Welcoming home your new cat

Bringing home your new kitten for the first time and making them part of the family is exciting. But these first days will run a lot more smoothly if you know which steps to follow.

Once a kitten reaches the ripe old age of eight weeks, they’re generally considered old enough to leave their mother and start a new life in a family home.

For a young cat, such upheaval can make for an unsettling time, so it’s best to make sure things are as calm and welcoming as possible.


Bringing home a kitten for the first time

Patience is everything in the early phases. The temptation will be to smother your new arrival with love, but this is likely to overwhelm a young kitten.

You’ll have already decided on a room in the house to act as their base for settling in. Leave them to quietly explore their room for an hour or so before introducing yourself.

When you do, gently does it. Crouch down to their level and softly call their name with your hand outstretched. Your kitten will come to you when ready.

Don’t be downhearted if they do choose to hide. This is perfectly normal, and forcing them to socialise before they’re ready could damage your burgeoning relationship. Remain close by, quietly talking from time to time to familiarise your kitten with your voice, scent and movements.

Make sure you have some food and water already out, as this will also help encourage your kitten to emerge.


Introducing the family

Once your kitten appears comfortable with you, it’s time to get them used to the rest of the family, one by one.

If you have children in the house, one of the biggest challenges can be keeping their excitement in check. Calmness is the key, its importance can’t be overstated. Let your kitten come over to meet them when they’re ready. When they do, it’s up to you to show the kids the correct way to gently stroke them, and encourage the correct volume levels so as not to scare off the young cats.

Even the most easy-going kittens will react angrily to be being treated like a toy. Try to keep picking them up to a minimum in the early days – just until they’ve spent enough time with you to understand that you’re no threat to them.


Creating a welcoming space

Fill an ample-sized litter box or tray, and place in a quiet corner of your kitten’s main room. While it’s possible they’ve already been litter trained, relocating to new surroundings means the odd early accident is always possible.

Once settled in, get into the habit of picking up your kitten and taking them over to the litter tray, to familiarise them with their new private area.


A cosy place to sleep

Your kitten needs to sleep a lot. A simple bed can be crafted from a cardboard box lined with a fleecy blanket or fluffy towel – ideally something from their old home so they feel (and smell) familiar. Be sure to cut one of the sides down low so your kitten can get in and out.

Position a scratching post close to their bed, to get them in the habit of waking up and stretching. You may need to use a toy or your fingers to show them what it’s for.

The scent you create can also be important. Consider investing in a calming, odorising pet spray or plug-in, just in case your new arrival shows early signs of distress.

Your kitten’s area also needs to be furnished with separate bowls for food and water.


Feeding your new kitten

A sure-fire way to make them feel welcome is to get the feeding process right, from the off. Growing kittens need more nutrients and vitamins than adult cats. Verify the age of your kitten to be sure you’re providing them with the best possible food. Ask the breeder or shelter what food they’ve been eating so far. A change in diet could upset their delicate stomach.

Always choose kitten-specific food – both dry (bagged biscuits) and wet (typically small pouches). Follow packaging instructions for an age-guided quantity of food to put in their bowl. A vet can also advise on a healthy amount.

Until the age of six months, most vets recommend three feedings a day – but keep a check of how readily your kitten is taking to their diet and don’t oversupply them.

Provide a fresh bowl of water every morning, and refill it if they lap it all up. But don’t feed them milk which hasn’t come from their mother – your kitten doesn’t have the enzymes to process it and could develop diarrhoea.

Over the age of eight weeks, you may wish to offer your kitten ‘treats’ that are not part of their regular feeding schedule. Use them sparingly to reward your cat for simple achievements, such as using the litter tray or scratching post.

For more information, see our kitten feeding timeline.


Keeping your kitten healthy

Registering your kitten with a vet is a top-priority job.

Make sure they show a healthy interest in their food and water – and report any vomiting, lethargy or prolonged sneezing to your vet.

Use your first visit to the vet as a chance to ask as many questions as possible, including:

  • Does my kitten need vaccinations or tablets? 
  • Should I get my kitten neutered? 
  • How do I guard against ticks, fleas and worms? 
  • Should I allow my kitten outdoors? 
  • When should I schedule my next vet appointment?

Recommended Guides

Introducing your new cat to your pets

Vaccinating & microchipping your cat

Kitten feeding

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