOVE to play with anything. But household objects like yarn and string can really hurt them if swallowed. Invest in age-appropriate solo toys and interactive toys to keep them busy. Most cats ignore catnip or silvervine until six to 12 months old, but then it’s a great play enhancer that they’ll be low-key obsessed with.
TRY A SUPPLEMENT
There are many all-natural supplements to help with many cat health problems. Probiotics help to aid in digestion and support a strong immune system. If your kitty develops hairballs or UTIs we have the remedies to help with that too.