Whether you’re a cat person or not, you’re bound to become quite fond of the aloof nature that most cats possess. Many would consider the UK as a dog-loving nation, however, the PDSA reports that 24% of UK adults own a cat. So, it would appear that we love having cats in our lives, but do you know what to consider before bringing a kitten home? Or what we need to help them become a bright-eyed and positively purring adult cat? Read on to find out more.
Considerations before getting a kitten
If you feel that you can bring a kitten home and the time is right for you, firstly ask yourself:
- How much time can I realistically devote to a new cat? While cats are well-known for their independence, kittens need a lot of attention and will need keeping an eye on, especially during the early days!
- Can you afford to feed them, cover unexpected veterinary bills and any other needs they may have, like lifelong medication?
- Does your home have enough space for a cat? Do you have an area that can be their ‘base camp’ where they can relax, get used to their surroundings and get away from children or other pets, especially cats, who are often not very friendly to one another!
- Will everyone in your household be happy with a new housemate? That’s other halves, kids and any other pets?
- Circumstances can change, but where do you see your life in years to come? You need to be able to see your cat in your future before bringing one home.
Buying a kitten
If you have already chosen to buy a pure-bred kitten, we recommend doing a lot of research to avoid being targeted by unscrupulous kitten farmers. A new law was passed in 2018 to impose stricter regulations on unethical kitten and puppy farms in the UK, however, these breeding practices are still prevalent and cause unavoidable sickness and often fatalities amongst kittens. Use our checklist to make sure you buy a happy and healthy kitten and not buy into this immoral trade:
- Is the kitten alert, with bright eyes, have a sociable nature and looking healthy? How old is the kitten? Kittens should ideally not leave their mother until around 8-9 weeks.
- Will the breeder show you the mother with her litter? kittens should not be taken away from their mother until at least 8 weeks.
- What is the kitten’s environment like? Is it clean, warm and comfortable?
Before going full steam ahead with buying a kitten, have you considered adoption? Many animal rescue charities are at full capacity with unwanted cats looking for their forever home! Not only would this be incredibly rewarding but many cat charities will already worm, vaccinate and microchip cats free of charge.
Preparing your home
Before bringing your new kitten home you will want to get organised and make sure the house is kitty-proofed for their arrival. In each room of your home, view things from a kitten’s perspective: do you have exposed electrical wiring or hanging blind cords? These will need to be covered up or put safely out of reach. Also consider windows – is there a safety catches on higher floors? Think about vents or any nooks and crannies they could get themselves into a pickle in, also.
Have a full check through the house, garden and garage to make sure nothing dangerous has been left lying around. Think slug pellets, anti-freeze or choking hazards like string. Check out our post on the 7 deadliest things found in the home and garden to pets, here.
Your kitten’s bed will become its sanctuary when chaos ensues on your household so invest in good quality, comfortable cat bed, like the Beco Eco-friendly Donut Bed. Made from recycled plastic and hemp, that’s also machine washable and hypoallergenic makes an ideal bed for a kitten.
Litter box and cat litter
Regardless of whether they have access to go outside or not, at the start, you will need to keep your kitten indoors so litter box training will be a top priority. Your kitten will naturally know what to do but you’ll have to show them where the box is to start with. It’s also recommended that you stick to the same type of litter, so this doesn’t put them off using the litter tray. A firm favourite from our cat litter range is Cat’s Best OkoPlus Clumping Wood Cat Litter.
If you’ve ever tried to wrangle an energetic kitten into a box before, you’ll appreciate that a cat carrier is a necessity. From trips to the vets or moving home, it’s the safest and most convenient way of getting your kitten from A to B. Just make sure you buy one that gives them enough room to move around in.
Collar and ID tags
It’s best to get a collar and ID tag on your kitten from an early age else they will forever be trying to wriggle out of it in adulthood. It’s also worth considering getting a reflective collar like the Red Dingo Safe Cat Collar which keeps them visible for motorists and cyclists when dark outside. It also has a safety bell to warn unsuspecting birds and mice. As a cat owner, you’ll soon learn what impressive but utterly ruthless hunters cats can be! The collar also has a built-in release clip to allow the collar to spring open if they’re caught on branches. Getting them used to a collar when they are still a kitten is important if they are going to be allowed outdoors.
Some cats love a good pampering, whereas others will bolt at the first sight of the grooming brush. So start their grooming regime as soon as possible and make it as fun as possible. Getting them on-board with grooming is made easy with the Kong Zoom Groom. Instead of harsh metal brush teeth, the Kong Zoom Groom is made from soft plastic which removes dirt, loose hair and massages them in the process!
In an ideal world(!), you would like to get your kitten used to having their teeth brushed from a young age. However, don’t worry, most cats do not appreciate any dental attention! Try incorporating dental care into their regime by using a dental supplement like PlaqueOff which can be simply sprinkled onto their food – no kitty toothpaste necessary!
A kitten’s digestive system is incredibly sensitive, so try and stick to the same foods that they were being fed before you bring them home. You’ll want to provide a diet tailored to your cat’s age and conditions they may have to ensure they are getting all the essential nutrients to help them become a strong and healthy adult cat. From our range of kitten food, we’d recommend Royal Canin’s Kitten Food, which helps support your kitten’s natural defences. The wet or dry food is also packed full of antioxidants and vitamins to help absorb highly digestible protein.
Kitten’s will often prefer playing in the box the toy came in rather the actual toy itself, but you’ll want to invest in some good quality kitten toys to keep them entertained, help their development and mental stimulation. The Kong Cat Toy Swizzle Bird Teaser is great for encouraging their inner predator instinct and keep the weight off. Playing will also help to build the bond between you and your kitten.
Feliway Spray will help maintain the scent that gives your cat the feeling of peace and calm and reduce the stress that your cat experiences.£20.46 £8.40
Kitty’s first visit to the vets
As previously mentioned, investing in a decent-sized cat carrier is vital from day one. It’s worth putting a familiar item in there, like a blanket or favourite pillow, which will have their scent on and make it feel less threatening. If your kitten is scared, consider using a pheromone-based calmer like Feliway Spray to help them a relax and not associate the vets with a negative feeling.
To protect your kitten from infectious diseases, like feline herpes, calicivirus or feline leukaemia, they will need a course of vaccinations to boost their immune system. Get registered at your local vets as soon as you can – they will advise you on vaccinations, neutering, worming and flea treatments for kittens.
Training your kitten
Kittens are not normally trained in the same way as puppies; however, some owners do advocate basic kitten training, but it is not an exact science! Being patient and consistent with your training may reap the rewards of a more obedient cat (hopefully!).
This article is for guidance only and if you have any concerns about your pet you should always seek the advice of a qualified vet.
If in doubt contact your veterinary practice
And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!