Nov 5th, 2021

How should I prepare for my new kitten?

Follow this guide on how to get your home set up to provide a safe and enriching environment for your new kitten.

Essential supplies

There are a minimum number of items you will need to get in order to provide an adequate home environment for your new kitten.

Food

You will need to purchase food specifically designed for kittens to ensure they will receive all the nutrients they need. The choice available is staggering so we have prepared a simple guide to get you started. 

What should I feed my cat?

To ensure you're following the feeding guidance on cat food packaging correctly, buy some scales to regularly weigh your cat. An easy and cost effective method we have tested at Pet Path is to encourage your pet into their cat carrier and attach a luggage weighing scale to the handle. Just remember to subtract the weight of the carrier. Your cat will also usually be weighed during any checkups at the vet, so you can ask for a very accurate reading from calibrated scales during those visits.

Food and water bowls

It goes without saying that you will need to purchase receptacles to hold your kitten's food and water. It is thought that some cats prefer their water to be placed a distance away from their food due to their instinct to keep raw meat, which may become contaminated in the wild, away from their water supply. There is also a school of thought that raising food and water bowls up from the floor helps cats to grasp and digest their food, and prevent neck strain.

Plastic bowls aren’t recommended for cats or kittens as they can become tarnished with smells, colours and bacteria over time. Non-porous materials such as glass, ceramic or metal are best. Just make sure the bowl you choose is heavy enough that it won’t be easily knocked over. Particularly for kittens, bowls should be wide, shallow and heavy so as not to tip up and immerse or drown them.

Bedding

While your kitten may often choose to snooze on your bed or sofa, having a sleeping area that is just for them can be comforting and provide them with a place to retreat if they've had enough human company for a while.

It's important for all cats in your care to have warm, dry, well ventilated and draught-free sleeping areas. Bedding should be soft, and capable of being easily cleaned and washed. Cats are more likely to prefer resting alone than with others so there should be options available to allow for this, although cats living in groups should also have spaces of sufficient size to allow co-sleeping if they choose to.

Experts recommend there should be at least two types of resting places per cat - one on the floor enclosed by three sides and another elevated with a good view.

Litter tray

Kittens will usually learn how to use a litter box by observing their mother, and will be litter trained before you collect them. It should not be a struggle to teach them to use the litter box in your home, in fact, they won't really need teaching at all, as cats will seek out a clean, soft area to do their business.

It is worth asking the breeder which litter they have been using, so you can minimise the number of changes for your new kitten as they get used to their new home. We recommend you purchase some pet wipes and leave-in shampoo to clean up any mishaps. Don't forget the poop scoop and cat-safe disinfectant too. Always follow the manufacturer's directions and cautions for storage and safe, effective use.

Toys

These are by no means luxury items for your kitten, as they will require a significant amount of mental stimulation in order to be happy. They are hard-wired to chase after anything that moves, so they will be able to exhibit these natural behaviours with relatively inexpensive toys, however you will want to opt for ones specifically designed for cats, for longevity and safety.

Try buying a few different items that you can rotate to keep playtime exciting. A variety that allow your kitten to chase along the floor, catch in the air and grasp onto to "bunny kick" will satisfy their hunting urges. Play that mimics the search, stalk, chase, pounce, catch and manipulate sequence that cats adopt when catching real prey will be most stimulating for your cat. Always allow them to catch and "kill" the toy to avoid frustration. For this reason, laser pointers are not recommended.

Scratching posts or mats

These are a must if you want to provide your cat with an environment that will meet their needs. Cats scratch to mark objects with their scent, to remove loose claw casings, to have a good stretch, and importantly to let off steam. Ideally, a domestic setting should give a cat a variety of options for scratching (e.g. both horizontal and vertical wood, rope, carpet and cardboard alternatives) to cater for each individual’s personal preference.

Scratching areas should also be at a height that allows a full body cat stretch, and are stable, sturdy and non-slip. Pay attention to where your cats prefer to scratch and stretch so you can position posts and pads in the optimum places. At the bottom of stairs, next to sofas, next to sleeping spots and close to door thresholds are natural locations a cat will choose to scratch.

Brush

The frequency of grooming sessions will depend on the breed of cat, but all cats will benefit from being brushed to keep their coats in good condition, to reduce the amount of furballs, to give you an opportunity to keep a check on their fur and skin health and to strengthen the bond between you.

If medium to long length fur is left to get matted this is very uncomfortable, particularly in warmer weather. It is a good idea to introduce brushing and bathing to a kitten in the early days so they’re more likely to tolerate the process. Rewarding with treats will help them to develop positive associations. For cats with medium to long length fur, brushing should be done on a daily basis, however bathing won’t be required nearly as often - monthly at most. 

Nail clippers

Nail clipping should also be done on a fortnightly basis, particularly for indoor cats who are less likely to file their own claws through walking around over pavements or concrete. Long claws are uncomfortable to walk on, plus they will cause more damage to your soft furnishings!

Cat carrier

You will need a cat carrier to collect your kitten from the breeder, and to take them on trips to the vet. 

Extra items

Of course there are extra supplies you can invest in to further enrich the quality of life of your kitten, and make your life easier too.

Water fountain

Some cats are fussier than others when it comes to food and water. Many owners find their cats are more interested in moving water and will attempt to drink from the kitchen or bathroom taps. To encourage fluid intake, which is particularly important for any cats fed solely on dry food, you may decide to get a cat water fountain. These products often have the added benefit of including a filter, which will remove a lot of limescale present in hard water areas - another reason your cat may seem to prefer rain water over the fresh bowl you put out for them.

Raised areas

Cats love to climb, and will naturally seek out elevated areas in your home such as the top of furniture. You can encourage this behaviour by installing tailor made climbing solutions to the walls of your home. Wall mounted platforms, steps, scratching posts and beds are all available - just be sure to check any weight restrictions that may apply if your cat is likely to grow very big. Alternatively, there are many floor mounted cat trees on the market.

Outdoor play

An indoor cat will still require the opportunity to explore the outdoors for exercise and mental stimulation. You can meet this need by training your cat to walk on a harness. Introducing a kitten to the harness early on, and indoors first, will be important for its success. Alternatively look into how you can cat proof your garden, with fencing, mesh or even a "catio" enclosure.

One thing that is always worth bearing in mind - whether you go for the basic list of supplies or splash out a little - is that any breed of cat can always be somewhat fickle. Prepare yourself for the possibility that some of the items you buy may end up never being used if your kitten isn't a fan.

Cat proofing

Before collecting your kitten, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the common household items that could pose a health risk, and put safety measures in place. Ensure to remove or relocate plants that are known to be toxic to cats. Your kitten may be attracted to stray cables in your home, and try to bite or play with them. Spend some time tidying and hiding them away, or wrapping them in protective sheething.

Settling in

It is recommended that your kitten be kept in one room initially, to reduce stress as they get used to their new home. Make sure everything they need is easily accessible in that room: food, water, litter, bedding and toys. Gradually allow your kitten to explore further over the next week. You may also wish to try a pheromone diffuser (such as FELIWAY®), calming music and establishing a feeding schedule early on to manage stress. 

Your Pet Path Kitten Pack will include the brands of food the breeder has weaned your kitten on to. It is recommended you continue with these specific brands for a few weeks while your kitten settles into their new home. Too many changes at once can be stressful, and your kitten may experience diarrhoea from food they’re not used to. If you decide to move them onto a different brand, do so gradually by mixing both foods together at first, and slowly decreasing the amount of the old food over 5-7 days.

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