Bringing your kitten home 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 bringing them home 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 socialize 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 bring your kitten home?
It’s important to be fully prepared before bringing your kitten home. 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 box, and toys.
You’ll need a cat carrier to carry your kitten in too, and some of the food their previous caretaker 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 bringing them home.
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 carrier 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.
Kittens should not be adopted before weaning is complete, and some caregivers may want to keep them with their mother and littermates until they are 12 weeks old. By that stage they should be weaned and have had 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 bring home your kitten when you have a couple of quiet days to spend at home with them and no visitors scheduled. Aim to bring them home 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 box 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 favorite toys.
If possible, leave some toys and a blanket with your kitten for a few days before bringing them home so the familiar smell is comforting for them on the journey and when you get home.
If you’re driving, it’s essential to take a cat carrier as it’s dangerous to carry a kitten loose in a car and they may escape your arms 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 carrier close to you during this journey 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 carrier 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 carrier and put any toys or blankets that smell familiar in the box. It’s safest to leave them in the carrier 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 calm and quiet.
Let your kitten explore
When you arrive home, put the cat carrier 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 straight away.
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 is 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 organized in separate areas for feeding, resting, elimination (using the litter box), 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 box further from their food.
Your kitten’s first night with you
Kittens are often very anxious 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 relax.
Provide a safe place to sleep
Put your kitten's bed in a cozy, quiet place with a blanket and make sure they have access to their water, food, and litter box. 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 well-being, kittens need a lot of sleep in a quiet place where they can relax and feel secure. Your kitten may sleep 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 few days, give your kitten the same food and feeding routine as their caretaker. Then you can slowly switch to a different routine, if you choose, and kitten food suitable for their age.
Be patient with your kitten's reduced appetite
The stress of moving to a new home may mean your kitten doesn’t eat very much at first, but their appetite should return once they’ve settled. Also, remember that cats don't naturally eat large meals – they eat several small meals a day. If you are ever concerned about your kitten's eating habits, consult your vet.
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 deworming, 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 bring 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 car without the engine on. Once they are settled, start to familiarize them with the engine and motion.
Use a cat carrier
It’s always safest to transport 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 socializing 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 socialize 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 hair dryer. 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 acclimated 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 from agitating them, it’s best to gently ease 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 behaviors such as stalking, pouncing, and swiping.
Socialization should start as early as possible, to avoid any unwanted behaviors and help them develop into confident, even-tempered adult cats. Find out how you can socialize 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 experience for your kitten. And you can take the opportunity to learn more about caring for them.
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 box
Many kittens learn to use a litter box by watching their mother. If your kitten’s not house-trained, put them in their litter box and scratch the litter with one of their front legs. Do this after each meal and when they wake up. Make sure the litter box is somewhere quiet, always accessible and away from their food and water bowls.
Follow the same routine as your kitten’s previous caretaker 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.
Behavior & 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 behavior such as digging in the trash 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 them prepare for 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 box, fresh water, food, a favorite 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 complete set of booster vaccinations at around four 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 yard is kitten-proofed.
- You know their favorite things so you can use them to encourage your kitten back inside.
Before your kitten goes outside, 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 scared.
- Leave the door open so they can see how to get back inside.