Kitten care: all you need to know about having a kitten.
There’s no denying it: kittens are very cute and lots of fun.
But it’s important to remember that adopting a kitten is a lifetime commitment – which could be 15-20 years or perhaps even longer! Kittens are very mischievous, full of energy and often time-consuming so there are a few important things to consider first.
Kittens should have access to fresh water and given commercial kitten food to ensure their nutritional needs are met – check and replace food at least four times every day. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and don’t feed them more than the total daily recommended amount. Speak to your vet about the best diet and feeding regime for your kitten.
Kittens should be given commercial kitten food; photo courtesy of CP Bridgend
Cats like a variety of warm cosy places so they can rotate their sleeping place and they like places up high as it makes them feel safe. It’s important not to disturb your kitten while they’re sleeping as good quality sleep and rest is needed for their growth and development.
The socialisation period happens between two and eight weeks of age and allows your kitten to learn what is safe and normal. Everything they see, hear, touch, smell and taste will affect how this development occurs to help them quickly understand what is normal about their world and what they should avoid.
If a kitten has been raised with its mother it is recommended that they stay with her until they are at least eight weeks of age. So if you adopt a kitten from a reputable animal charity like Cats Protection, it will be at least eight weeks old and will have already been exposed to a number of experiences through the socialisation period. For more information read our guide on the importance of kitten socialisation.
Kittens should stay with their mothers until eight weeks of age; photo courtesy of CP Bridgend
Kittens should be taught at a young age what is appropriate play. Some people can make the mistake of playing with kittens with their fingers or feet but this can encourage kittens to direct play or predatory behaviours towards the owner. This can be painful for you as they get older! So don’t encourage your kitten to play with your fingers, toes or hair.
Object play can help kittens to develop their balance and eye-paw co-ordination. Games which are distant from the body, for example, using ‘fishing rod’ type toys and ping pong balls are a great idea. We have examples of enrichment toys you can make here: Feeding enrichment puzzles for your cat.
Grooming will help to keep your kitten’s coat and skin healthy so it’s important to gently groom them regularly so they can get used to the feeling of being brushed. There are a variety of kitten brushes and grooming tools available.
Object play can help kittens to develop their balance and eye-paw co-ordination; photo courtesy of CP Bridgend
Most cats are quick to learn how to use a litter tray once they are shown where it is. The litter tray location is important – it should be in a quiet place where they won’t be disturbed, away from their bed, food and water bowls. Ideally you should have one litter tray per cat plus once extra. You can find out more in our Caring for your cat leaflet (link at the end of the post).
Veterinary care and neutering
You will need to register your kitten with a vet and take them for a health check as soon as you can. Kittens should have their first vaccinations from eight or nine weeks of age and have a second vaccination from 12 weeks of age to protect them against some serious infectious diseases. They’ll also need protection from parasites such as fleas and worms.
Neutering (spaying for females and castration for males) is the most humane way to stop unwanted pregnancies and minimise the unwanted cat population. It can be carried out at four months of ages or younger – use our kitten vet search to find a vet that will carry out this procedure near you. You can find out more about neutering and the benefits to you by checking our neutering visual guide: Why should I neuter my cat?
Cats Protection also recommends microchipping as the safest and simplest means of permanently identifying your cat. You should get your kitten microchipped before letting them outside for the first time.
Speak to your vet to discuss all your kitten’s needs and get specific advice.
Kittens should be neutered from four months of age or younger; photo courtesy of CP Bridgend
Ensure you are prepared for the costs associated with owning a cat, including the ongoing costs like food, cat litter and veterinary care.
If you have made the decision to adopt a cat or kitten, please get in touch with your local Cats Protection branch or adoption centre. You can find contact details by entering your postcode at www.cats.org.uk/find-us
Our branches and centres are at their busiest with kittens needing loving homes during the ‘kitten season’, which is roughly between April and October.
For more detailed information on how to look after a kitten, please read our advice on cat pregnancy and kitten care.