Thinking about getting a new kitten? Dr Tish has kindly taken the time to answer four questions on what you need to know before bringing home a new kitten.
What should I already have at home before bringing home a kitten?
Ideally, you should continue feeding your kitten what it has been fed prior to joining your family for a week if possible to limit any stomach upsets and possible diarrhoea. Once they are settled in your new house, gradually transition them over to your preferred diet. Feeding a high-quality diet that has been approved by the nutrition council (AAFCO) ensures they will be eating a balanced diet for optimum health and growth.
Litter box and litter tray
You should have 1 more litter tray than cats in your household. So a minimum of 2 litter trays if you only have 1 cat! Try and vary the litter in the trays to determine what type of litter your kitten likes best. This will encourage regular toileting in the litter tray rather than in inappropriate places around the house. Place the litter trays in secluded or private areas for your kitten away from their food and water.
Food and water bowls
Ensure you have two shallow, wide water bowls for your kitten to drink from away from its litter and food. Ensure the food and water bowls are placed in separate areas as most cats like to eat in one area, drink in a second area.
Kittens love play time. This helps to encourage healthy socialisation between your family and also other pets. Have a variety of toys available – they don’t need to be expensive; scrunched up paper, toilet rolls, ice cubes are all easy options found around the home.
Make sure you get your kitten its own bed where it can be cosy and safe. Most cats like to sleep in an elevated position, so take this into account when purchasing their bed.
All cats love scratching to mark their territory and sharpen their claws. If you want to save your furniture, start off on the right paw and provide them with their own spot to scratch.
This is sometimes the last thing we think of but is very important for your kitten’s safety. Transporting a kitten home safely includes putting them in a carry cage. This will also be used to transport them to the vet or cattery.
Is there an easy/right way to introduce a kitten to other pets?
The key socialisation period for a kitten is 6 – 14 weeks so ideally if you have your kitten from 6 weeks of age, this is a better time to socialise them with both your family and other pets.
Introducing your kitten to another cat or dog is a slow process and ideally, you should aim to pick up your kitten when you have a few days off e.g. a weekend to supervise the introduction. It helps to also have a kitten cage or large dog crate if you are introducing a kitten to other pets. These can be purchased at any pet store.
The kitten should initially be placed in the cage with its food, water, litter tray and bedding. Place the pen or cage in an area your other pets don’t routinely use, like a spare bedroom. This will be the kitten’s den initially and help it settle into your new home.
The introduction process is extremely important and is covered well in-detail on the fab cat website https://icatcare.org/advice/how-introduce-kitten-cat. This is a great guide to follow and will pay off in the long term.
When do I need to bring them into the vet?
Before you get your kitten, find out if they have been to the vet prior for any health concerns or vaccinations. If they haven’t, once the kitten has settled in over a few days at home, make an appointment at your veterinarian for their first health check and vaccination. If they have already had their first vaccination, they will be due for their second approximately 3-4 weeks after this so you can wait to visit the veterinarian until then.
If your kitten seems overly quite, inappetent or is showing signs of being unwell (e.g. vomiting, diarrhoea), please contact your veterinarian immediately. Kittens are just like babies and can become very unwell over a few hours so it is important to intervene sooner rather than later.
Do kittens require anything different in food from older cats?
Yes! Kittens require kitten food instead of adult cat food.
Ideally, choose a diet that is AAFCO certified – this means the food has complied to the nutritional standards for a complete and balanced pet food. Giving your kitten both wet and dry food is also important. Dry food is good for dental health and encouraging normal chewing behaviour. Wet food increases their water intake especially in those cats that have a low water intake and are more prone to chronic kidney disease.
For more advice, there is a fantastic organisation called the International Cat Care.
They have great client advice including what to consider before buying a kitten, how to keep your cat happy and common health complaints https://icatcare.org/advice/getting-cat