Summary: This article covers useful tips for new pet owners on how to take care of their first kitten, from nutrition, protection from hazards, potty training, and more, here’s what you need to know to care for your new furry companion.
A kitten is an adorable idea, but raising one is an entirely different experience than having an adult cat. Kittens have boundless energy and curiosity, which means they require a lot of your time and energy.
Your new kitten not only needs lots of affection and playtime to get properly socialized but also a ton of supervision to keep them out of trouble. The truth is that kittens, while charming and lovable, can be exhausting.
Keep in mind that the kitten stage does not last forever! Enjoy this stage, and remember, the bond you form with your kitten will last their entire life.
Wondering how to get prepared for your kitten? The first step is kitten-proofing your home!
- Close or block off windows, vents, and any nooks and crannies they might be tempted to explore.
- Move electronics and power cords, window blind cords, and any other strings out of reach.
- Remove objects that might pose a choking hazard.
- You might want to set aside a quiet area as a "base camp" for your kitty to get used to her/his new surroundings. This space should be off-limits to other pets, and young children should only be admitted with adult supervision.
- Add a litter box, food and water dishes, comfortable bedding, and toys. It is usually a good idea to keep food and water away from the litter box, as cats do not generally like to eat near where they do their business — but then again, who does!?
First Vet Visit
Once your kitten has settled in in their new home, the next step is taking them to their first vet visit! It is recommended to do this within the first week of ownership. You can help by setting a positive precedent and reinforcing with your kitty the idea that visiting the vet - either in a crate or kennel- is a good thing and not a stressful moment. This can be done by introducing their travel carrier in the home days before you make the trip to the vet.
During their first visit, your vet will check for parasites, feline leukemia, and other health issues. They will also administer the first round of vaccinations if your kitty is not already up to date.
Pro vets will talk to you about scheduling booster shots, and starting flea/parasite prevention and control. If necessary, spaying and neutering will also be a topic to go over. They will try to clear up any doubts you have and you can take this opportunity to ask all your questions!
What about your new kitty's nutrition?
When you bring home a kitten they should be old enough to eat solid food, however, kittens younger than 8 weeks need more hands-on care. Feeding them kitten formula every two hours, and making sure they are warm (at this stage they still are not able to control their body temperature). During these early stages is best to always consult with your veterinarian on how to care for your kitten.
When on solid foods, cats are creatures of habit so you may want to continue giving them the same food their previous guardian gave them. You should always discuss with your vet what food is best for your new family member. If you and your vet do decide to change their food, do so slowly by mixing a small amount of new food and gradually increasing it over a week to prevent digestive problems.
How to train your new kitty
The top priority when first training a kitten: litter box training. Especially if your kitten is not around its mom, as they will not have a role model to mimic when going potty.
Invest in good fragrance-free cat litter and place the litter box in a quiet place far from frequent activity.
A good trick is having two or even three litter boxes so your kitten has better access when they need to go while they get used to the new house. The main idea is accessibility!
Another great tip is to use pheromones, a trick vets use a lot! These helpful synthetic pheromones mimic cats’ F3 facial pheromones that they normally rub onto surfaces to mark them as safe. These help cats relax in a new environment. Add them to the areas you want your cat to spend most of their time in. This will help them settle down and enjoy their new home more quickly.
Remember to use positive reinforcement, such as treats and praise. Until your kitten gets used to using it on their own without any prompting, prepare to cheer when your kitten poops! Kittens are very clean creatures so if your cat urinates out of the litter box, it may be a sign that the litter box is no longer clean enough. If this occurs even with a clean litter box, you need to contact your vet.
More training tips
After potty-training, the next step is to reinforce the house rules to your kitten with your best tool… Acknowledgement! When your kitty is behaving positively, give treats and praise, when they do something negative, clean the area if you must and ignore them.
You might want to try redirecting their attention if ignoring is not cutting it. For example, your kitty bites or scratches your arm? Redirect them to a toy they can play with. If they scratch the furniture, patiently redirect them to a scratching post or pad. If all else fails, give them a time-out by confining them to base camp until they calm down!
Kittens need to be played with to get their exercise and it also helps build up a tight bond with your new companion. Start getting that blood pumping and muscles stretched so your kitty will grow healthy and strong!
Cats are normally very curious and playful and you need to cater to that side of their behaviour. No need to be fancy or spend much money, a few cardboard boxes and some shoelaces can be more than enough. You can also purchase squeaky catnip-laced toys that they’ll have lots of fun with.
Always set time aside to play with your new kitty. Whether it is having them chase a mouse on a string or a light spot around the room, make sure they get enough daily exercise. This will also ensure that your kitten is worn out for bedtime.
Young kittens sleep a lot, and that means A LOT! It is easier to count the hours of the day when kittens are awake. It is always a good idea to have a safe space for your kitty to nap and sleep at night, close to their litter box.
Expect your kitty to wake up in the middle of the night and cry out for attention. You can give them the attention they need, but eventually, you might want to ease off and not form a bad habit where your kitten can cry out at night knowing you will get up in the middle of the night.
Just as with humans, as they get older, kittens will sleep less and have more active hours in the day.. Once they are around 3 weeks old, your little cat will start sleeping on its own and their sleep will be deeper and longer. As they explore and discover their surroundings, they will enjoy jumping, scratching, pouncing, hiding, and climbing around. This will not only stimulate your cat’s brain; it will also demand a lot of energy. Both mental and physical activities require deep sleep for proper and healthy development, just like us!
Once a kitten is 2 months old, they sleep on average a total of 18 hours a day, alone, often in sunny warm places and above ground level.
Your new companion will bring you and your home lots of joy and love. Once your new fur baby feels relaxed and comfortable their new home will be their own and will relax and sleep on your bed, your favourite chair, or any attractive space they find. If you take it slow and pay attention to your little cat’s needs things will go much faster and smoother. Your new cat will surely be a lovely addition to your home, with lots of love and fun all packed in a warm furry, and cuddly exterior.
This article provides a summary view of some aspects you need to know about pets and how to care for a kitten. We recommend you take the time to talk in detail with one of our licensed veterinarians. They will provide the best suggestions and strategies for your pet. For an appointment please contact us at (416) 966-1830.