If you're thinking about adopting a new kitten into your family, there are several things you should consider to ensure you can provide them with the care and love they need. While the thought of a new furry friend might be exciting, it's important to be prepared for the responsibility that comes with it.
- Your kitten may be hesitant about their new environment when they arrive in your home, so be sure to remain patient and calm with them, and positively reinforce their good behaviours with treats, play, or petting.
- Kittens are impressionable in these early stages of their lives, so you must make sure to be delicate with them, and allow them to grow and mature in a healthy manner.
- Something important to note is that very young kittens cannot regulate their own body temperature. Whilst this will develop as they age, you must ensure that they are kept warm during their early weeks of life.
You most likely have many questions about introducing a new kitten into your life. In this comprehensive guide, we will answer common concerns and questions, and ensure you are prepared for your new furry family member.
“As a veterinarian, I've seen firsthand how important it is for kitten parents to provide their furry friends with proper care and attention. Regular check-ups with a veterinarian are essential to ensure your kitten is healthy and up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations. It's also important to provide a nutritious diet and plenty of fresh water to keep your kitten hydrated and healthy.”
- Dr Jane Miller BSc, BVSc (hons)
Preparing for your kitten
Research, research, and research: Bringing a new kitten into your home is an exciting and joyous experience, but it's essential to understand the responsibilities that come with caring for a furry friend. Cats can live for over 15 years, so it's crucial to be prepared with research about the long-term commitment involved.
Finding the right cat breed: Each breed has its unique characteristics, personality traits, and care requirements. For example, some breeds need more attention and activity than others, while some are more relaxed and easygoing. By understanding your lifestyle and needs, you can find the breed that suits you best.
Adoption: When adopting a kitten, it's important to choose a responsible breeder or adoption agency. ‘Kitten mills’ and unethical breeders do still exist, and it's crucial to avoid supporting illegal breeding practices. By choosing a reputable breeder or adoption agency, you can ensure that your kitten was ethically bred and raised.
Pet Insurance: Be sure to register with quality and reputable pet insurance. This will be extremely useful in the long term if your kitten encounters any medical problems, but also provides you with peace of mind.
Supplies: To be prepared for the arrival of your new kitten, you should have all the supplies needed to ensure a smooth transition for you and your furry friend. Be sure they have appropriate bedding and litter facilities separated from any other pets in the home. You will also need a selection of kitten-appropriate toys and well-balanced kitten-specific food. The use of a Feliway pheromone diffuser or spray can help your new kitten feel calm and relaxed in their new environment.
Laws and regulations: In Australia, there are several laws and regulations in place to ensure the safety and welfare of cats. One of the most important is the requirement for all cats to be microchipped by their local council. While registration is not mandatory in most states and territories, it is still recommended. Additionally, some states and territories may have specific requirements around cat ownership, such as the need for cats to be kept indoors or on a leash when in public areas.
Visit the professionals: Booking your first vet appointment is just as important in creating a smooth transition for your kitten. Be sure to visit a trusted veterinarian for vaccinations and deworming, along with a general health checkup for your kitten. Also ensure to consult with either the breeder or adoption agency about the medical history of your kitten, such as vaccination records or possible issues.
Bringing your kitten home
Creating a safe and comfortable space for your kitten can sometimes be the biggest hurdle you have to face when adopting a new furry family member. You must ensure they are the appropriate age to be separated from their mother, along with understanding their temperaments with you and others in your home. It is recommended that a kitten isn’t separated from its mother until at least eight weeks old, once they have weaned off their mother’s milk.
Be sure to consult with the breeder or adoption agency your new kitten is from to understand the unique situation your kitten is in. This will help to further inform your decisions down the line.
Introduction to your home: To help your kitten adjust to their new home, it's recommended to bring some unwashed bedding or blankets that smell like their littermates and mother. This familiar scent can make them feel more comfortable and at home in the new environment. As mentioned earlier, Feliway is a pheromone that can be used to help your new kitten feel calm and relaxed as they get used to their new surroundings.
Start with a single area: To prevent overwhelming your kitten and avoid any potential injuries, confine them to an area of your home where they have access to food, water, and a bed. As they become more comfortable and confident in their new environment, you can gradually introduce them to new areas of your home.
Introduction to other pets: If you have other pets at home, it's crucial to introduce your kitten to them carefully. Pets can be territorial and will need supervision when getting familiar with each other in the same room. Before physically introducing them, allow your pets and kitten to get comfortable with each other's scent by swapping toys or bedding. When you decide to introduce them physically, remain aware and ready to intervene if needed.
Setting a routine: Once you have introduced your kitten to your home, other family members and existing pets, it is essential that you establish a routine. This means that you should set your kitten with a schedule of feeding times, and sleeping arrangements.
By setting a routine early on in their life, it will be easier for them to adapt to new situations, and feel comfortable in the home.
Shop our Kitten essentials
Feliway Anti-Anxiety Spray for Cats 60ml
All cat owners are familiar with the behaviour of placing facial pheromones. A cat will rub the furniture, the corners of walls, or the bottom of curtains when it feels secure in its surroundings from the side of the chin to the base of the ear. The animal is secreting facial pheromones by doing this. These logos send out a message of security and well-being.
Feliway operates by 'communicating' with your cat in its own dialect, fostering a feeling of comfort and tranquillity. Feliway can help ease your cat when the cat's environment changes (such as vet visits, hospital stays, home moves, new arrivals, or furniture rearranging), or if the cat is frightened. Changes in behaviour, such as urine marking, can express this state.
Seresto Flea Collar Kitten/Cat
Seresto® is an innovative flea collar for cats that provides up to 8 months of continuous protection from fleas. Seresto can be safely used on kittens and cats from 10 weeks of age.
Seresto treats and prevents flea infestations by killing adult fleas on your cat and flea larvae in their surroundings for up to 8 months.
The collar is designed for the controlled release of low doses of its active ingredient, maximising safety and long-term efficacy in cats. Seresto is odourless and has safety features to protect your cat in case the collar gets snagged or caught.
Note: The safety of Seresto has not been established during pregnancy and lactation.
KONG Kitten Kickeroo
Watch your cat attack, wrestle and snuggle with its KONG Kitten Kickeroo. This unique toy appeals to a cat’s instinctive desire to stalk and capture prey. The Kickeroo’s size, shape and material were specially chosen to promote wrestling and hind paw kicking.
The fluffy tail provides movement for extra excitement. And the Kitten Kickeroo contains KONG’s potent North American catnip so that fully grown cats can enjoy it as well. Don’t be surprised if the Kickeroo becomes your cat’s favorite toy.
Please note: Colours chosen at random.
Feeding guidance for your kitten
For kittens, it is essential they are getting the appropriate nutrients needed for their specific life stage. As this is a time of rapid growth for your kitten, you need to refuel their energy with quality protein-based kitten food.
Tip: Think outside the bowl!
When feeding dry food, consider food dispensing toys and mats to provide the sensation of hunting for your cat and keep them mentally enriched.
Choose the right food: To provide them with the right nutrition, you should select high-quality kitten food that is made with good ingredients and is animal protein-based. This is because cats are carnivorous in their diet and require sufficient protein to maintain their health.
When to stop kitten food: The length of time you should feed your kitten their kitten-specific food depends on factors such as breed, desexing time, and activity level. In general, kittens should stay on kitten food until they are 9 to 12 months old. However, some cats may require additional nutrients for a longer period.
Feeding schedule: Feeding schedules and portion sizes will vary based on your kitten's specific needs. Until they are around five to six months old, you should provide your kitten with three small meals a day, and after that, you can reduce it to two meals a day.
As a guideline, consult the package serving suggestions and the advice from your veterinarian on your kitten food, as it will vary depending on the brand you use.
Hydration: Along with providing high-quality and nutritional food to your new kitten, you should likewise allow access to fresh and clean water at all times. As hydration is important for your new furry family member, providing them with drinkable water is a must. Most cats appreciate running water, so a drinking fountain that recycles the drinking water is a great idea for your cat.
Supplements: If your kitten is lacking in essential nutrients, you can utilise kitten supplements to improve their health. You may find that your kitten is overly lethargic, or is having issues with their skin, fur, or dental hygiene - and these can be signs that they are deficient in the nutrients they need.
Vitamins, minerals, probiotics and more are integral to the health of your cat and can be found in many foods. However, if your kitten is not receiving these nutrients through their food, consider kitten supplements such as multivitamins or calcium supplements.
Tips for caring for your kitten
Knowing how to care for your kitten before bringing them home is essential. You want to be prepared as possible for the needs of your kitten, and how to combat challenges you might face.
Vaccinations: Along with regular visits to the vet to check on your kitten’s health, you should keep up to date with all their vaccinations. Kittens should begin their vaccinations when they are 6 to 8 weeks old until about 16 weeks old, followed by booster shots within a year. Be sure to keep up to date with vaccinations at a minimum of every three years, along with other prevention medications such as deworming tablets to avoid serious illness.
It is important that your kitten receives their core immunisations, and be sure to consult with your vet on the non-core vaccines. The most important vaccines to get for your kitten are the FVR (feline viral rhinotracheitis), FCV (feline calicivirus) and FPV (panleukopenia) vaccines. Here is the schedule you should follow with your vet:
Recommended Vaccination Schedule
Primary: 1st shot 6 - 8 weeks
Primary: 2nd shot 10 - 12 weeks
Primary: 3rd shot 14 - 16 weeks
Booster: 12 months
Repeat booster: 12 - 36 months, depending on the risk factors
Health and wellbeing: Your kitten may experience some common health problems early on, such as fleas, intestinal worms or upper respiratory infections. Some of these illnesses can have non-specific symptoms, but be sure to look out for any vomiting, diarrhoea or excessive coughing as signs of sickness in your kitten.
Some common illnesses may arise, and you should be prepared to identify the symptoms if they occur. If symptoms persist or worsen, be sure to take your kitten to the vet. Some common health issues include:
- Lack of body temperature control: present in all kittens, when cats are young, they are unable to regulate their own body temperature. Therefore, it is important to keep your kitten warm on those colder days by using blankets or a pet-safe heat pad.
- Infections: one of the most common illnesses young kittens are diagnosed with is upper respiratory infections. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, lack of appetite and lethargy. Most kittens will recover within a week or two with care and encouragement to eat.
- Digestive/immune diseases: digestive worms and parasites can greatly affect your kitten, and is something you should look out for. If your kitten is acting unusual, such as losing their appetite, lethargy and digestive issues, take them to the vet for examination and medication.
Establishing a routine with your veterinarian is recommended, as you can keep on top of your kitten’s health. Along with this, your kitten can get more comfortable with the vet practice, and accumulate to the environment.
TIP: a comfortable cat carrier which opens at the top can make transport and vet access easier.
Socialisation: Socialisation is important for your kitten's overall well-being. Expose your kitten to different people, animals, and environments from a young age. This will help them become more comfortable and confident in different situations.
When introducing your kitten to another animal/pet, be sure to:
- Check the other pet is vaccinated to protect your kitten from a serious illness.
- Introduce the scent of each pet to one another, such as swapping bedding or petting one soon after the other, to gain familiarity.
- When meeting face-to-face, maintain a calm energy and constantly monitor the situation.
- Once you detect they are growing tired or uncomfortable, separate the pets and give them time alone before meeting again.
- If you are introducing another cat to the household, it is really important to ensure there are multiple resources available. So for a two-cat household, you need three litter trays and three water bowls etc.
When introducing your kitten to a new family member, especially children, be sure to:
- Have conversations with your family member/child before the arrival of your kitten on the importance of being gentle with the new kitten.
- When meeting face-to-face, keep a calm temperament in the room and encourage others to follow.
- Allow the kitten to smell the new person they are being introduced to, and navigate themselves - don’t force your kitten into anything!
- Once you’ve identified that your kitten is growing tired or uncomfortable, be sure to allow some quiet time apart.
Tips for grooming your kitten
Beginning to groom your kitten at an early age will allow for these processes to become easier as the years go on. It is also a special time for you and your kitten to bond with one another, especially when they are new to your home. Developing a grooming routine early on can make the process easier as your kitten grows, and help prevent skin infections caused by dirt and bacteria buildup.
Grooming: Different breeds of kittens will have grooming requirements; long-haired kittens will need to be groomed more often, whilst short-haired breeds will need less maintenance. Grooming not only minimises shedding, but it's also a great bonding experience for you and your kitten. One or two brushings with a soft fur brush are often sufficient at this early stage. Here are our best tips on grooming your kitten for the first time:
- Allow your kitten to get familiar with the brush or comb you’ll be using by letting them sniff around.
- Start brushing them gently on their back, and then gradually move to the sides of their body. Starting nearer the head end and testing their reaction to brushing further away from the head.
- Throughout this process, be sure to praise your kitten verbally and with treats to ensure it is a positive experience.
- Keep grooming sessions short, and as your kitten gets more comfortable, including their stomach, ears and tail.
Bathing: Young kittens often require some assistance in staying clean, as they can be messy eaters as they transition to wet food. Whilst appropriate wet wipes are recommended as your first point of call for cleaning up your kitten, a bath may be required. Be sure to regulate the temperature of the room and water, along with calming your kitten throughout bath time. We recommend using fragrance-free shampoos and keeping any soap away from your kitten’s eyes.
Claw maintenance: Each pet parent will have their own preferences on claw maintenance, but you should always look out for your kittens' claws to reduce the risk of injuries or infections.
At this young age, be sure to be cautious when lifting your kitten from fabric surfaces, as their claws can get caught and broken. Be sure to look out for any broken or infected nails at this stage as well, as they can get caught on toys and furniture.
Dental health: Kittens will typically begin teething from 12 weeks to about six months, but many kitten parents often don’t notice. Be sure that you get your kitten used to having their mouth examined during this time, so it can be easier to brush their teeth when they are older. We recommend taking a very calm approach when examining your kitten’s mouth:
Dental health tips for Kittens
- Start by slowly tilting their head backwards and opening their mouth with your thumb and index finger.
- Some things to look out for include any discolouration or dark material on the teeth, along with any cracked or broken teeth.
- Be sure to reward them with lots of love and praise once you have finished!
Tips for training your kitten
Kittens can be trained in basic commands or tricks. It is best to start as soon as possible, as the kittens can developmentally learn and get used to the practice of training.
Positive reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is a proven method of training that rewards good behaviour with treats or praise. Whenever your kitten performs a desirable behaviour such as using the litter box, scratching the scratching post, or coming when called, reward them with a treat or verbal praise.
Boundary training: This approach can also carry through to teaching boundaries to your kitten. If your kitten begins to scratch or bite you harder than normal, be sure to ignore their behaviour so they understand that they don’t receive attention for these behaviours. Never use physical punishments to train unwanted behaviours, and keep your voice calm so as to not scare or confuse them.
Scratching: Scratching is a natural behaviour for cats, but it can be destructive if not trained properly. Encourage your kitten to use a scratching post by placing it near their favourite spot to scratch. If they start to scratch furniture or other household items, redirect them to the post immediately and reward them when they use it. The use of pheromone sprays can be particularly useful also.
Playtime: Playtime is not only fun, but it is also a way to bond with your kitten and keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Use interactive toys such as feather wands or treat dispensers to play with your kitten. Avoid using hands or feet as playthings as this can encourage biting and scratching.
Make playtime fun! Shop our Kitten toys below:
KONG Cat Moppy Ball
Kong Cat Moppy Ball is a great toy for your feline friend! It comes in different colours and will encourage your cat to play and stay active, which is important for their health.
Your cat will have a blast stalking, pouncing, and attacking the ball, which makes a rattling sound to make playtime even more exciting. The ball has a hard texture with a soft fabric covering that your cat will enjoy clawing at. Plus, the colourful strands of fabric on the ball will add to your cat's excitement.
The best part? You won't know what colour you'll get until you receive it! Shop online today, your cat will love you for it!
KONG Swizzle Bird Teaser Toy
The KONG Swizzle Bird Teaser is perfect for fun, interactive play and a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your cat. Irresistable feathers and unpredictable movement will stimulate your feline friend’s natural hunting instincts and provide beneficial exercise. The Swizzle Bird Teaser is sure to bring out the playful tiger in any cat. Durable and safe, this item is for supervised play only.
- Ultra-soft plush
- Natural feathers
- Perfect for interactive play
Indoor Hunting Feeder 3pk Doc and Phoebe
The Indoor Hunting Feeder is a complete bowl replacement for one cat. Hunt, catch and play with multiple small meals a day.
Decrease anxiety, end early wake up calls from a hungry cat and correct your litterbox woes with three easy and fun feeders a day. Give your cat the best science has to offer with a feeder designed for their natural instincts.
Each Doc & Phoebe's Indoor Hunting Feeder includes:
- 1 Trainer complete with multiple dispensing holes
- 3 Feeders each with two dispensing holes - designed for any size kibble
- 3 Feeder Skins designed to simulate the tactile feel of prey allowing your cat to grab, claw and use its teeth as it would in the hunt
- 1 scoop to portion kibble into the feeders
At Doc & Phoebe's, we listen to science, nature and especially our cats. The Indoor Hunting Feeder was developed by Dr Liz Bales and is the fun and easy way to keep your cat happy. 100% Veterinarian researched and recommended to help alleviate anxiety and destructive behaviour and prevent litter box issues.
This is a fantastic way to entertain your cat and satisfy their hunting instincts.
The academic veterinary community and feline behavioural community have been studying and writing about Feline Environmental Enrichment and the importance of hunting for cat’s physical and mental health for decades.
Litter box training: Most cats are naturally clean and will quickly learn to use the litter box. However, it's important to start litter box training as soon as your kitten arrives at your home.
Before your kitten arrives in your home, be sure to buy a litter box and kitten litter suitable for their size. Choose a quiet and easily accessible area for the litter box to be located, and place a mat underneath to help with the mess they may make.
This process may be overwhelming, so here are our top tips for training your kitten to use the litter box:
- When introducing your kitten to the litter box, do so calmly with minimal distractions.
- To encourage them to use the litter box, place them inside the box after meals or naps.
- Be sure to positively reinforce your kitten when they use the litter box either verbally or with treats.
- If your kitten uses other areas of the home to go to the bathroom, clean up the mess calmly, and redirect them to the litter box.
When your kitten is awake and ready to play, be sure to engage with them with an array of toys. This time is great for you to bond with your kitten and a way to supplement the natural lessons of hunting and catching prey with a variety of toys and games.
Taking your kitten out
Introducing your kitten to the outdoors can be an exciting adventure, but it's important to make sure that they are safe and secure. Check with your local council website, as certain areas require cats to stay within your property in order to protect the local wildlife from cat hunting. Here are some tips on how to take your kitten out safely:
Ensure your kitten has identification: Before you take your kitten outside, it's important to ensure that they have a secure form of identification. Ideally, your kitten should be microchipped, with a securely fitted collar with your contact information on a tag.
Medical safety: For the safety of your kitten, you should ensure that your kitten isn’t introduced to the outdoors until their first course of vaccinations is completed.
Get your kitten desexed: Before you allow your kitten to freely roam outdoors, it's important to get them desexed to prevent unwanted litters.
Physical safety: As for preparing your yard for your kitten, be sure to cover open bodies of water such as ponds and pools, along with closing up any holes in the fencing. Be sure to remove any hazardous materials from your garden such as sharp items or gardening chemicals.
Introducing the outdoors: When choosing to introduce your new furry family member to the outdoors, ensure that you choose a quiet time in the day to accompany your kitten in the yard. Avoid distractions such as loud neighbours or unpleasant weather so as not to spook your kitten.
Encouraging safety & indoor play: Outdoor adventures can be enriching for your kitten, but it's important to make sure they are safe. We strongly discourage the ability for free roaming. Consider purchasing cat fencing barriers or enclosures for the outdoors to remain at ease. Encouraging indoor play and exercise does not have to be exclusive. If you are concerned about the safety of your kitten outside, you can remain close when outdoors and encourage indoor living for the majority of the time. This will minimise risks and potential accidents that may occur if your kitten has free access to the outdoors.
When bringing in a new kitten to your home, you must be prepared for what is to come. Through responsible pet ownership, you should be committed to caring for your furry friend well after they’ve matured into fully grown cats. Your kitten will show you love, so be sure to return the favour!
To ensure that your kitten is comfortable, and has a positive transition into your home, you must be prepared for their arrival. Through supplies such as bedding, good kitten food, access to clean water and a whole lot of love, the transition for your kitten will be made easier.
It is likewise important to start a routine early with your kitten, such as vet appointments, grooming, feeding times and training. By starting these practices early, it is more likely that your kitten will soak in this information and be easier to train.
Whilst this guide is a head-start to caring for your new kitten, never stop seeking out new information from reputable sources. Share your experiences with other kitten owners, and continue to learn more about your cat’s breed, temperament and how best to care for and love them.