What Do I Need For My New Kitten?
The ultimate new kitten checklist ✅
If you’re bringing a new kitten home soon, congratulations!
Kitten ownership is basically like a never-ending sleepover with your BFF, except for one (major) detail: They totally depend on you for everything.
This means you’d better be prepared before he steps one paw in your house.
“Set yourself up for success with your new kitten by ensuring that you have the necessary supplies before bringing the kitten home,” Sarah Welsh, feline shelter behavior program coordinator at the San Francisco SPCA, told The Dodo. “Adding any new family member, especially the four-legged kind, requires a certain amount of equipment and some adjustments to your home for everyone’s safety and comfort.”
Here are some must-have supplies, according to Welsh.
Ideally you should continue feeding your kitten the same food he was eating at the shelter until he’s been fully transitioned to a new food, which can take about four weeks or so.
A sudden change in his diet can cause an upset stomach, so it’s best to introduce new food slowly.
To make the transition to a new food, start with 25 percent new food and 75 percent old food for one week, and then half of the new food and half of the old the next week. Then feed 75 percent new food and 25 percent old food the following week, until finally you’re feeding 100 percent new food.
When it comes to choosing a kitten food, “any formula (wet, dry, canned, semi-moist, pate) is appropriate as long as the label states it is ‘complete and balanced’ and labeled for ‘kittens’ or ‘growth,’” Dr. Laci Schaible, a veterinarian and advisor for the veterinary software company IVEE, told The Dodo.
Other than that, “choosing the formula is largely up to your and your kitty’s preference,” Dr. Schaible said.
Water and food bowls
When looking for water and food bowls, opt for ones that are ceramic or stainless steel. “Plastic can cause an allergic reaction,” Welsh said. (Plus they’re heavier, which can mean less mess!)
Your kitten will need a new bed for all those cat naps he’ll be taking.
There are several types of cat beds available, so you might need to try a few to find one he really likes.
Types of cat beds you can purchase include pillow, orthopedic and covered.
Scratching posts are key to keeping your kitten happy indoors because they’ll let him express his natural behavior to claw. Plus, if he has a scratching post, there’s less of a chance he’ll be clawing at your furniture.
Like with cat beds, you might have to try a few different types to find one that matches your cat’s scratching style. “Try a few different scratching posts to see if your cat prefers horizontal, vertical or angled posts, and what type of material they prefer,” Welsh said.
When shopping for a post, look for one that’s super sturdy and at least twice as long as your cat to give him plenty of room to stretch. “Cats often choose furniture over a small cat scratcher because it’s sturdier,” Welsh said, so making sure he has a sturdy scratching post will mean your couch is less tempting.
Cat carriers are important to have on hand for when you need to take your cat to the vet, during travel or if you need to leave the house fast (like in an emergency situation).
You should also bring a cat carrier with you when you first go to pick your kitten up at the shelter.
To find the perfect cat carrier for your kitten, you should have an idea of how big he is. “The carrier should be big enough for your cat to stand up, turn around and lay down in,” Welsh said.
For kittens, Welsh recommends adding extra blankets in the carrier to provide more support. She likes Petmate’s Two Door Top Load carrier for this reason.
Collars are essential so you can keep your cat’s ID (with your contact information) with him at all times. So if he gets lost, someone will know who to call when they find him.
Breakaway collars are a popular option for cats because the collar will release if something tugs at it, which can save your cat from a potentially dangerous situation if he gets caught on something. (So don’t forget to get your cat microchipped too.)
Another important item: a place for your cat to use the bathroom.
“You’ll need one litter box for each cat in your household, plus one extra,” Welsh said.
You’ll also want to make sure the litter boxes you do get are the right size. “Don’t get a litter box that’s too small, [since] your kitten needs to be able to turn around, dig and cover,” Welsh said. “Many litter boxes are too small for the average size cat. The ideal size box should be at least one and a half times the length and width of your cat.”
And even though your kitten’s small now, he’ll be growing to his full adult size sooner than you think!
Litter and a litter scooper
According to Welsh, the majority of kittens prefer unscented, clumping and clay-based litter.
“Never use scented litter,” Welsh said. “Perfumed smells tend to repel cats.”
And “kittens usually do not like the feeling of pellet- or crystal-type litter on their paws,” Welsh added.
Welsh recommends Dr. Elsey’s litter for kittens, which contains granules that are the perfect texture for kitten paws.
Potty accidents are inevitable with young pets, so you’ll definitely want to be prepared with an enzymatic cleaner, which is designed to break down pet urine and other organic material (like feces, vomit, drool — you get the picture).
Cat toothbrush and cat toothpaste
Yes, you should be brushing your cat’s teeth every day, even while he’s still a kitten.
It’s actually better to start your cat on a brushing routine early so he’s already used to it by the time he’s an adult.
And besides brushing your cat’s teeth daily, you should also take him to get his teeth professionally cleaned yearly.
You should trim your kitten’s nails about every two weeks or so, and having a special tool for the job will make it a lot easier.
Cat nail trimmers are usually designed in a way that makes it easy to avoid clipping the quick of the nail (the quick is a vein that runs through their nails), which can cause a ton of bleeding when nipped (which is why you should also have styptic powder on hand to stop the bleeding just in case).
If you have trouble clipping your kitten’s nails, you can ask your veterinarian or a groomer to show you how.
Brushing your cat regularly can prevent a lot of unwanted shedding around the house.
Short-haired cats should be brushed every week, while long-haired cats should be brushed every day.
Flea and tick control treatment
Flea and tick preventatives are essential for both cats and dogs.
Before bringing your kitten home, you’ll need to find out the last time he was treated with flea and tick medication and when he is due for his next treatment, so you can plan accordingly.
“There are many different types of flea treatment,” Welsh said. The types of flea treatment available include topical, oral and flea collars.
“Talk with your veterinarian to find one that’s a good fit for your cat,” Welsh said.
And while this might go without saying, it’s important to make sure that the treatment you buy is appropriate for your cat’s weight, age and species. “Be aware that it's never safe to use dog flea treatment on a cat, or vice versa,” Welsh said. “Doing so can cause serious health problems or even death.”
Training and Mental Stimulation
Harness and a leash
Training your cat to walk on a leash is a fun and safe way to let your indoor cat explore the great outdoors. Welsh likes the cat harnesses from Rabbitgoo or Pet Safe.
Food dispensing toys
Food dispensing toys are great because they can give your cat a ton of mental stimulation, and they make your kitten eat slower (which is really good for his digestion).
If you feed your kitten wet cat food, Welsh recommends putting the food in an ice cube tray or in the LickiMat at mealtime.
For dry food, Welsh likes Doc & Phoebe’s cat feeder and the play puzzle from Catit.
Interactive cat toys
Toys that reward your cat for interacting with them (with crazy movements, sounds or even treats) are called interactive toys, and they’re really good for your cat’s mental health.
Wand toys are the perfect example of interactive cat toys, as the toy on the end of the string dances wildly whenever he plays with it (with your help).
Welsh likes the Go Cat Cat Catcher and the Cat Dancer.
There are also battery operated toys that can keep kittens busy for a decent amount of time, so they’re perfect for whenever your kitten has a ton of energy (which will likely be most of the time).
The automatic toy Welsh recommends is the Cat’s Meow motorized toy.
You’ll also want to keep a few play-alone toys around for your cat to whack around whenever he fancies.
Most of the time, these toys come stuffed with catnip, which makes them basically irresistible.
Don’t forget lots of treats to reward your new kitten for being the best cat ever.
Cats can sometimes be pretty particular about texture, so Welsh recommends treats that are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, which most cats tend to like.
You can’t have a cat without having lots of catnip on hand. Most cats love it!
Catnip can come in a few different forms, too, depending on what you want to use it for.
Catnip sprays are a good training aid, like if you want your cat to use the new litter box or scratching post, for example.
There are also catnip flowers, which are always fun to watch your cat roll around in, and catnip toys, which encourage healthy playtime.
If your cat just doesn’t seem to respond to catnip, you can try silvervine, valerian or Tartarian honeysuckle instead — all of which can have similar effects on cats.
Medical care for your new kitten
Making your kitten’s first vet appointment should be a top priority once you’ve officially adopted him.
“Your kitten should see a veterinarian as soon as possible after you bring her home, so your veterinarian can get to know your kitten and recommend age-appropriate care,” Welsh said. “The vaccines your kitten will need depend on her age, lifestyle and environment, including what diseases are common in your area.”
And while you’re there, don’t forget to ask your veterinarian for their recommendations for your kitten’s diet and flea and tick control medication.
Caring for your new kitten might seem overwhelming at first, but these tips will make the transition a lot smoother. Plus, there are plenty of kitten care resources available online to help through the first year. So you can spend less time worrying, and more time hanging with your new BFF.
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