How to look after your new kitten
Smitten with your new kitten and want to give them the best possible start in life? Look no further than our handy how-to guide.
Before you bring home your new friend, it’s important to carefully plan the first weeks in their brand new home. A new home can be a dangerous place for a kitten, and the first few weeks are the most important if your fur ball is to grow into a healthy, happy cat.
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Providing a kitten-proof space
Kittens are naturally inquisitive little critters and so you must make sure they have a stimulating but closed-off environment that’s free from any hazards. It’s best to choose one room or closed-off space for your kitten’s first few days so that you can supervise them and prevent any potential hazards.
- Close all windows and doors and block off any nooks and crannies that your new furry friend might get trapped in.
- Provide a bowl for food and fill a bowl of water, which should be changed regularly.
- Place a litter tray well away from the food and water bowls in an accessible and quiet place. Cats are naturally hygienic and wont use a litter tray that is too close to where they eat.
- Buy balls, toys or scratching posts, as well as leaving some things in the room for your kitten to climb to make sure he or she has plenty to do. Kittens love to play and learn and won’t be happy in an empty room.
- You can provide a bed, but also give them plenty of cuddly things and blankets, as they will most likely choose their own favourite napping places.
What do they eat?
By the time you can take your little one home (around 8 weeks old), they should be eating solid food. It’s important to ask which food your new kitten has been weaned on, as a kitten’s diet should only be changed gradually by adding increasing amounts of the new food to decreasing amounts of the old over a few days.
- Food. Choose a kitten food that is tailored to the age and health of your kitten. They should be fed four times a day until they are fully grown.
- Drink. You should make sure your kitten drinks plenty of water as they are prone to urinary infections and can get dehydrated. They should no longer need milk, but you can buy milk that is specifically tailored to your kitten’s needs, and give them this as a treat.
Socialising your kitten
Perhaps the most important thing in creating a stress-free adult kitty is proper socialisation. Socialisation means introducing your kitten to all the things they will encounter in later life and making sure that they learn about their new life and home in an environment in which they feel safe. This must be done in the first 14 weeks of your furry pal’s life.
- People. Introduce them to a variety of people so that they learn not to be afraid when new people come into your home. Make sure they are held, petted and cuddled regularly so that they are comfortable having close relationships with people.
- Children. Especially if you live in a house with smaller children, it is important that they spend plenty of time with kids. Children can be louder and a little rougher with animals, so if a kitten does not learn early on about this, they can easily be stressed out by future encounters. Supervise this time closely though, because a traumatic experience can lead to more harm than good in the socialisation process.
- Pets. If you have other pets, introduce them very gradually. There is no reason that a kitten and another animal can’t be great friends if they share positive experiences from early on. Try starting them off by feeding or petting them in view of each other so that they know there is no competition for love or food.
- Situations. Think of all the situations your new best friends will encounter later on: car rides, carry cages, grooming and bathing, noisy situations like vacuum cleaning and house work. Show them that these things are normal and nothing to be worried about.
Some people recommend creating a socialisation schedule, so that you can fit all this in within the first 14 weeks of their life without introducing them to too much at once and leaving them plenty of time to relax and play in their safe space.
The first visit to the vet
Your kitten should have had their first vaccinations by the time you have brought them home, but at around 12 weeks they will need the second round. Find a vet that you trust and that fits with your insurance policy, and book an appointment before you bring your kitten home. Talk to your vet about how often vaccinations are required, worming, the possibility of getting your cat neutered and about microchipping. Book appointments well in advance and create a schedule for annual vaccinations and checkups.
When can my kitten go outside?
It is important to show your kitten the outside space it will play in all its life from an early age. Bring the little one outside in your arms and then move on to showing them round on a lead or under close supervision. Unsupervised outdoor play is not recommended before 6 months, and certainly not before your kitten is fully vaccinated, wormed and you have the all-clear from your vet.
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