I made the mistake of not preparing when I got my first kitten from the shelter. I brought him home and had nothing there for him to sleep, play or poop in. I literally went to the store after we got him. Here I’d like to go into a basic setup if you’re bringing home a kitten for the first time.
Let’s go over some questions and answers here that delve into this journey you’re about to take.
Question: Are you adopting or bringing a kitten home for the first time ever?
Answer: Congratulations: what a world of wonder is in store (for both of you!).
But let’s back things up just a bit.
First Things, First.
Are you prepared for a new kitten?
Your very little wonderful one will be coming to a forever home with you soon.
Maybe you feel ready in the heart but not exactly practically prepared.
Yes, there are a few necessary steps beyond having a ready-heart (although that’s certainly #1!).
Here’s what else you and your heart will need to prepare for the kitten’s forever-homecoming.
Bringing A Kitten Home: A Place To Call Our Home.
Don’t I already have a home that’ll be good for my new kitty?
After finding your kitten, securing your shared home is the next-biggest step.
And there’s much to consider.
- other pets.
Tough choices may be necessary. Relocations are even sometimes sPURRed-on by differences between home-mates.
In some locations:
Certain apartment buildings, dormitories, and the like… pets (or certain types) are just not permitted.
Like if you plan on making your kitten a service pet, you may find that barrier to be less rigid, but you’d need to check your local guidelines and regulations.
Other factors that I mentioned above:
– Are other pets already there, and will they allow the kitten to adjust to and thrive in the new space?
– Does the home have safe boundaries/doors/window screens/etc.?
– Are there any “threats” to a kitten or grown cat in terms of indoor design, temperature, barricades vs. other animals/outdoor risks?
But if bringing your kitty home is a huge priority for you (as often happens when you’ve met your special one), and your current living situation appears to be a poor fit, you may even want to consider finding a new place or housemates/roommates that will welcome your new addition.
Indoor vs Outdoor Cat
Does Everything Need To Fit Kitty?
No, but it’ll help you to resolve a key factor:
Indoor Kitty vs. Outdoor Kitty
The answer to the indoor/outdoor question can even be a deal breaker if your indoor space is cozy-safe-ideal, but the outdoors is not safe in terms of other animals, weather, traffic, and other risks of the wide-open.
Wanting to allow a cat to explore the world outdoors can feel almost as instinctive as the cat’s urge to chase birds.
But according to multiple sources (each of which loves cats), it’s normally best and safest for cats to be indoors.
Indoor cats are healthier throughout their lives and live longer, on average.
*** That doesn’t mean they don’t need ANY outside influence.
You may ask, can I let my indoor cat outside?
Of course, take them outside!
With lots of indoor play (with you, especially) and outdoor-scene-watching opportunities, kitty will get to satisfy all sorts of innate instincts and, yet, will also be able to avoid threats of outdoor living (even if such outings are meant to be kept brief).
Indoors, cats won’t encounter frightening, even dangerous attacks of other animals (domestic or wild), contagious illnesses of other such animals, or any other outdoor-living risks that happen to such a curious animal (you know the saying about what “curiosity” can do to a cat!).
Also, we’re talking about a kitten here.
The one you’re about to bring home (and also take away from its Mommy Cat).
Your new kitten, once home, will be new to everything and everybody.
Kitten’s own mother has kept her kitten safe from the day she was born.
Now that so-important, life-preserving, and quality-of-life-affirming role is yours.
And Kitty has enough to do just learning the territory of home.
You can help kitty with that.
And keep any real threats out of the way, out of her indoor world.
Where Should My Kitten Sleep On The First Night?
A Room Of Their Own (to start).
That’s where my kitties were for a few weeks before I let then venture out and meet their brothers and sisters.
Kitty will need her own “small “quarters” or living space to spend their first hours and days.
A smaller, enclosed space will help your kitten feel secure and grow comfortable in her new home.
“Starting small” will help kitty get used to just a few new smells/sights/sounds to start with, and will allow her to gain confidence to step into newer, wider territories in the home (“sensory and spatial acclimation”). He/she might even start trilling!
So… what else?
Now, you’ll need to prepare for transition then homecoming.
Transition: Taking The New Kitten Home
When going to pick up your new kitten (unless the kitten was born under your own roof) you’re going to need to prepare for the grand transition (when you pick her up) and for her homecoming (when she settles into the home you will share).
What do you need for a new kitten?
Supplies, Safety, and a Strong Caretaker Interview
- A Pet Carrier. You won’t need a big one (kitties are tiny!), or even a permanent one (cardboard carriers can do fine for local trips) but you’ll need something to keep them safe and comfortable for the journey and to keep you safe at the wheel (when driving home).
You can get the same one I’ve had for over ten years called the Sherpa Deluxe.
I got 4 of these and never bought another in all those years.
These 4 took the trip from California to Massachusetts and the cats did great! (ignore the tip of my foot in the corner, which you probably didn’t notice until I just mentioned it.)
We took them out when it was time for potty, eating and water breaks.
Add a snuggly small blanket or towel inside the carrier, and you should be “good to go.”
- Water, Food & A Litter Box. These should be on-hand for kitty’s use during driving breaks, depending upon how long it takes to get your kitty from the previous home to the new home, with you. [Source: personal training in cat-care; knowing how many breaks would be needed for a kitten might need to be specified, but such detail could make the article much longer—it seems most sites don’t elaborate on this step.]
- Records. This is your best opportunity to get the background and data information that can serve them well throughout their life (including health/behavioral history, even to past generations) and can even help you plan her annual birthday celebration.
Before setting out for your home together, be sure to ask for all documents.
I’d even want to know how many siblings and litter-mates they had, what the parents were like, birthdate, and any/all other interesting/health-related facts, on paper or just in the caretaker’s memory!
Brainstorm before you go, and look forward to filling in the answers before you and kitty head for home! [Source: personal experience]
Homecoming: Bring New Kitten Into The Home.
When preparing for homecoming, what comes first?
“Make the bed first. (as soon as you move in),” Mom always advised me. Sound advice for kitty’s homecoming too. You’ll want to put snuggly bedding in your new their designated, personal place.
Bedding for a kitten can be an official (very small) “pet bed” (a more circular one will be nice for your kitten’s most common sleeping position and give her comforting walls at her sides).
Or you can put a small rug or bath mat on the floor, along with a selection of smaller blankets or towels they can snuggle into (with a pet bed coming later if you two would like that).
[Sources: bedding recommended by petmd.com; individual details and personal references sourced from personal experience]
Quick side story: When I brought my last kitty home, I noticed she was suckling on her soft plush cat bed. I have never heard of nor seen this before. Really interesting that kittens did this, also it was too cute!
After I’ve made a kittens bed, then what?
Prepare the water bowl & add water (ice too if you’re like me and spoil them).
Water needs to be always available to kittens and cats, refreshed daily, or whenever you see something else in the bowl like:
- floating cat fur
- a cat’s whisker
- kitty food
- or even maybe a few ants
Check on the water level and its cleanliness a few times daily (something might surprise you, as it did me just last week when my active cat caused a towel to fall into the water bowl and absorb all the water!)
Since I’d checked the bowl just minutes before, our cats hadn’t become too thirsty yet, but that served as great proof of why we check often.
Depending on the quality of your local tap water, you may want to consider using a water filter (tap, pitcher, etc.) or bottled water, especially for a young kitten (any ingredient that might affect humans would likely have an even stronger potential effect on your kitten who may weigh just a few pounds). [Source: personal/previous studies on safety levels/issues with consumable water/effects of harmful ingredients on infants and pets]
Can you give a baby kitten regular milk?
Now, please, don’t fall into the myth of “all kittens love milk.”
The edited truth is: Kitty loves milk: literally her “mother’s milk.”
Please don’t give your kitten cows milk.
It commonly causes tummy-aches to kittens and cats.
When it comes to quenching their thirst, giving them what’s best is just water.
The exception relates to someone adopting a kitten who hasn’t had enough time with her Mama-Cat and is younger than the usual age of weaning off “mother’s milk”; in such cases, the adopting human will need to be the substitution for this critical, early-nurturing period.
If that’s your situation (adopting before x weeks old), please to tune in to our upcoming coverage of “Are you adopting a kitten before weaning is due?”) or do an immediate online search for guidelines on caring for the very youngest of kittens who are being raised, early-on, without the “mothering” of their own Mama-Cat.
Prepare the food dish and food. During the kitty stage, use a somewhat open dish (for kitten’s easy-access), provide at least three meals a day, and try out keeping some quality dry food available around-the-clock.
Unless you are solely going raw. [Sources: petmd.com and bluebuffalo.com]
But what do I feed Kitty?
Something familiar, something new, until you’re giving her the best food for her health and well-being.
Ideally, the people who’ve cared for your kitten from birth can share a cup or two of the dry food she’s been eating.
If that food isn’t “the best,” you can mix that food with increasing portions of high-quality kitten food over the course of a few days, until you’re offering only high-quality food.
What’s high-quality cat food?
Many healthy food options abound now, foods that recognize that corn and other grains are not a feline’s primary food group. Seek out foods that are high in protein and include taurine for ongoing meals.
Avoid foods with carbohydrates and non-essential ingredients. (mainly dry kibble)
And check out pet stores that focus on foods, even just to educate yourself on what’s available—and what will be new to you as they mature.
Some stores even regularly offer samples. (I was quite surprised to find myself preparing freeze-dried cat food for our kitties: one who loved the re-moistened result, one who declined it.)
And be sure to do an online search of foods/plants/etc. that should not be given to your kitty and should not be “left around,” available for them to treat themselves to!
Some items can be surprisingly harmful and are unique to felines.
The Litter Box Point Of View
What goes up, must come down, right?
Are you trying to mention “the unmentionable?”
Yeah, the other side of the whole food and water preparations.
Enter: The Kitty Litter Box.
For a kitten’s litter box, a small “dish-pan-sized” plastic container (approximately 12” wide x 14” long x 6” high) should be just right.
Add “kitty litter” according to your litter product’s on-package directions:
- Approximately an inch deep for crystal-type litter
- Three inches deep for most other types
- Maintain the litter box according to package guidelines, basically fill the litter almost to the top & clean twice a day.
Get a litter-filtering scooper to filter out the hardened waste, ideally one that’s about 3” wide and without “teeth” on its edge so that you can clear the waste and carefully/neatly pour it into small waste bags, cheapest at “dollar stores” – without the scooper being too big to fit and without the scooper accidentally ripping the bag.
Most kitties will naturally know what to do with the litter box and have probably arrived at their new homes with some experience (even Mom Cats typically have trained their kitties in “litter boxing”).
If you find your kitty needing some reminder lessons, you can see your kitty needing “the facilities,” or beginning the routine in a way that’s “out of the box”, interrupt her/place her in the litter box and encourage her to complete the routine right there.
Repetition of relocating your Kitty like this can help her appreciate the clean, cat-compatible (instinctive) use of her litter box.
Location, Location, Location
So, where to put cat food and water bowls?
The distance between the litter box and food…
The food, water, and litter box need to be readily available in their personal space, but with as much distance as possible between the food/water area and the litter area.
Home-oriented shows constantly criticize the dining room/bathroom combo.
The farther apart these zones are located, while still being within reasonable reach, the more appealing and appetizing the floor plan.
Kitties and cats strongly agree.
Do Cats Ever Get Bored?
Aren’t they going to do more than sleep, eat, drink, and use the litter box?
Kittens will do all of that, they’re growing fast and need all of that nutrition and rest. But yes, your kitten will do more. Your kitty will want and need action!
This means you’ll need to give her engaging/entertaining/invigorating cat toys:
- Wind-up mice to chase.
- eye-catching “fobs” dangling from a string hanging from a long stick to give Kitty plenty of room without her “play” landing in your lap.
- devices that encourage them to hunt down what’s “inside the box” or “inside the track,” and other kitty-cat-friendly gadgets.
You can get these foil balls that crinkle, my cats love these!
Just to get yourself educated, visit the cat section of a local pet store (or “feed store,” if any of those are near you).
You can buy things or even just take inspiration from what you see there to develop your own cat-friendly toys.
And remember, when your kitty is playing with you, she is bonding with you, too.
He or she be getting healthier, inside and out, and loving you all-the-more. [Sources: JG/MCFH, personal experience]
Why Do Cats Scratch And Stretch?
Aside from playing, won’t my kitty have the innate urge to scratch and stretch?
That’s right. They will.
And this will continue for her lifetime.
This important urge means you’ll need to give a lifetime membership to their own scratching/stretching post.
(In other words, you’ll have to get one and always keep it near a window. They love to nature gaze.)
You can find scratching/stretching posts in pet stores (and online).
Even if you have to show your kitty how to use it or remind them to use only it when she wants to stretch and to scratch, scratch you, your furniture, and even bed linens will be very grateful. [Sources: personal experience]
How Do I Take Care of A Baby Kitten?
How can I trust myself to take care of kittens?
You’re smart enough to not “go it alone.”
You’re researching your role here.
But it won’t be only you care for your kitty.
You’ll include A good veterinarian in your kitty’s immediate and future care!
Your “Vet,” your kitty’s doctor, will be an ongoing source of health for your kitty-cat and reassurance for you.
Going to the vet with your cat, you’ll be able to get an important baseline of unique/initial health status, timely immunizations, microchip for cats (if not already provided or duplicated by an ID Tag) to keep tabs if they should become lost, spaying/neutering (if not already provided), someone to help ensure they have healthy growth and well-being as they mature.
Even if something comes up, you’ll have your vet’s expertise and counsel about what needs to be done, and the vet’s compassion for both you and your increasingly-beloved pet.
Bottom-line, what’s going to make the greatest impact on my Kitty’s well-being?
[Alternative answer: It’s not “what” but “who” and the who is you!] It’s you who will check on their comfort, feedings, water, and safety.
You who will care the most when something seems amiss.
You who will be your kitty’s “go-to” for comfort, food, shelter (not clothing), and for her love (both giving and receiving).
Ultimately, as your cats “designated, personal place” expands, as they grow, they’ll often find a comfort zone right with you (or where they can see you).
Sometimes they’ll come so close that they’ll sit right in front of your book, walk across your computer’s keys (even while you’re trying to write), or snuggle on top of your lap, exactly when you’re needing to get up (but you just can’t when she begins to purr).
Along with all of that yummy mushiness, you’re also their main source of safety, well-being, and his/her best potential for a long, satisfying, loving life.
Once you’ve come upon a kitty diving into the bathtub (one of ours likes to swim), a child coating a cat with hair gel (our swimmer got “gelled” like that), or seeing your cat opening a kitchen cabinet or sneaking behind the fireplace grate (our non-swimmer cat has done those things) you’ll know first-hand the creativity and curiosity of your own feline family member, and the critical importance of making your home safe.
Every feline is unique and will create an individual potential for adventure or demise.
The best protection, for any loved one, is anticipation.
Look around for what a kitten could get into.
And then imagine an even more active, creative, curious, and well-maneuvering kitty.
Preventing risky detours ahead of time is the best protection, along with constantly updating what’s needed to protect your kitty from the exact things your dear Kitty-Cat loves to do.
And you are there, simply for the love of it.
The love you feel for your new kitten may feel super-big today but as you live, play, eat, drink and “litter” alongside one another you’ll be bonded in increasing love and interdependence.
What you give to your kitty will be returned in countless, priceless ways.
And you’ll know what others live: “Love me, love my cat.” (It’s non-negotiable.)
So, is that ALL?
Nope, that’s not all. There will always be more. But, for today:
Congratulations on starting this treasured, amazing journey with your new kitten!
With your insightful Q’s and careful reading (and doing) of all the A’s, you’re showing great wisdom, a readiness of heart, and preparation.
A shared life together is on its way.
1. 10 Tips for a Happy and Healthy Kitten – petMD
2. Kitten Must-Haves: How to Take Care of Kittens | Blue Buffalo
3. Many lessons from Jackson Galaxy’s TV Program: “My Cat from Hell” (The show’s name seems to be quoting what his “subjects” are saying until JG enters their lives; usually, it’s the humans who need to change, and when they do, the cats become somehow “from Heaven.”
My daughter started watching this show even before we had any idea we’d have two sister-kitties in our family… so when they arrived, we had our own “Feline-Expert Jackson” in our Universe.)
4. Personal experience with Tanta, Foo Foo, Bubbas, and Coo Coos and their Veterinarian; interactions between my daughters, myself, my wife (and, sometimes, hair gel, toilets, furniture).
Learning from our own travels and lessons from original and later transitions with our little kits (now age 12).