There’s nothing quite like holding a tiny kitten in your hand. The delicate whiskers, the itty-bitty nose, and the adorable purring…need we say more? Your little ball of fluff may be small, but they have a mighty ability to win your heart at first sight. Of course, your new kitten requires more than love to survive. Plan ahead and be prepared with the right food, veterinary care, and playthings to help your kitten grow up healthy and well adjusted. This new kitten checklist and our helpful new kitten tips are a great place to start.

Before you bring your new kitten home

The first part of the new kitten checklist involves what you need to do before evening bringing kitty home.

Choose a veterinarian for your kitten

Your kitten will need veterinary care throughout their life, so select a veterinarian before your kitty arrives. Schedule a well-kitten checkup right away, so your new pet gets off to a healthy start. Depending on your kitten’s age and where they came from, they may need vaccinations or deworming right away. The shots given at the first veterinary visit are especially important to protect other pets living in your home.

Plan to bring your kitten home at 8-12 weeks old

It’s possible to bring a kitten home when they are just eight weeks old, but most experts recommend waiting until the kitten is 12 weeks old before separating them from their mother and littermates. Those extra weeks with mom and siblings can be beneficial for your kitten’s socialization and health. 

Kittenproof your home

Cats are playful and curious. Make your home kittenproof and safe by putting away or covering up anything that your new kitten might play with, chew on, climb on, crawl into, or otherwise get into trouble with. Here are some tips:

  • Put away strings, threads, ribbon, and rubber bands, which can be ingested and cause intestinal blockage. 
  • Cover up small openings, like behind the refrigerator, where your kitten can wedge themselves in and get stuck. 
  • Keep houseplants out of reach, because many are toxic to pets. Check the ASPCA’s toxic and non-toxic plants list for comprehensive advice.
  • Get in the habit of checking inside the washer, dryer, laundry basket, drawers, cabinets, and closets before closing them – there could be a curious kitten inside!
  • Keep all pills inside a container or cabinet. Don’t leave them lying about in the open.
  • Put breakable or delicate items away or inside a cabinet.

Don’t worry, if you forget to address a potential hazard, your kitten will definitely find it for you!

As you and your kitten get to know each other over the next few months, you may be able to relax your kittenproofing habits over time. But plan to be extra-vigilant in the first days and weeks that your new kitten lives in your home.

grey kitten sleeping on soft white cushion with a person's hand petting their head

Create a safe zone for your kitten

Before bringing your new kitten home, choose a room that will become your kitten’s personal safe space for a few days after they arrive. A guest bedroom is a good option, or any room that you can close off from the rest of the house. Place a tall baby gate securely across the entry door. 

This safe zone will be where your kitten gets to know its new surroundings and its new family. Remember, your home is big and unfamiliar to your new kitten. By confining your kitten to this smaller room for a short time, you allow them to settle in and get accustomed to all the new sights, smells, and sounds in your home, as well as the people in it.

New kitten checklist: essential equipment for your new cat

Get ready! Have all of the items on this checklist available in your kitten’s safe space before they arrive at your home. Place everything within easy reach so your kitten doesn’t have to venture very far to find everything they need. Think of this as your kitten starter kit!

  • Kitten food: Good quality kitten food is formulated with all the necessary nutrients for your kitten to grow strong and healthy. Plan to feed your feline friend only kitten food for the first year of life. 
  • Food and water dishes: Purchase multiple sets of food and water dishes so you’ll always have clean bowls on hand. Plan to wash these bowls every day. Stainless steel bowls are easy to sanitize.
  • Cat treats: Treats will be helpful to train your kitten and build a trusting relationship with them. 
  • Cat litter: Scoopable, unscented cat litter is a good option. If possible, use the same litter as the breeder from which you are obtaining the kitten.
  • Litter box: Choose an uncovered litter box with low sides so your kitten can get in and out easily. Switch to a larger, covered box and the litter of your choice as your kitten grows. Kittens instinctively know what the litter box is for, once you show them its location.
  • Litter scoop: Use this scoop to clean your kitten’s litter box every day. Daily cleaning reduces odors. If the litter box gets too full, your kitten may refuse to use it.
  • Cat carrier: Teach your kitten to love their pet carrier from day one by placing treats, a familiar-scented blanket, or toys inside. Being comfortable with the cat carrier will make car rides and veterinary visits much less stressful for your kitten in the future.
  • Cat bed: Cats will naturally find plenty of comfy places to snooze. If you want to train your kitten to always sleep in a certain place or on a cat bed, start now.
  • Cat brush: Cats shed, and regular brushing helps to control the potential fur blizzard you may encounter if you wait too long between brushings. Get your cat accustomed to daily brushing by starting when they are young. As a bonus, brushing sessions are a great way to bond with your kitty.
  • Cat collar: A cat collar and ID tags are essential for your cat’s safety in case they escape your home. Learn more about cat collar training.
  • Cat toys: There are two types of cat toys – those that the cat plays with solo, and those suited for interactive play with you. Small balls or catnip-stuffed toy mice might be perfect for kitty to play with alone. Use string, wand-style toys, or crinkly bags only when you are present. 
  • Scratching post: Praise your kitten when they use the scratching post to sharpen their claws. You want to reinforce this behavior to avoid having kitty scratch the furniture or drapes instead. Sisal-covered posts are a good choice.
  • Paper bag or small box: Kittens love to crawl into tight spaces, so give them a safe place to curl up by providing a small cardboard box, tipped on its side, or an open paper bag. Never give your cat a plastic bag.
  • Cat tree: Cats like to perch up high to get a perfect view of their little kingdom. A multi-level cat tree will give your kitten something to climb on other than your household furnishings. Many cat trees include tunnels, sleeping platforms, and built-in scratching posts. 
  • Water fountain: Cats and kittens don’t normally drink large amounts of water, but cat water fountains can entice cats to drink more water and stay hydrated. This promotes healthy kidney function. Running water is often preferred by cats over still water. Wait a while before introducing a water fountain to your new kitten, until they are large enough to safely interact with the fountain.
  • Cleaning supplies: Accidents happen, so be prepared with cleaning supplies such as a carpet cleaning spray that is specially formulated to remove pet messes and odors. Cat wipes can be used to remove dander and saliva from your cat’s fur. Air fresheners can help reduce pet odors in the home. 
  • GPS cat tracker: Last but not least, a GPS cat tracker can be your new best friend when it comes to having peace of mind about your new kitten. Follow your kitten’s every step in the Tractive GPS app so that you never have to worry about losing your beloved feline friend. Check it out on Minho below 😻
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Bringing your kitten home for the first time

The big day is here! You are bringing your tiny, fluffy kitten to its new home for the first time. This is an exciting day for you, but it could be a little scary for your kitten. Try not to overwhelm your little furball right away. Take it slow and you’ll make the transition easier for your kitty. So here are some more new kitten checklist items for bringing home your cat:

Use a cat carrier in the car

When picking up your kitten from the breeder, place it directly into a cat carrier. If possible, ask the breeder for a piece of blanket or towel from the kitten’s sleeping area. Place this in your carrier, and the familiar smells of their mother and littermates will comfort your kitten on the ride home. Put a few kitten-appropriate treats in the carrier, too.

While in the car, talk gently to your kitten and avoid playing loud music or honking the horn. Make the ride as peaceful as possible. 

Place your kitten in the safe zone

Once in the house, carry your kitten, still in the cat carrier, into the room you have chosen as a safe zone. Double check to be sure the room is totally kittenproof! If possible, have only one person in the room with the kitten and keep noises to a minimum, even if everyone in the family is desperate to get their hands on the little fluffball!

Secure the gate covering the room’s entryway. Open the door of the cat carrier, sit back, and wait. Allow the kitten to exit the carrier on their own. It may take a few minutes for the kitten to feel comfortable enough to come out and explore. Remember, this big room and its contents are all new for the kitten!

If kitty refuses to come out after 30-60 minutes, gently scoop them up and show them where the food, water, and litter box are located. Then set the kitten down and let them explore, sniff, and check out the space.

Leave the cat carrier in the safe zone as a sleeping spot for your kitten.

After hanging out with your kitten for a bit, leave the room and shut the gate behind you. Check on kitty often but allow them to get comfortable on their own. For some kittens, getting adjusted to their new home may take less than 24 hours. For others, it may take a few days or up to two weeks. It all depends on your cat’s personality.

Introduce your kitten to the rest of the house and the family

Once your new kitten is eating, drinking, and using the litter box regularly in the safe zone, gradually allow them to explore the rest of your home. At first, it may be a good idea to return your kitten to the safe zone at night. This way, they’ll have the food bowl, water dish, and the litter box right by their side. Plus, you’ll reduce the odds of kitty getting into trouble while you are sleeping. 

white and grey kitten eating out of cat food bowl on the floor indoors

Designate a feeding station

Once your kitten has graduated from the safe zone, decide where your kitten will eat. It’s best to place the food and water dishes on a solid surface, like tile or linoleum, for easy cleanup. Keep the bowls small for so your kitten can reach them. Swap the kitten-sized bowls for larger bowls as your cat matures. 

Building a bond as your kitten grows

Veterinary care

Regular veterinary visits are important to protect your cat’s health throughout life. Shots for rabies, feline distemper, and other vaccines will be administered during annual vet visits. The checklist of shots will vary depending on your cat’s lifestyle. Also, your veterinarian can track your cat’s weight and health, and make recommendations for dietary changes as kitty grows. At your kitten’s first veterinary visit, be sure to have your new cat microchipped, too.

When your kitten is about five months old, your veterinarian will recommend spaying or neutering your cat. These procedures will help your pet live a longer, healthier life, because spayed female cats and neutered male cats have a lower risk of certain cancers and infections.  

Cat insurance

Health insurance for pets can ensure that you can cover major veterinary expenses if the need arises. Similar to the health insurance that you carry for yourself, pet insurance has monthly premiums, deductibles, and annual maximum benefits. Some policies exclude things like your pet’s dental care and routine checkups. Read the cat insurance policy carefully to know what you are signing up for. 

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Training your cat

Who says you can’t train a cat? By reinforcing positive behaviors and ignoring negative behaviors, you can teach your cat to do just about anything, including going for walks and coming when called. You can learn how to train your cat using books or videos as a guide. The basic principles of animal training are the same for almost any type of animal, so give it a try. Training sessions are a great way to bond with your kitten.

grey cat with tractive gps tracker running through field

Play and exercise

Active play is a way to keep your kitten healthy and strong. Aside from playing with cat toys, wands, and paper bags, you can take your cat on adventures! Training your cat to walk safely on a leash or taking your kitty on a hike can be rewarding activities that are good for you and for your cat. Experts agree that if you start these activities while your cat is young, you are more likely to be successful than if you wait until your cat is older.

You can even get your new kitten a cat activity tracker, to monitor all of your pet’s activity and keep them fit and happy.

Get Cat Activity Tracker

Should you let your kitten go outdoors?

The decision to let your new cat roam free outside is a personal choice. However, indoor cats are known to live two to three times longer than outdoor cats. Outdoor cats are more likely to encounter wildlife, fight with other cats, catch communicable diseases, or be hit by a vehicle.

A good compromise is to create a catio for your cat. A catio is an outdoor cat enclosure that allows your feline friend to safely enjoy the sights, sounds, and scents of nature while avoiding the hazards of outdoor life. Catios come in all sizes, and can be purchased pre-made or constructed inexpensively with scrap materials. 

Should you get a second cat?

Many people choose to adopt two kittens at the same time so the cats will grow up as BFFs (Best Furry Friends). Having two cats definitely takes some pressure off of you, the cat owner, to socialize with them. Your two cats will be able to play with each other, and they will probably sleep curled up adorably together. 

Cats have their own personalities, and your two cats will probably get along just fine. But there will be times when they don’t get along, or they may turn out to be incompatible. Be sure to let your two cats have separate places they can retreat to if they want to get away from each other during cat spats. 

Long-term essentials for specific life stages

Adult cats

Once your kitten is a year old, you can switch from kitten food to adult cat food. You can decide if you want to offer wet (canned) cat food or dry cat food depending on your cat’s preference. Ask your veterinarian for advice if needed.

Adult cats may be less active than kittens, so you’ll need to monitor their weight carefully. Obesity in cats can lead to poor joint health, gastrointestinal issues, and other problems. 

Senior cats

As your adult cat ages and becomes a senior cat, their needs will change, especially their diet. Some cats may need special diets to address kidney or gastrointestinal issues that are common in senior cats. Your veterinarian can prescribe the right diet for your senior cat’s health.

As cats age, they may have more trouble getting around. You can help by adding steps or ramps so your senior cat can easily reach a favorite perch. Create an extra-comfy sleeping spot to calm those achy joints. And of course, give your senior kitty plenty of snuggles. 

Find out: how old is my cat in human years?

Enjoy your fluffy kitten and watch them grow

So now you know how to take care of a cat. Remember, your kitten will grow up fast, so revel in every moment with your little furball. Watch them learn, explore, and build a trusting bond with you, their human. The foundation of friendship that you create with your cat during kittenhood will lead to years of cuddles and adventures with your feline friend.

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