If you’re wondering how to raise a kitten, you’ll find all the basics in this post. Caring for cats can be confusing and difficult at times, as it’s not always intuitive what they need as far as attention, food, and healthcare.
>> You might be interested in How to Bond with Your Cat or Litter Box Training: How to Get Your Kitten to Use One.
The care a kitten needs is largely based on how old they are. Cats are considered fully grown at one year to a year and a half. Despite this, cats only need special care for kittens for up to six months.
Preparing Your Home
Preparing your home for a kitten is a lot like childproofing your home… if your child could jump several feet in the air and had sharp claws.
The most important thing is to put anything valuable or breakable away entirely. Even small kittens around 8-10 weeks of age can jump very high and scale curtains, walls, and even people! They will find a way to get to wherever you think is safe.
Also make sure there are as few cords as possible on the floor. Kittens chew on things and get themselves tangled up a lot. Close off any areas you don’t want the kitten getting into, such as specific rooms in your house with valuables or furniture you don’t want them to scratch.
Try to close off any areas the cat might get stuck in, such as small crevices behind appliances and furniture. Cats love to explore, and can get themselves into tiny spaces if they want to.
Supplies for Your New Kitten
Before your new housemate comes home, they need some things from you. There are a few basics that cats need right from the start that you should purchase and have set up before you bring them home.
You can purchase some of these products in a starter kit on Amazon.
Some other items that are not necessary but highly recommended are:
- A cat brush to get rid of their shedding hair
- A cat tree can be a really great thing because cats love having the high ground
- Grab some cat treats for training and rewarding your kitten
- A claw trimmer is a good idea if you have small children or don’t want your cat to be scratching at your furniture
Your kitten will also need vaccines to protect them from diseases. Then when they’re old enough, your kitten should be spayed/neutered. More on that in a bit.
Stock up on Cat Supplies
Our favorite place to buy cat supplies is online at Chewy.com. You can get up to 30% off on auto shipments of the products you purchase regularly, like litter and food. You choose the frequency and you can cancel anytime. Plus get free shipping on orders over $49.
Adopting Your Kitten
When adopting a kitten, be prepared for a bit of a wild ride. Kittens have a lot of energy, are super curious about the world around them, and need lots of attention. If you aren’t ready for that, consider adopting an adult cat instead.
Go to your local animal shelter and ask to meet the kittens they have in their facility. Many shelters will let you play with the cats and get to know them a bit before picking one. The best picks are generally cats that come right up to you, and want your love and attention.
>> Need help choosing a breed? Here are 22 rare cat breeds you might not know about.
Generally you’ll have to pay a fee to adopt the cat, and then you’ll be given their health information and you’ll get to take them home.
I’m biased, but please consider adopting a black cat if you can. Because of the superstitions around them, black cats are the least likely to be adopted and are often left in shelters for long periods of time. I have a black cat, and I can go on and on about how wonderful she is.
Bringing Your Kitten Home
It’s always exciting to bring a new kitten home, but try to remember this might be a scary experience for them. New smells, sights, and sounds can make a kitten nervous.
Put any other pets you have into a closed off room when the kitten first comes home. This will give the cat time to get used to the smell of the other pets without having to interact with them right away. Let the cat explore, make sure to monitor them closely and stay near them to get them used to you.
For the first day, let the kitten decide when it wants love. Don’t pick the cat up and cuddle it for long periods of time immediately. After the first day or two you can start introducing it to cuddles and playtime.
Most importantly, choose a spot for the litter and food and water to go and make sure it stays there. Bring the cat to those areas multiple times throughout the day so that they can start to map out the house.
Making their first day at your home a positive experience will help the cat feel safer with you and settle into your home.
Introducing Your Kitten to Older Cats
The number one rule is take it slow. Wait a few days before introducing your pets. These days allow them to scent each other and get used to their smells. Cats are very territorial, just as most other creatures are, so it can be jarring to both of the cats when a new feline enters their home.
When you introduce them, put them on opposite sides of the room in people’s laps and monitor them closely. Let the two smell and see each other from a safe distance. Make sure the room you’re introducing them in is quiet and calm.
If the cats are happy and curious, you can move the two closer together. Continue this process until they’re a couple feet apart and let them interact.
Don’t let the cats attack each other, if they start to fight you need to separate them and try to introduce them another day.
Training a Kitten
Training a kitten for basic behaviors is pretty simple, but can be a while before they fully grasp the ‘rules’.
First, cats don’t need to be litter trained. Kittens will instinctively want to use the litter box, so as long as you provide a litter box and show them where it is they will use it.
When a kitten exhibits a behavior that is good, reward them with pets and treats. Such as when they eat and drink, or when they play with their toys. When a kitten does something they aren’t supposed to, don’t reprimand them. Instead, direct their attention to something positive like playing.
When a cat is playing, never let them scratch or bite you. Always redirect them to a toy if they start to scratch. This will teach them that it’s not okay to bite and scratch something that isn’t a toy.
Making Vet Appointments
When your kitten is eight weeks old, they need to go to the vet for their first round of vaccinations. These shots protect them from things like feline distemper, panleukopenia, and other viruses. The kitten will also be tested for parasites, and feline leukemia. All of this is to make sure they’re happy and healthy.
After that visit, the cat should return to the vet about once a month for the next two months for booster shots.
If your kitten hasn’t been fixed, it can be spayed/neutered starting at eight weeks of age. Get this procedure done and out of the way as soon as possible.
While you’re at the vet you can ask any questions about kitten health that you need to. The vet can also recommend good kitten food for your specific cat, and can teach you lots of other things.
Things Not to Do
Don’t make your house chaotic for the kitten. If they have bad experiences in your house, they will associate you with bad things. They may become scared, and hide most of the time.
Do not allow your cat to scratch or bite humans or other animals. They will think this behavior is okay, and will continue to do it.
Also, don’t treat your kitten like an adult cat. They have wildly different needs, they need different food, attention, and lots more play and work.
Raising a new kitten is super exciting, and can be a very rewarding experience. As long as you raise your kitten right, you’ll have a wonderful and friendly adult cat. Now that you’ve learned how to raise a kitten from the start, you’re all set to welcome your new little one home.
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