Nobody can resist the allure of a soft, snuggly, adorable kitten! Cats are the most popular pets in the world, and they all start out as little fluffballs with sharp little claws and big, curious eyes. Kittens are great pets for many different types of households; they are as happy on a farm as they are in a small apartment. Still, you should not go into kitten-ownership without any information or supplies on hand! Taking care of a kitten does require some preparation and you’ll need to do some shopping before bringing your new kitty home. If you plan on adding a kitten to your household, read on to find out what you will need and how you can best care for your new pet.
In This Article
How to Set Up for Your Kitten
- Create a safe area for her. Although your kitten will not need to stay in a cage (unless you are transporting her or need to keep her in a cage or cat carrier temporarily to keep her safe), it is a good idea to create a safe space for her. This space should be out of the reach of other pets and small children. You might designate an unused bedroom to be her safe space; you will need to outfit it with several supplies.
- Set up a kitty litter box. Your kitten will need to learn to eliminate in a cat litter box when she is in the house. (Don’t worry! It is easier than you might think to train a kitten to use the box!) Purchase one that is not too large to start; you can always upgrade later. Also, buy kitty litter. It is best to check with the shelter or the person who is currently caring for her to see what brand litter they use. That will make it more familiar and more likely that your kitten will use it.
- Set up a food and water dish. Your kitten will need access to fresh water at all times, so look for cat dishes that she won’t be able to tip over. Something that is heavy on the bottom and not too tall will allow her to drink easily while she is still small and will resist tipping if she decides to put her paws on the edge or into the bowl itself.
- Add a place for her to scratch. Kittens have the urge to scratch with their claws, and you will prefer to supply a scratching post of some sort rather than forcing her to resort to scratching your carpet, furniture, or walls. Some kittens prefer the type that stands up and others like the kind that lays flat on the floor. Buying one that has vertical and horizontal surfaces allows you to see which part she uses most frequently and will give her some options.
- Provide somewhere for her to climb. Your kitten will sometimes want to climb up. She might use the furniture, the shelves, or even the curtains for this purpose. You can extend the life of your household items by giving her a place to climb that is safe, like a cat tower. Set it up near a window, and she will use it to climb up and watch birds, squirrels, flying leaves, and whatever else is happening outside.
How to Feed Your Kitten
- Make sure your kitten has water all the time. Some kittens are a bit picky and won’t want to drink water that is kept right next to the food dish, and many kittens won’t drink dirty water. Try moving the water dish around the room if your kitten isn’t drinking from it, and change the water frequently to keep it clean. Consider getting a cat water fountain to promote interest and to keep him hydrated.
- Consider free-feeding your kitten dry cat food. If you choose to use dry cat food, you might choose to keep it available to your kitten at all times. Cats, as a general rule, will not overeat. There are exceptions to this rule, however. If your kitten begins to put on too much weight, talk to your veterinarian about your choice to free-feed dry food. Try not to put more in the bowl than your kitten will eat in a day, because you should throw away the food once every 24 hours and refill with fresh food to prevent staleness.
- Feed canned food two to four times per day. Canned food is good for kittens because it adds some liquid to their diets, which can keep them from getting constipated. Give your kitten only as much canned food as he will eat at one time, then remove it and put more down later. If you are feeding your kitten dry food as well, two servings of canned food is plenty. If you are not using dry food, however, you will need to feed your kitten canned food three or four times per day.
How to Pick Up Your Kitten
- Don’t startle your kitten. Many cats and kittens don’t enjoy being picked up, but it is important that you know how to do so safely to keep your kitten from getting hurt and also to prevent your kitten from biting or scratching you. Startling your kitten by grabbing her from behind will likely result in a bite or a scratch and your new pet might get hurt by flailing to get away from you.
- Wait until your kitten is willingly near you. When you are petting or playing with your new little furball, this is a great time to gently pick her up.
- Place one hand under her chest and another under her rear end. Always use two hands when picking up your kitten, even if she is very small.
- Pull her close to your body. As soon as you pick her up snuggle her body against yours so she feels secure and supported.
How to Clean Your Kitten
- Watch your kitten to see if he grooms himself well. Most kittens will learn from their mothers how to keep themselves clean. If your new pet was taken from his mother very early, however, he might not have learned these skills. Watch to see if he cleans his own face after eating or if he self-grooms to keep his fur clean. If he does, you will not need to do much to clean him. If he doesn’t, more extensive cleaning might be necessary.
- Wipe your kitten gently with a slightly damp cloth. After eating or if your kitten looks dirty or dusty, simply take a slightly damp soft cloth and wipe him down. Be quick about it because he probably won’t like it very much. Just one or two swipes should be sufficient.
- Help a very small kitten eliminate. If your kitten is very small, you will need to rub his abdomen and under his tail to encourage him to eliminate. Use a moistened cotton ball. You will need to do this after each feeding. This is really only necessary for very tiny kittens who are just a few weeks old or younger.
- Check your kitten’s bottom each day. Young kittens can’t always reach to clean under their tails, so you will need to do this. Use a wet cotton ball or a wet soft cloth. This will keep your kitten clean and odor-free until he learns to clean his own bottom.
- Rarely bathe your kitten. If your kitten gets into something very dirty or gets fleas, you might need to bathe him. Otherwise, bathing a kitten or a cat is unnecessary unless he has a skin condition and your veterinarian recommends it. Use just a few inches of warm water in a tub or sink and kitten shampoo. For fleas, you can use Dawn dish liquid (the kind you would use for handwashing dishes), since young kittens often cannot tolerate flea shampoo. Be sure to dry your kitten well with a towel and keep him warm until he is fully dry.
- Brush your kitten daily. Use a soft pet brush to gently brush his fur. This will help remove excess hair and will keep him cleaner. If he doesn’t like it, just try to get in a few swipes per day. If he has long fur, you will need to be a bit more persistent; try brushing him for a minute or so several times per day.
How to Clean Your Kitten’s Litter Box
- Scoop your kitten’s litter box twice per day. Every morning and evening, use a cat litter scoop to scoop out any solid waste. If you are using a clumping kitty litter, you can scoop out the balls that the urine makes, too.
- Change the litter fully once per week. Dump out the dirty kitty litter into the garbage, spray out the litter box with hot water and a bit of dish liquid or vinegar, rinse very well, and allow it to dry fully before refilling the box with fresh litter. It is helpful to have two litter boxes to switch out so that your kitten is not left with no litter box while you are waiting for the dirty one to be washed and dried.
- Sweep around the litter box regularly. Your kitten probably tracks litter out of the box, so you will need to sweep the area every day or two. You can also wipe it down with a lightly soapy rag. Don’t use any detergents on the floor near the litter box that are unsafe for your kitten.
How to Tell If Your Kitten Is Healthy and Happy
- Check your kitten’s eyes, ears, and nose. Her eyes should be bright and clear, and her nose shouldn’t have any discharge. Her ears should look clean inside. If you see discharge from the eyes or nose, especially if it isn’t clear, or if the eyes look cloudy or the ears look dirty or raw, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
- Check your kitten’s fur. Her fur should be soft and full. It should not be patchy or have bald spots. Cats do shed every day, but you shouldn’t see large chunks of fur falling out. If you do, a veterinarian visit is warranted.
- Make sure your kitten is eating and drinking each day. She might not eat the same amount each day, but if your kitten skips more than one meal, she should be evaluated for illness.
- Make sure your kitten is eliminating each day. There should be stool and urine in the kitty litter box each time you check it. The stools should be solid. If your kitten has diarrhea or isn’t urinating or defecating each day, she needs a checkup.
- Make note of how your kitten usually acts. Kittens can be fickle creatures. One day, they might run around the house and the next day, they might sleep all day. One minute they want to be pet and the next, they swat at you and hide under the bed. These are all normal variations and you will likely see these behaviors on a daily basis or every few days. If your kitten has stopped wanting to play with her toys, however, or if all she does is sleep and never wants to get up and run around or be pet, that is an indication that there is something going on.
Owning a kitten is a wonderful experience for most people, and very soon, your kitten will grow into a beautiful and dignified cat. Taking the steps to keep your kitten happy and healthy will pay off when you have a furry friend for many years to come.