Collecting your kitten and their first week with you
What you’ll need to know to care for your kitten
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to welcoming a new kitten. You’ll need to be fully prepared before collecting them and know how to approach their first day and night with you, including what to feed them.
During the first week, it’s best to begin establishing routines as well as taking them to the vet and beginning to socialise them. And it’s important to know how to introduce your kitten to friends, family, children and other pets. As well as how to handle their first adventures outdoors once they’re vaccinated.
Are you ready to collect your kitten?
It’s important to be fully prepared before collecting your kitten. Make sure you’ve kitten-proofed your home and set up a room with everything they'll need, including a bed, food and water bowls, a litter tray and toys.
You’ll need a cat box to carry your kitten in too, and some of the food their previous owner’s been feeding them. It’s also a good idea to find a vet you trust and make an appointment for a check-up a few days after collecting them.
Make sure you’ve kitten-proofed your home and set up the room your kitten will be living in. You’ll also need a cat box for the journey. And it’s best to find a vet in advance so you can book a check-up for your kitten a few days after they come home with you.
You should never adopt a kitten before it is eight weeks old, and some breeders may keep them with their mother and littermates until they are 12 weeks old. By that stage they should be weaned and have learned the basic social skills they need to interact with other cats. Between eight and 16 weeks old is also when they begin to understand their position in the household, so it’s a good time to resettle them with you.
It’s ideal to collect your kitten when you have a couple of quiet days to spend at home with them and no visitors scheduled. Aim to collect them in the morning so they have time to get used to your home before night time.
Ask what your kitten’s been eating and find out about their feeding routine and litter tray arrangements. Check if they’ve seen a vet and had any vaccinations or worming treatments, and whether or not they have an ID chip. Also ask about their favourite toys.
If possible, leave some toys and a blanket with your kitten for a few days before collecting them so the familiar smell is comforting for them on the journey and when you get home.
However you’re travelling, it’s essential to take a cat box as it’s dangerous to carry a kitten loose in a car and they may escape if you’re walking or on public transport.
Choose one that will accommodate your kitten when they’re fully grown and add a blanket for comfort. A darkened carrier will help your kitten feel protected. And remember to take some paper towels and a replacement blanket in case of accidents during the journey. Keep the carry case close during these journeys to comfort your kitten.
If you’re in a car, keep things calm and drive slowly to prevent startling your kitten. Either fasten the cat box in with a seat belt so it doesn’t slide around or have another passenger hold it steady.
To help your kitten feel secure, drape a light blanket over the cat box and put any toys or blankets that smell familiar in the box. It’s safest to leave them in the box during the journey, but you can help them stay calm by speaking soothingly.
Your kitten’s first day with you
Kittens are very sensitive to new surroundings, so it’s crucial to be careful when welcoming your new arrival. Following these key tips will help make things less overwhelming for your kitten.
Keep your house calm
The new sights, sounds and smells in your home, and the separation from their mother, may make your kitten feel stressed. So keep your house very calm and quiet.
Let your kitten explore
When you arrive home, put the cat box in a room you’ve prepared for your kitten and open the door. Let them come out to explore in their own time and resist the urge to cuddle them straightaway.
Show your kitten their bed
After your kitten’s explored their room, they may be ready for a nap so show them their bed rather than trying to play with them. Make sure they are also aware of where their litter tray is located too.
Keep an eye on your kitten
Your kitten may be timid initially but will soon want to explore further. If your home’s kitten-proofed, allow them to do this while watching them. Or keep them safe in their own room, with windows and plenty of social contact, for the first few weeks.
Until your kitten’s four months old, they shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time during the day. Get them used to being alone by leaving them for five minutes each hour and gradually extending it. With some breeds, it may be beneficial to consider adopting two kittens for companionship.
Give them their space
Cats need their territory organised in separate areas for feeding, resting, cleaning (going to the toilet) and playing. Watch how your kitten uses the space and make changes if necessary so they’re comfortable. You may, for example, need to move their bed higher or their litter tray further from their food.
Your kitten’s first night with you
Kittens are often very disturbed during their first night and it’s normal for them to cry during the following two or three nights too. Here are some tips to help your kitten settle.
Provide a safe place to sleep
Put your kitten's bed in a cosy, quiet place with a blanket and make sure they have access to their water, food and litter tray. Turning out the light will help to establish your kitten’s sleep patterns, but on the first night you might want to leave a night light on while they adjust to their surroundings.
For their health and wellbeing, kittens need lots of sleep in a quiet place where they can relax and feel secure. Your kitten may sleep for around 20 hours out of 24 and may still need as much as 18 hours’ sleep as an adult cat.
The best kitten food and feeding habits
The first time you feed your kitten is an important step in their journey with you. Understanding what they need will help you make sure it goes well.
Stick to the same diet at first
Any sudden changes in your kitten’s diet can cause digestive upsets and stress. So, for the first week, give your kitten the same food and feeding routine as their previous owner. Then you can slowly switch to a different routine, if you choose, and kitten food suitable for their age.
Learn about kitten nutrition and feeding
Your kitten’s diet should contain all the nutrients they need for each phase in their development. So you’ll need to adapt the food and rations you provide as they grow.
How to change your kitten’s diet safely
A kitten’s digestive system is very delicate and can be upset by sudden changes. When you’re ready to change your kitten’s food, it’s crucial to make the transition carefully and slowly to avoid digestive issues. See our guide to changing your kitten’s diet safely.
Take your kitten to the vet
Your kitten will need to see a vet after a few days settling with you. As well as giving them a general health check, they’ll set up a vaccination schedule and can advise you on worming, nutrition and more.
Travel in the car
Your kitten may need to travel in a car for visits to the vet, so it’s important they get used to it. If you didn’t collect them in a car, it’s worth taking them on a car journey during their first week with you. Start by making sure they feel comfortable staying in the cat carrier, then introduce them to the the car without the engine on. Once they are settled, start to familiarise them with the engine and motion.
Use a cat carrier
It’s always safest to collect your kitten in a cat carrier. If you didn’t, it’s important to introduce them to a cat carrier sooner rather than later so they’re comfortable with it during visits to the vet. You may even want to encourage your kitten to use the carrier as a safe sleeping place.
Learn about socialising your kitten
It’s your responsibility to help build your kitten’s confidence and get them used to their environment. By gradually introducing them to new experiences and giving gentle encouragement, you can help to socialise your kitten.
Introduce new sounds
Sounds can startle kittens and make them anxious, so keep introducing them to new noises while reassuring them. This could include sounds such as a washing machine, music or hairdryer. Be sure to only introduce new sounds as long as the kitten seems comfortable with it.
Help your kitten explore
Your kitten will need to cope with a variety of terrains. You can help them become acclimatised by carefully introducing them to stairs , an indoor climbing tree and a range of surfaces.
Get your kitten used to handling
Your vet will want to give your kitten a thorough check. To prevent this agitating them, it’s best to gently accustom your kitten to being picked up and handled all over their body.
Play with your kitten
Spend time playing games that gently encourage your kitten to display natural behaviours such as stalking, pouncing and swiping.
Socialisation should start as early as possible, to avoid any unwanted behaviours and help them develop into confident, even tempered adult cats. Find out how you can socialise your kitten.
Your kitten’s first visit to the vet
It’s really important to take your kitten to the vet for a check-up once they’ve spent a few days settling with you. By being well prepared, you can make sure it’s a positive event for your kitten. And you can take the opportunity to learn more about caring for them.First vet visit
Your kitten may feel unsettled by their move to a new home, but you can help them to stay calm. Always move slowly and gently and handle them very carefully. Use a soft voice and give plenty of reassurance as you gradually introduce new sights, sounds and smells. And make sure you keep the number of visitors to a minimum initially.
How to introduce your kitten to children, pets and other adults
Kittens can easily be overwhelmed or even terrified by encounters with other animals and people, so it’s vital you make introductions in the right way.Introducing your kitten
Your kitten’s daytime routine
Your kitten’s first few days and weeks with you will influence how they integrate with your family and whether they grow into a happy, sociable cat. Here are some ways to establish routines that will give your kitten the best possible start.
Using the litter tray
Many kittens learn to use a litter tray by watching their mother. If your kitten’s not housetrained, put them in their tray and scratch the litter with one of their front legs. Do this after each meal and when they wake up. Make sure the litter tray is somewhere quiet, always accessible and away from their food and water bowls.
Follow the same routine as your kitten’s previous owner for the first week. Then you can gradually transition to your own routine. There are three main options:
- Put your kitten’s daily ration of dry food out and let them nibble on it as they choose.
- Feed them several small meals a day.
- Put out a smaller ration of dry food for grazing on and feed them wet food at set times.
Whichever option you choose, you should stick to it so your kitten learns what to expect.
Make sure each family member spends time playing and bonding with your kitten. Their play area is the most important part of their territory and they need space to run, climb and hide. Cats particularly love being up high, so if there aren’t enough places for them to perch it’s worth buying a cat tree.
Behaviour & training
While it’s important to always be gentle with your kitten, they need to understand boundaries. One of the best ways to address unacceptable behaviour such as digging in the rubbish is to distract them with a toy and repeat a simple command.
One of the most active times for cats is dusk. Your kitten will appreciate you playing with them at this time and it will help to tire them ready for bedtime. Another active time for cats is dawn. If you’re not an early riser try a puzzle feeder to entertain them in the early morning.
Put your kitten’s bed in the place you intend to use throughout adulthood because once they’ve begun sleeping somewhere it won’t be easy to change the location. Although your kitten’s bed needs to be in a quiet place, it’s best to be fairly close to your living area as they’ll enjoy watching you.
Make sure your kitten has everything they need such as access to the litter tray, fresh water, food, a favourite toy and a blanket. Then use a signal such as turning the lights off or down to show it’s bedtime. They may cry during the first few nights, but they’ll soon learn that you’ll return in the morning and feel secure in the routine.
Kittens can go outside with your supervision when they’ve had their booster vaccinations at around four months old. But they’re not ready to go outside unsupervised until they’re around six months old.
As well as your kitten being fully vaccinated, you should also make sure:
- They’re identifiable via a microchip or a well-fitting collar and identification tag.
- Your garden is kitten-proofed.
- You know their favourite things so you can use them to encourage your kitten back inside.
Before your kitten goes outside unsupervised, they also need to be neutered or spayed to prevent unwanted litters.
Your kitten’s first trip outdoors can feel daunting, but here are some ways to help ensure it’s a positive experience:
- Choose a quiet time and keep children and other pets away.
- Go out before dinnertime so you can use your kitten’s food to attract them inside again.
- Walk with your kitten as they explore so they don’t get lost.
- Leave the door open so they can see how to get back inside.