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The new kitten checklist: what you need to know about getting a kitten
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The new kitten checklist: what you need to know about getting a kitten

By Francesca Lees BSc (Hons) Ncert (AnBeh) ISFM CertFN RVN

Bringing home a new kitten is a really exciting time. You will of course be wrapped up in the cuddles and cuteness of being a new kitten parent for the first few days but this time is also a really important time to make sure your new kitten has everything they need to get off to the best start in life. If you're asking yourself "what do I need for a kitten?", you've come to the right place.

In the new kitten checklist we cover all the essentials you’ll need to make sure you are prepared for when you first bring your new kitten home.

What food should I buy for my new kitten?

Meals

When you first bring your kitten home it's advised that you keep them on the food they were eating before you got them, while they settle in. If you want to change their food, do this after a week as they’re already going through a lot of change.

Make sure you gradually introduce them to the new food by mixing some of the new food with their old food. You need to do this gradually over 7-14 days. Doing this ensures that they do not get an upset stomach from the sudden change of food. You want to make sure your kitten is eating good quality, complete, dry food which is specifically for kittens (like Tippaws kitten food). This ensures they get all the right nutrients needed for their life stage.

Treats

Make sure to have some kitten friendly treats to help them settle into their new home and to help form a bond with you. However, ensure the treats are made from high quality ingredients and don’t overfeed your kitten or they may get an upset tummy.

What litter should I buy for my new kitten?

Not all litter is safe for kittens so check with the company you are buying from to ensure it is suitable for kittens under 12 weeks. Most litter will be suitable for kittens over 12 weeks old, but it’s always best to check. Natural clumping litters are soft on paws, require a lot less cleaning and last a lot longer. These are great for kittens and cats (as long as they are deemed safe for kittens by the manufacturer).

While your kitten is little, a low sided litter tray is better for them so they can easily climb in and out. Make sure to have 2 litter trays so they have more than one option. The rule for litter trays is always 1 litter tray per cat plus 1. So if you had 2 cats you would need 3 trays and so on. Use a non scented litter that won’t overwhelm your kitten and a litter which clumps easily and is easy to clean out, such as Tippaws Long-lasting Clumping Litter.

What toys should I buy for my new kitten?

Kittens are very playful and need lots of mental stimulation. Make sure to play with your kitten every day using cat toys. Little balls to roll along the floor, little scrunched up balls of paper, fishing rod type toys that you can pull along and whizzy mice toys are great for kittens.

Avoid playing with laser pens as these can cause frustration as your kitten can never actually “catch” anything. Also avoid playing with your fingers and toes as this will encourage your kitten to attack your hands and feet and can then teach them that this is appropriate play. It may be cute while they’re a kitten but when they’re an adult cat it can really hurt and you don’t want them doing it to you or young children!

What accessories do I need for my new kitten?

  • Scratching post. All kittens need somewhere to scratch and if you don’t want them doing it on your sofa or stairs then get them a scratching post. They like them to be placed near doorways as this helps them feel safe. 
  • A bed. A nice soft and warm bed for them to sleep in, although you may find they choose to snuggle up on your lap or on your bed.
  • Food and water bowls. Make sure you have separate food and water bowls, not one of the double sided bowls – cats do not like their food and water next to each other.
  • A cat carrier. Make sure to buy a nice comfy cat carrier which can grow with them. Top opening cat carriers are ideal as you don’t have to drag your kitten out or push them in. Top opening cat carriers make it much easier for cats to be lifted out and into their carrier.

Which vaccinations does my new kitten need?

It’s really important that you book your kitten in for their first vaccinations and register them with a vet as soon as you have collected them. Kittens will need two lots of vaccinations before they can go outside. Their first set at nine weeks old and a second booster set at three months old. The core vaccinations for cats are:

  • Rhinotracheitis (a flu like illness caused by a herpesvirus)
  • Calicivirosis (a flu like illness with inflammation of the mouth caused by a calicivirus)
  • Panleucopenia (a serious illness causing bloody diarrhoea caused by parvovirus)
  • Feline Leukaemia (an illness affecting the immune system causing loss of appetite, weight loss, poor fur condition, fever, pale gums and diarrhoea caused by a retrovirus)

Vaccinations are vital to keep your kitten safe from these diseases and they are minimally invasive. The injection is given very quickly and the vet will often give them treats and fuss too.

Does my new kitten need flea and worm treatment?

It’s really important that your kitten has flea and worming treatment straight away. Most kittens will need a worming tablet when they’re 9 weeks old. Your vet will be able to prescribe a worming tablet when you go for their first vaccination and they will weigh your kitten to make sure they give the correct dose for their weight.

Kittens need worming every month until they’re 6 months old. Once they reach 6 months of age this can then go to quarterly intervals (every 3 months). Kittens will also need flea treatment and your vet will be able to prescribe this too when you go for their first vaccination. 

Fleas can be a serious problem for kittens and, if left, a severe flea infestation can cause anaemia in kittens (which can be life threatening) so it’s really important they have their flea treatment. Your vet will also prescribe them a flea treatment based on their weight. Usually kittens will be given a spot on (this is a liquid that you squirt onto the skin on the back of their neck) or sometimes they may be given a tablet.

Some flea treatments are a monthly treatment however others may last for 3 months. Ask your vet which treatment is best for your kitten and make sure you keep up with their regular flea treatment at the correct intervals. Flea treatment is a lifelong commitment when owning a cat and is something that they must have in order to stop fleas from becoming a problem within your home. Prevention is much easier than trying to get rid of a flea infestation once they have invaded your home!

When does my new kitten need to be neutered?

If you want your kitten to be able to go outside the best thing for them is to be neutered. Most vets will neuter kittens from 5 or 6 months of age however there are vets who will do it from 4 months of age. There are many benefits to having your kitten neutered at 4 months of age, the main one being that they cannot get pregnant. Kittens can come into season and get pregnant from 5 months old and if your cat accidentally escapes before being neutered this could happen. If you have a male cat you still want them to be neutered as soon as possible as it reduces the likelihood of them straying and wandering off looking for a female. You can find a vet who does early neutering at 4 months old on Cats Protection’s website

Do I need to get pet insurance for my new kitten?

It’s really important that you have the funds to pay for medical treatment if your kitten becomes unwell or involved in an accident. There are many pet insurance companies who offer insurance for kittens but make sure to read through the policy documents before you commit. 

You ideally need an insurance policy which covers your kitten for life and not a time limited policy. Lifetime policies pay a certain amount for illness and injury each year and this is then reallocated each year, regardless of how much you may have used during the policy year. Time limited policies will only give you a certain amount of money towards vet fees for a set period of time, for example 12 months.

Once your pet has used this money over the course of the 12 months then you cannot claim any more for this condition. Also make sure to look at how much the policy will pay towards vet fees per year as some policies may only pay £2,000 per year whereas others will pay £15,000 per year. Always go for the best policy you can afford with the highest amount towards vet fees. Some vets will give you a 4 weeks free insurance cover when you take your kitten for their first vaccination. This is useful as it will cover your kitten instantly and so if your kitten becomes unwell a few days after this your kitten will be insured whereas other insurance policies usually have a 14 day waiting period after taking out the policy before you can make a claim.

How do I get my new kitten microchipped?

Kittens do need to be microchipped and in the UK it will be the law that all cats must be microchipped by the 10th of June 2024. You don’t have to have your cat microchipped on their first vaccination appointment (as it is a bigger needle than the vaccination needle) but you will need to have it done while they are young and definitely before they start going outside. 

The best way to do this is to have them microchipped whilst they’re under anaesthetic and being neutered. Most vets offer this option and will microchip your cat whilst they’re asleep so they won't know anything about it! 

Make sure that if you move house or get a new telephone number that you update the microchip. So many cats go missing and sadly cannot be reunited with their owners because the details on the microchip are not kept up to date. You can update the details on the microchip by logging onto the microchip pet database or by calling the database company.

When can I let my new kitten go outside in the garden?

When your kitten has been neutered and microchipped and its time for them to venture outside it is time to invest in a cat flap. There are many different cat flaps on the market but microchip ones offer your cat the freedom to go outside without other cats being able to come into their home. Other cats coming into your home can create stress and tension within the home which can lead to behaviour issues. Microchip cat flaps are programmed with your cats microchip number and when your cat approaches the flap they read the chip number. If it is your cat then the door will open, if it’s not your cat approaching then the door will not open. 

Remember these top tips when getting a kitten and make sure to have everything in place when your new bundle of fluff arrives. Kittens are a wonderful addition to the household and we wish you many happy years with your new best friend!

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