Welcoming a kitten to your family is exciting. If you’ve considered the responsibilities and costs involved, it’s time to learn how to care for your new feline friend.
To make sure it’s a positive experience, you need to choose the right kitten from the right place and familiarise yourself with care basics.
Firstly, you’ll need to do your research to find a responsible breeder if you’re buying a pedigree. Start by asking your vet or local cat owners for recommendations.
If you choose a breeder, check their premises is clean and well-organised, and use this time for questions.
Ask if you can see any kittens they have, as well as their mother and other relatives. This shows you a good indication of the kitten’s temperament when they grow up.
A good breeder will have as many questions for you as they want to make sure you’ll provide the best home for one of their kittens. If a breeder doesn’t seem interested in learning more about you, be suspicious!
Legally, you can't let kittens leave their mothers until they’re around eight weeks old. A responsible breeder will leave a kitten with their mother until at least 12 or 13 weeks old, and will have started the process of socialisation with them.
Socialisation involves gradually introducing a kitten to new experiences such as meeting people, being handled and exposing them to household sounds. If a kitten is socialised, it’ll mature into a confident adult cat.
If you’d prefer to rescue a kitten head to your local rescue centre to find a cat or kitten that’s right for your family.
Go shopping for all the basics before bringing your new kitten home so that you have everything ready. You’ll need:
Once you’ve got everything, it’s time to kitten-proof your home. Keep toilet and bin lids closed, hide electrical cables and look out for places where your kitten could get stuck when exploring.
Choose a warm, draught-free spot for your cat’s bed and place their litter tray in a quiet, secluded location.
Cats like having high vantage points, so find places where your kitten might be able to perch safely. You could also place a few cardboard boxes around the house for a place to hide.
Keep their water bowl away from their food bowl as they don’t like smelling their food while drinking.
Get a sturdy cat carrier for your kitten’s journey home. When you get home, place the cat carrier on the floor and open the door. Let your kitten explore your home at their own pace.
It’s natural for kittens to want to hide in a strange environment so don’t force them to interact. Speak to them gently and wait for them to come to you.
Once your kitten is confident with you and is settling into the home, you can introduce them to new people.
Follow your kitten’s pace, waiting for them to approach guests to say hello. Children should be told how to greet the kitten in a quiet, gentle way beforehand to avoid frightening or overwhelming them.
Other pets should be introduced gradually. Believe it or not, cats and dogs can actually live in harmony if meetings are managed correctly. If your dog is easily excited, take them out for a walk to get out some energy before introducing them.
Stairgates are useful when two pets are meeting as they can still see and smell each other while being kept safely apart.
Read our piece on how to introduce cats and dogs for more information.
Kittens need feeding little and often at first. You should replace their food four times a day and use kitten food that they’re used to.
When your cat is one, they can gradually transition to adult food.
Always give your kitten has access to fresh drinking water. Some cats can be quite fussy drinkers, preferring running water, and may enjoy a pet drinking fountain.
If your kitten has come from a breeder, they’re probably an expert litter tray user. If not, they may need a bit of guidance.
Make sure their tray is large enough for them to feel comfortable and put it in a quiet location for a bit of privacy. Find out what litter your cat has been used to, if any, and clean it out regularly.
If your cat still doesn’t seem to know what to do, gently direct them there regularly throughout the day. We have more tips on keeping an indoor cat safe and healthy.
Don’t let your cat out before they’ve been neutered, microchipped and fully vaccinated. Then, join them on their first trips out to keep an eye on them. Go out at a quiet time, before a meal so they’ll want to stay near their food bowl.
You can try walking them with harnesses and leads if your home is surrounded by busy roads or you don’t have a private garden. If you want to try, start young to increase the likeness of your kitten accepting it, but stop if they seem uncomfortable.
If you want to teach your cat to use a cat flap, use treats as an incentive to encourage them to come and go as they please.
With a bit of preparation, your kitten will settle into their new home. Remember to have the right cat insurance, too. We cover for eight-week-old kittens to senior cats, so your new feline friend can get help for life.
I’ve spent 20 years writing about pets and exploring the wonderful relationships they have with their owners. I started as a staff writer on Dogs Today magazine, working my way up to become deputy editor in 2008. In 2010, I left the office to pursue a freelance career, relocated to north Norfolk and started a family.
Over the years I’ve contributed thoughtful human-interest features, celebrity interviews and investigative news stories to publications including The Sunday Times, Dogs Today, Dogs Monthly and Your Cat. I’ve also ghost-written veterinary books and press releases for the pet industry.
When I’m not writing, I enjoy long walks in the Norfolk countryside with my rescue lurcher Popsie. These are always followed by tea and cake.