8 Tips for New Kitten Owners
If you're already cat owner then you'll certainly know that cats make affectionate and incredibly playful pets that can really thrive when their basic needs are met. These needs include their diet, environment, their health and their welfare. They need space to be active in and regular interactions between themselves and people, as well as other animals.
If you’re brand new to being a kitten owner then you might have a lot of questions about caring for your new feline friend. You'll come to know that cats can make amazing friends. They’re fun, playful, independent, loving, curious, smart and can be very entertaining. Since you’re online and reading this guide, you care enough to give your new friend a good life, and your cat’s lucky to have you.
When it comes to care and maintenance, cats are pretty low on the difficulty scale and once you’re feeling familiar with basic feeding, litter boxes, grooming, general health and safety then you’re all set, everything will come natural and really all you’ll have to do is love and play with your cat.
We’re going to cover essential topics that each new kitten owner should familiarise themselves with to ensure they’ve got a happy and healthy pet. We’ll also cover helpful care tips as well as some advice from a few of us long time cat owners!
1 - Before your kitten comes home
Ideally you won’t have a cat that’s less than 8 weeks old, this time should be spent solely with its mother. In these first several weeks of life, the owner should do a few things in preparation of you taking them home. These include the kittens first vaccinations, beginning litter training and they should have started socialisation. Socialisation is the positive introduction to new situations and people, and chances are they’ll do this without knowing it because there’ll be cute little kittens to pet.
If they’re more of a professional in raising kittens though, they’ll know all of the processes and steps in order to give you a cat that’s friendly and playful!
You too can start preparing your home for your cat by ensuring there’s lots of space for your kitten to play as well as having a resting place and some hiding places for them. You could organise your furniture to give them more open space to roam through which will also probably give them more hiding spots too. You can also purchase toys, a scratching post, a cat litter tray and give them places to climb too, we’ve got more on this below to help you pick out which are perfect for you!
It’s also a really good idea to make sure there are no hazards for your new kitten, we’ve got more on this below too but basically, keep everything tidy and tuck wires out of the way. Now is also a good time to look into pet insurance.
2 - Bringing your feline home
This new home is an important time for your kitten - what they learn and experience now will shape their future behaviour. Continue the socialisation by exposing your new kitten to as many positive experiences as you can, such as:
Other healthy fully vaccinated cats or dogs
Other people and children
Gradually introduce them to their carrier
Introduce them to routines such as grooming, being picked up and having their eyes, ears and toes/claws checked.
Establish a consistent routines and rules such as keeping them out of certain rooms
Reward good behaviour with a treat and affection, ignore all bad behaviour as they don’t relate the scalding to their actions.
Feed them the same kitten food they've had before and keep up the same routine of small, regular meals
3 - 12 weeks on
Your kitten should be due their second vaccinations soon, you should also book them in to be neutered at four months of age. Read more here about why that’s important and the many benefits of it. While you’re at the vets, ask them about worming. You should be spending lots of time playing with your kitten each day, mental stimulation is really important so play games with them like hiding treats and their food so they have to search and discover it.
Related Article: The benefits of Spaying And Neutering
You could try teaching them tricks such as coming to you when you call their name. Remember that they’re growing a lot and learning new things and this is very tiring. Keep training sessions short and let them rest regularly.
4 - 6 months onward
Your kitten is still learning at this point, so keep all experiences as positive as possible. Keep up their training and routines and promote good behaviour with positive rewards such as treats and praise, while ignoring bad behaviour. Speak to your vet if you have any concerns about kitten behaviour at this point and get ready to change their dietary needs.
5 - Feeding your cat
Speaking of dietary needs, the food that you choose will have a big impact on your cat’s overall health, so it’s best to make sure you’re feeding them something nutritious. If you know the brand of food your cat had before you adopted them, it helps to get some of that first to make a slow transition into their new food. If you change their food too quickly it can lead to an upset stomach.
If you’ve got a brand new kitten then feeding them kitten formula is essential here because they’re still growing rapidly and need that higher calorie intake to support this. If your kitten is completely new to the world (under 6 weeks) then we suggest milk replacement powder - ideally they should be drinking their mother’s milk but sometimes this isn’t always possible if they’ve been abandoned or they’re struggling to latch. Stay tuned for our recommendations at the end of this section!
If your cat grows up and needs a special diet such as if they’re overweight then its best to consult with a vet first, and dieting needs to be done slowly and steady to avoid further health complications. But as long as your cat is healthy already, then you’ve got many options for keeping their hunger at bay, let’s have a look at the most common types of cat food.
It sometimes takes cats a little while to get used to canned, or “wet” food, but eventually, they’ll love it! Plus, the higher water content will provide them with better hydration too. They come in a wide variety of textures like “with chunks” as slices, minced pieces, paté or chunks in gravy. Some cats will eat any of these while others will have specific ones they prefer, so if you may need to experiment with different types but you’ll still be able to find ones your cat likes best.
With the overall quality of these foods there can be a huge difference between brands and price ranges so be sure to read the product’s ingredient label before you buy it. Look for foods with meat as the first ingredient, rather than grains or fillers as these provide the best nutrition for cats. Felines are carnivores by nature and naturally have little need for grains in their diet. You’re looking for either poultry, beef, fish etc. as one of the main ingredients. Cat’s are essentially tiny lions, and lions need more than wheat to survive.
You can find these foods at most pet food stores and online but they tend to be more expensive than grocery store foods, pure ingredients and less fillers means there’s more nutrition packed into one can. Feeding a high quality food can contribute to better health and fewer trips to the vet and this is one of those cases where typically, you get what you pay for.
As a rule of thumb, wet food shouldn’t be left out for more than half an hour at room temperature, or twenty minutes on a warm day - it can spoil quickly and become unsafe to eat. If there’s any left over food in the can then you can cover and refrigerate it, but throw out the food left in the bowl.
Make sure you’re only feeding them actual cat food - dog food and even a can of tuna doesn’t provide complete nutrition, however a can of tuna can be given as a treat occasionally.
Feel free to mix it up, some people prefer feeding dry food or a combination of wet and dry. While we’d say wet is the better product, it does have it’s downfalls. For example, dry food is convenient if you're not home during the day because it can be left out without spoiling. This would allow you to fill up their bowl with dry food before work, then a bowl of wet food when you arrive home and maybe a treat before bed time. As with canned food, read the ingredient label and look for brands with meat in the first few ingredients. Try to avoid products with by-products, fillers, and artificial flavors.
The amount you feed your cat should depend on their weight and activity level. You can either follow the suggested portion size on the back of each of your packaging, or if your cat’s either on the thin side or the chunky side, get a recommendation from your vet. Also, if you’re feeding both dry and wet food, take that into account when figuring out how much to feed. If you have an adult cat that seems to be gaining weight, reduce the portion size or switch to a reduced calorie or ‘indoor' formula. Don’t put them on a strict diet, as this can have consequences for their health.
Finally here’s our recommendations for kitten food, wet food and dry food.
Kitten food is an alternative to fresh kittens feeding from their mother. It’s highly nutritious and full of the stuff they need to help them grow quickly while maintaining a good immune system. For this we’d recommend KMR Milk Replacement Formula until they’re at least 6 weeks old.
After these first 6 weeks of life are up you can start introducing actual food to your kitten. We’ve got 3 recommendations here. If you want to go with dry food then there’s IAMS Proactive Health For Kittens. IAMS is one of the bigger brands out there and has a reputation for being good for your cat. It focuses on giving your cat a great immune system and the nutrition they need to stay healthy, and what’s better is that it’s also been rated as the Best Value option online! This is a really healthy food that doesn’t break the bank.
If you want to go with the wet food option for your cat then we suggest Purina’s Fancy Feast Kitten range. They’re known for being tasty but affordable and use quality ingredients to make sure your cat’s getting the nutrition they need. Purina is another of those well known brands that you can either order online, knowing you’re getting a quality food, or you may even be able to pick them up in your local grocery store.
6 - Litter Boxes
You’re going to need at least one litter box for each cat that you have as they need their own space to “go” and having them share will lead to behavioural issues. You can either go with the closed off ones so that you don’t have to look at any mess, or the open box style. The closed off ones usually contain odor and it can become unpleasant for your cat to stay inside of - a lot of cats prefer the open top dish style litter boxes.
Whatever style litter box you choose, you need to make sure it’s large enough and plan ahead. Smaller boxes are fine for kittens and this is what most people would go for initially, but cats over 10 or 11 pounds may find a regular size box too small. If you stick to one that is right for your cats size, you might end up buying four different litter trays - it might make sense to just go for the larger one right off the bat. However, in response to this, smaller litter boxes also will use less litter, so you may actually save money by buying the four little trays over time rather than getting the extra large one and going through a ton of litter.
Speaking of litter, there’s a lot to choose from! Whether it’s clay, clumping, pine pellets, corn, recycled newspaper or paper based, look for ones with “low dust” or “no dust” because dust isn’t pleasant for either you or your cat. If you’re not totally sure which you should get, just stick with basic litter as it’s usually the least expensive and most cats and kittens are used to it. Once you’ve got one that works, stick with it as switching too often or quickly might cause your cats to resist going in the box!
Now on to the litter scoop! You need to choose a scoop that will work with the type of litter you’ve bought, as well as a small bucket to help you move the dirty litter away. What may help is having a litter mat underneath the box - it’ll help catch the litter that falls out of the box before it all gets tracked into the carpet and around the house.
Now it’s time to scoop the box, you’ll want to scoop the box once or twice a day to keep it clean for your feline friend. Then about once a week replace all the litter and wash the box with normal dish detergent and use warm water.
This does sound a bit gross, but you’ll want to regularly inspect the poop. Put your spoons away, just a visual inspection is fine. What you’re checking for for things like blood in the stools or urine, mucus or worms, but also you’re checking for diarrhea or something that’s unusual. Cat’s are quite quiet and stick to themselves, especially when ill, therefore it’s important to try and work out if something is wrong with your cat - stools are a good way to do this.
7 - Choosing Dishes and Bowls
If you’re a parent of young children, you’ll know that plastic dishes get greasy fast and tend to hold odours. Because of this, only opt for either ceramic bowls or stainless steel ones. Ceramic are better because they’re heavier and less prone to being accidentally tipped over. It’s a good idea to have double bowls, so there’s always a clean on one hand.
Cat fishes can get quite fancy, and not in a “my little princess kitty” way, but more like a useful design kind of way. DuraPet Cat Dishes are stainless steel and they’re shallow, which makes them both easy to clean but also makes eating from them easier for cats but also they have a rubber ring around the base so that the dish can’t be pushed around. Convenient! See them here: https://amzn.to/2Vhk2tH
For water bowls you can actually use the same thing, a bowl’s a bowl really. The thing with water bowls though is that they need to be topped up at all times, cats need to stay hydrated. It’s also a good idea to have a couple of them so you can put one next to the food bowl and one in another room that your cat frequents.
The next section is “Ongoing Maintenance”, and it starts with grooming.
8 - Brushing
Brushing is fairly straightforward, any pet owner can do it and your cat will probably enjoy being brushed - they find it relaxing and it’s also a great way to bond with your cat! Regular brushing is important because it removes dead hair and dirt, thus preventing matting and it helps to keep the skin healthy.
If you’ve got a short to medium hair cat then brushing once a week is a good amount to give them the benefits and it wont take up much of your time. If, however, you’ve got a longer haired cat then this might need to be done two or three times a week instead. Matting can be a big issue in cats, to learn why, check out our article on it here:
Mats are essentially hard clumps of fur that’s tangled together and they form if the coat isn’t brushed often enough. Shedding for your cat increases as the weather warms up, so brushing is important to remove dead hair and the dirt of them rolling around outside and this will prevent mats. The thing about mats is that they can form on cats of any hair length, but they are more common with medium and long-haired breeds.
Once they form, they’re difficult to comb out and you might need a professional groomer or vet to remove them or shave them off if they're severe enough, so it’s best to just take care of it before it gets that far.
A regular bristle brush will work fine with most cats or you can also use a brush with metal bristles to remove more hair if your pet’s one of the breeds that sheds a lot. If you’re in a pet store and not sure what type of brush to get, ask the staff to recommend one to you.
If your cat sheds a lot, as well as using the regular brushes, consider also using a FURminator occasionally too. Be warned though that these will remove a lot of hair if given the chance, so use it gently and don’t overdo it or you’ll have a naked cat on your hands. There’s two sizes available and versions for both short haired and long haired breeds.
That's our 8 things for a new kitten owner! I hope you’ve found this cat care guide helpful and enjoy having a feline friend in your life as much as we do.
Thanks for reading our article for cats! Here's a few more of our articles that you might find useful. Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds for Pet Owners with Allergies Weird Cat Behaviours and What They Mean Matting in cats and what to do The Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Common Cat Health Issues Preparing your cat for Fireworks