Bringing your new kitten home
Whether you're rehoming a kitten from us, or buying one from a breeder, this guide, approved by our vets and behaviourists, will tell you all you need to know to get ready for your new arrival.
Buying a kitten
Buying a kitten is a big decision and you will need to make sure that you’ve thought about whether you have the time and energy to settle them into your family.
Remember, cats can live for a long time, so it's important that you have considered the long-term commitment involved.
If you've made your decision, or are thinking about it, we'll help you through buying a kitten of your own. Whether you're adopting through a rehoming centre or buying from a responsible breeder, we'll guide you through what you need to look out for.
It's essential that your kitten is at least eight weeks old before they come home with you.
What to buy a kitten
Here's a list of essential items you'll need to welcome your kitten home.
- A food and water bowl – cats prefer to eat and drink in separate locations, so placing their water and food bowls in different areas is best.
- Kitten food – speak with the rehoming centre or breeder about which food your kitten is currently eating as you'll need to slowly move them onto their new food. Switching food too quickly can cause them to have an upset stomach.
- A cosy bed and blankets
- A litter tray – placed in a different room (once they're settled in) to their food and water. You'll need to use a small litter tray with low sides that's easy for your kitten to hop into at first. But make sure you get a large one once they grow – cats needs to be able to comfortably turn around to toilet. If you have more than one cat, you’ll need one for each cat plus another one.
- A cat carrier – one that comes apart with the top half able to be removed from the bottom. Take a look at our advice on cat carriers for tips on how to get them used to their carrier too!
- Scratching post – scratching is an important behaviour for cats. And, for kittens, it's a good idea to provide them with a safe outlet for this behaviour so they don't start doing this on your furniture! We recommend a sturdy, tall adult cat scratching post as kittens quickly outgrow the smaller ones.
- Cat brush – a wide toothed comb for long haired cats or a bristle brush for short hair. We have some great advice on how to groom your cat.
- Toys - cats enjoy lots of different toys to keep them entertained. It's important that you learn how to play with your kitten too. Check out the five best cat toys that your kitten will love.
- Collar with ID tag – if you're planning on putting a collar on your cat, then we advise getting a quick release collar due to the significant risks of using other types. While they can't go outside until they are at least five months old, it's important to start training them to wear a collar as early as possible. See our advice on letting your cat out for the first time.
- Microchipping – Soon it will be mandatory for cats to be microchipped. So, we strongly recommend getting it done sooner, even if you plan on keeping them indoors, so they can be reunited with you if they do get lost.
As well as the above, your cat will need a constant supply of water. You may also want to consider getting pet insurance.
If you do plan to put a collar on your cat, then getting them used to wearing one is important, so start before they go outside. Keep an eye on the fit though, as kittens grow very fast!
Getting your home kitten ready
There's a few things you'll want to get ready before your kitten arrives. Once you've bought the essentials for them, you can start preparing your home.
1. Decide on a room to settle them in
When you’re a tiny little kitten the world can be an enormous place so, to help them get familiar with where they feed, drink, sleep and where they go to the loo, it’s a really good idea to start them off in just one room. Pick a room that's quiet and big enough for them to have space to explore without feeling overwhelmed.
This will be particularly useful with regards to house training as once the habit of using the litter tray is strong, they will seek it out when they have access to the rest of your home.
2. Kitten proof the room
- Make sure there are no little gaps they can squeeze through that you can't reach - you don't want them getting stuck
- Tidy any trailing wires - your kitten will most likely see this as a toy and you don't want them getting a shock!
- Close and lock all windows
- Put any small items away and out of sight
- Clear the space as much as possible
- Be cautious of any plants that could pose a risk to your kitten
- Put away any cleaning products that are toxic to cats along with securing any medication in cabinets
3. Put your kitten's things in that room
Now you can start putting all their essential things in the room like:
- their bed
- the litter tray
- food and water bowls
Make sure their litter tray is away from their food and water. They also prefer that their water is kept separate to their food, so it may be a good idea to have those in different parts of the room.
Pop their bed in the quietest part of the room and ask the breeder or rehoming centre if you can take a blanket for them to sleep on. This is so that when they do get to your home, they have some comforting smells from where they've come from.
If you have children, it's a good idea to get them involved at this stage. Involving them in decisions such as what you'll need to buy and rules you'll have in place helps prepare them for life with a kitten. More information on how to introduce your children to your kitten can be found below.
4. Add a cat tree or shelving
You may already have a bookcase or some shelves in the room. But if not, it's a good idea to pop something in there so that your kitten can get to a higher spot if they're feeling a little worried. Being up high helps them watch what's going on below from a safe distance.
A cat tree is a good alternative if you'd rather them not get up on your shelves or bookcase.
You can make shelving more comfortable by adding a cushion or blanket. Just make sure:
- they have enough room to lie on the shelf you've chosen so they don't risk falling
- the shelves aren't too high
- there's an easy way for your kitten to get up and down ie a footstool or a box that they can jump onto to help them get higher
5. Pheromone products
Certain products can help settle your cat in. We use Feliway in our rehoming centres. If you can, plug in a Feliway diffuser in the room you will be using to settle them in. This will help reduce your kitten's stress levels.
Choosing a vet
Researching and choosing a veterinary practice before you bring your cat home will give you peace of mind if they become ill soon after you get them.
It's a good idea to book a vet check up for your kitten a few days after you have brought them home. Make sure you take any health records from your breeder or rehoming centre. This will help your vet check when your kitten will next need any routine health care.
There are things you can do to prepare your cat for their first visit to the vet such as a bit of pre-training and taking lots of tasty treats!
Bringing your kitten home
The day has arrived! We know how exciting bringing your kitten home can be. But, just before you leave to pick them up, be sure you check for any potential hazards. Make sure that all the windows and doors to the outside are closed, and that any nooks and crannies are blocked off.
Kittens are extremely inquisitive and can easily find themselves lost or stuck in the most unlikely places, so it’s important to supervise them as much as possible until they are really familiar with their new home. Remember, kittens need to be at least five months old before you let them explore the outdoors.
If your kitten goes missing for any length of time, look in cupboards, wardrobes, outdoor sheds etc in case your kitten has accidentally been shut in or got stuck. Keep the washing machine and tumble dryer door closed when not in use and check them before putting any clothes in.
Travelling with a kitten
First things, first. When you collect your kitten, you'll need to take your cat carrier with you. Pop some Feliway spray into the carrier to help with travel nerves.
Remember, your cat will likely be quite anxious on the drive so try to make it as comfortable as possible for them with some blankets.
You can also ask the rehoming centre or breeder for a blanket or two that smells of their littermates. This helps comfort your kitten with familiar smells.
The first few days
Cats bond strongly with their territory and can feel very vulnerable when away from home ground. Remembering this and planning ahead can help reduce the stress your cat might experience while settling into a new home.
A mix of a steady routine and keeping things quiet and calm will help your kitten adjust to life in a new home.
When they arrive:
- give them time and space to explore their room at their own pace
- allow them to slowly grow in confidence and never pull them out of a space or their bed if they decide to hide
- sit quietly in the room with them and let them hear your voice – so get talking to yourself! Or, you know, read a book aloud – whatever takes your fancy.
On the first few nights a warm (not hot) water bottle under a blanket may help compensate for the absence of your kitten’s mother or littermates.
As they become used to the room, you can begin to let them explore other rooms too. This will eventually lead to them being able to explore the house – once they're confident enough.
From children to other pets, all introductions need to be managed carefully.
Cats and children
The first meet will be really exciting, so talk to your children beforehand about how to welcome your kitten to the family. We have some great advice on how to do this successfully including asking them for help naming your kitten.
Cats and other cats
Cats don't need the company of other cats to be happy but, if you already have a cat and you decide to bring a new kitten into your home, you will need to make introductions carefully.
Cats are naturally solitary pets and while some cats will get along well, others may not. Our advice will help you to make first introductions as stress free as possible. Remember, patience is key.
Cats and dogs
Though many would have you believe dogs and cats are natural enemies, if you are patient and careful with your introductions, they can get along extremely well.
Always ask the rehoming centre or breeder what they have been feeding your kitten. You'll need to keep feeding them that food when they first arrive. A sudden change of diet, combined with the stress of adapting to a new home can cause stomach upsets and diarrhoea.
If you want to change their diet, do so over a few days by mixing the new food with the kitten’s usual diet.
For more information on how much to feed your kitten and the best kitten food, see our advice.
How to play with your kitten
A kitten’s life is all about playing and having fun. To begin with, kittens will play with their littermates and mum, and it’s usually at this stage that they learn to control their bite and use of claws so that they can have as much fun as possible without hurting each other.
When kittens go to new homes, the focus of this play can be transferred on to us, so it is extremely important that we continue to ensure that they play with us in a safe and appropriate way.
Kitten toilet training
Cats are very hygienic pets and can easily be house trained with the right encouragement. Kittens usually pick up on how to use litter trays by watching their mothers, but they may also need a helping hand from us.
What age can you let a kitten out?
Kittens need to be at least five months old before you let them explore the outdoors. Be sure to neuter your cat along with vaccinating and microchipping them to help keep them safe. It's also a good idea to get your garden kitten ready too.
Here's our top tips on how to let your kitten out for the first time.
If you're thinking of keeping your cat indoors, we have some great advice on how to do this with their best interests at heart. We would strongly advise against cat leads and harnesses. Despite being popular, many cats find this stressful and restrictive.
Healthcare in kittens
It's essential to stay on top of routine healthcare. Preventative care can help save you money and protect your cat against some serious, or potentially fatal health problems. This care includes:
Our vets have some great advice on what to think about with your kitten.
First vet visit
There are some great things you can do to help your kitten with their first experience at the vets to set them up for life including getting them ready and comfortable to be placed in their cat carrier.
Here's what you'll need to prepare them and information on how to keep them calm.