New Kitten Checklist: Tips For Adopting A New Kitten
Kittens require time, patience, and a bunch of new things. Our New Kitten Checklist will help ensure you’re fully prepared and ready for that new kitten(s) that will be entering your family! Having said that, adopting a new kitten can be one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences. Having a new kitten is unlike any other experience out there.
I could probably write 10,000 words on why adopting a new cat into your family is so wonderful! Either way, we’re happy that you are adding one more notch to the nearly 373 million cats that are kept as pets!
Before we begin just sit back, relax, and take a deep breath. You are about to be responsible for another living being that will depend on you for food, for shelter, for entertainment, for a home, but most importantly for companionship. You’re going to find a bunch of conflicting (and overwhelming) information online.
There are TONS of products to buy for kittens and we want to help make sure you have the essentials needed for a happy and healthy home.
Before we dive into the new kitten checklist I just want to point out that there are an estimated 3.4 million cats that are in shelters waiting for a new home. Shelter kitties need a home much more than the kittens from any breeder you can find. Cat breeders are detrimental to the rescue community. The phrase “Don’t shop, adopt!” rings true now more than ever.
Read Our Guide: What breed of cat is good for first-time owners?
Getting a kitten from Craigslist? Check out our guide on Craigslist Kittens!
You Should Adopt 2 Kittens
Rather than getting one cat now and another one in the future, many shelters encourage you to take home two kittens at the same time! Owning a second cat isn’t exactly “twice as much work” as owning one cat. These two kittens will not only bond with you, but they’ll bond with each other. They will keep each other company while you’re at work or at school. They’ll keep each other entertained if you’re too busy or tired to play with them. They will make each other feel comfortable in their new home.
New Kitten Checklist
Grab your notebook, open up your notes-taking app on your phone, open up a new Google docs, or just print this page out because we’re ready to dive into the new kitten checklist to show you the essentials needed.
Cat Carrier / Pet Taxi
The very first item you get should be a pet carrier for your new kitten. You’ll want to be able to safely transport your kitten from the shelter you’re adopting them from over to their new home. Kittens are small and seem like they’d be easy to just sit in your lap for the car ride home, and that’s usually the case most of the time, but in the rare event that something happens you’ll want your new kitty to be safe.
You might need to make an emergency stop, you might get in an accident on the way home, or the kitten may just get anxious and dart under your feet right by the brake pedal! A pet carrier will ensure a safe ride home AND you’ll be all ready to go for their first vet appointment.
There are numerous wonderful options. For now you can just get one that you’re comfortable holding and one you feel your kitten can comfortably grow into. You can always upgrade later!
Food & Water Bowls
Your kitten will need something to eat and drink out of. New kitten owners love to use them as an excuse to accessorize. Their home has a certain “look” to it, so they want their kitty’s bowls and accessories to have that same look to it. Rather than focusing on what looks nice and cool with your home’s décor, focus more on what would be best for your kitten.
Here are some tips for your cat’s food and water bowls:
- Use separate bowls for food and water.
- Get bowls that are wide enough for your cat to eat out of without their whiskers rubbing the insides too harshly as this can cause Whisker Distress.
- Make sure the bowls are low enough for your little kitty to comfortably eat and drink out of.
- Do not place food or water bowls near their litterbox.
- Most cats prefer their food and water bowls be placed far apart from one another, oftentimes in a separate room.
As your kitten ages over the next few months it is going to grow A LOT. This rapid growth means that kittens are VERY hungry by nature. This is a good thing though because they won’t likely be as picky as an adult cat. Now is the time to introduce them to a food that will be healthy for them.
Luckily new cat owners, the cat food packaging will list whether or not food is for kittens, adults, or seniors. Make sure you’re getting food specifically for kittens as it is formulated differently that food for cats that are all grown up.
Ask the shelter what they have been feeding the kitten. If you’re getting a kitten from a breeder then ask the breeder directly what they’ve been feeding the little kitty. There might not be any need to start them on something new or different until they’re a little bit older. Cats need fresh water, as we mentioned above, give your cat fresh water AT LEAST once a day.
Collar & ID Tag
If you plan on your cat ever venturing outside then a collar with an ID tag is an absolute must! Most pet stores have options to have ID tags custom engraved on the spot using their kiosk. If you don’t plan on your cat ever going outside then there isn’t much urgency for this, but you should have both a collar and ID tag on hand for things like a trip to the vet or any other instance that will bring your cat out of the house.
Other kitten checklists online also suggest a bell for your cat’s collar, and definitely put one on their if they’re going to be an outside kitty. You’re going to find mixed reviews online about whether or not a cat having a bell right there around it’s neck is bad considering their hearing sensitivity. A recent study has shown that those bells ring at about 50-60db which is below the cats hearing sensitivity threshold
Litter Box & Litter
Kittens need a litter box that isn’t too big or uncomfortable for them to climb in and out of. While they’re small you’re going to want to get a litter box that is pretty wide with shallow sides. As your cat gets about 6+ months old you’ll probably want to upgrade. Read our Litter Boxes Pros and Cons to learn about the different styles available.
There are plenty different styles of litter available. There’s traditional litter, pellets, crystals, all kinds of different choices. Play it safe and start with just normal plain litter. If you’re going to experiment with different types then be sure to buy small bags of them in case your cat prefers and different type.
Regardless of what breed or mix your kitten is one thing is for sure: they’re going to LOVE playing. Kittens need a good amount of exercise and stimulation so be sure to diversify and get a wide array of toys for them to play with. Get toys that your kitten can play with by themselves, like those plastic toys with the balls inside of them, as well as toys that you can play with your kitten with, such as feather wands. Playing with your kitten is very important to building a special bond with them.
Don’t forget the catnip! (Our readers ask: Can cats have too much catnip?)
Cats love to scratch, it’s ingrained into their DNA. Whether it’s to relieve stress, stretch their arms out, or to leave kind of scent or visual mark, cats NEED to scratch. As a good cat parent, you’re going to want at least one good scratching post for your new kitten. Cats also need to scratch for health reasons. Scratching helps cats remove the outer layers of their claws. These outer layers die over time and need to be removed once they’re dead.
A cat WILL scratch, so if you don’t give them a scratching post then they’ll likely go straight for your couch or carpet.
DO NOT DECLAW YOUR NEW KITTEN Cat’s claws are actually part of their toe bones. Declawing them means you’re literally grinding their bones away and cutting through the attaching ligaments and tendons. Simply put, declawing cats is torturing them. The practice is outlawed in many cities across the US and should be outlawed completely nationwide.
When you bring your kitten home they’re going to be in a new, unfamiliar place. You’re going to want to make sure they’ve got somewhere that they can curl up and feel safe sleeping. Sure, your kitten might sleep right next to you in your bed, but they also might want somewhere they can go sleep alone at times too. Somewhere they can mark their scent all over and call their own. Some cats prefer beds that are closed or have a cover as it makes them feel safe. Others might be just fine sleeping out in the open and uncovered.
There are numerous reasons to brush your cat. It’s important for a healthy coat, especially for long-haired cats, it helps spread essential oils that their fur needs, and it’s a great way to bond with your cat. Cats groom each other as a way to bond and show affection with one another. You can read more in our guide on brushing cats!
As a new kitten parent you’re going to want to keep some kitten-friendly treats around. Just like with the cat food, there are treats that are made specifically for kittens. Your cat is going to want to be shy and scared. Treats are a great way to encourage them to come out of their shell and explore new places. Treats are also a great way to encourage your kitten to feel comfortable getting into their carrier before you do Step #11 on our New Kitten Checklist below.
First Vet Appointment
Right when you bring your kitten home you’re going to want to schedule their first vet visit. Kittens adopted from shelters will have already been given their necessary shots for their age, and many shelters give you a coupon to let you come back and spay or neuter your kitten. However, you still need to make that first vet appointment.
Think of any health or medical questions regarding your kitten that you might have and write them all down, this way you can go to the appointment prepared. If your kitten is fairly young they will still need other shots and vaccinations in the future. It’s best to start your pet’s medical records as early on in their life as possible.
You’re going to be responsible for this little kitten for the rest of it’s entire life. You and/or your family are going to be this little kitty’s sole care provider for well over a decade. Kittens and cats can develop ailments or sicknesses or infections or even parasites. They can also get injured from sneaking out and getting hit by a car or even from something as simple as jumping off of a cabinet.
When a pet needs emergency care it’s not like us humans where, even without insurance, we can go to the ER and get stitched up and pay later. Medical care for pets often needs to be paid for up front, or at least a deposit needs to be made. Insurance is a great way to make sure your kitten will be covered throughout their entire lives should any issues occur.
Kittenproofing Your Home
Cats are, by nature, very curious animals. It’s how they’ve evolved to survive. Kittens are extremely curious little creatures and making sure you have a kitten-proof home is a must if you want to avoid any accidents or injuries.
Remove Hazardous Materials – Households have plenty of hazardous materials lying around that we don’t bat an eye at, especially if we don’t currently have any pets or kids running around. Make sure there’s nothing hazardous that a kitten could stumble across, whether its cleaning chemicals or gardening tools or anything in between.
Beware of Poisonous Plants – Believe it or not, many common houseplants are poisonous to kittens. Here’s a wonderful guide on which plants are poisonous to cats.
Secure & Lock Cabinets – Cats are very sneaky and they’re very good at getting into places where they shouldn’t be. Household cabinets often hide hazardous or dangerous things or have areas that kittens can get stuck.
Secure Your Windows – Kittens (and all cats) absolutely LOVE looking outside. Make sure that windows have screens which are tightly fixed into place. Keep windows closed completely when you’re not around to supervise your kitten.