Adding a new kitten to your family is exciting, but before you bring your new fluff home, it’s important to make sure you have everything you need with our New Kitten Checklist.Kittens are often playful and curious, but it’s always best to be prepared for a rockier transition. Shy or anxious kittens may need more time and a different approach to start adapting to their new abode and their new family.
We put together a new kitten checklist complete with all the essential supplies you'll need for your new kitty as well as some tips for getting your home ready.
8 Steps to Prepare for Your New Kitten
Having the right tools and gear is helpful, but it’s about more than just things. You need to prepare your home, your family, and even your other pets for this adorable new addition.
Before you even think about bringing your kitten home, you need to take a look at your house, your routine and think about what your little furball is going to need on day one. This will allow you to assess your environment and make changes, buy the right products, and set some boundaries for your family before your new kitten comes home.
Even the most curious and playful kittens will need some time to adjust and preparing your home and life will make the transition much less stressful.
Here are a few helpful tips to help you get ready for your new kitty:
1. Prepare the Kids
Kittens are very small and fragile, but also sharp. Preparing young kids on how to appropriately interact with your kitten will prevent injury on both sides.
Practice how to approach, pet, and even pick up the new kitten safely, and lay down some ground rules of how and when they can interact with the kitten.
The more your kids know about your new kitten’s needs and routine, the more they can be a part of helping you raise the new kitten. Learning how to care for the kitten will help them understand and respect the kitten’s boundaries.
2. Kittens Need a Safe Space
It’s not uncommon for cats of any age to want to find a quiet, safe space to hide when they first get home. Everything is new and scary. For a tiny kitten, the fear can be amplified.
If you don’t create a safe space for your new kitten to hide and decompress, she might find one herself and it could be a place that is unsafe or one that you can’t reach to get her out.
Plan for her to have access to one room in the house that will have everything she needs to a climate herself. Kittens will seek out dark, covered spaces so set up something that will fit these criteria:
- a kennel or carrier
- a cave bed
- an upside-down box with a door cut
- Even a small blanket/pillow fort
Get creative, but make it comfortable. Make sure you have soft and warm blankets or towels for her to curl up in.
It’s also a good idea to block off areas that you don’t want her burrowing into. Underneath beds and dressers, closets, cupboards, etc.
3. Get Supplies
Stock up on supplies before you get your kitten. Having the right tools can help prevent messes, injury, and stress. Having the correct gear can also facilitate the early stages of training before bad habits can be learned.
Keep reading to see our full New Kitten Checklist. This will help you choose the right supplies for your kitten. You won’t need everything on the list before your kitten comes home, but it’s better to have a little extra and not need it than be caught without something that you do end up needing.
Kitten-proofing your home may not seem as important as puppy-proofing for a new dog is, but kittens can be quite mischievous as well. Making sure your home is safe for your new kitten means tucking away anything that could they could injure themselves on if they scratch, bite, or bump it.
For cats, plants are one of the biggest concerns. Lots of common house and garden plants are actually toxic to cats, so check out our list of dangerous garden plants to make sure that you aren’t exposing your kitten to anything harmful.
Other concerns include cords, rope or string, candles, decorations, and loose food from people or other pets. Also, put aside any valuable knick nacks that can be easily knocked off shelves and tables once your kitten is feeling brave enough to explore.
5. Educate Yourself
While cats are often seen as having the same personality, your kitty’s breed can actually tell you a bit about their personality. It’s quite common for lots of cats in North America to be classified as domestic short, medium, or long-haired, but there are many cat breeds that have very unique needs and preferences.
Bengals for example are one of the most highly active breeds, and notoriously hard to train if you aren’t prepared for their stubbornness and energy levels. Another example would be Sphynx cats. Because of their hairless nature, they need help controlling their body temperature, so they often need sweaters and a warmer indoor climate.
If you do know your new kitties breed, it’s a good idea to do a little bit of research so that you can get an idea of what to expect. Check out Cattime.com to help learn more about cat breeds.
6. Assess Your Situation
Consider your current living situation and routine before you get a kitten. If you have a hectic schedule or have a lot of traffic coming in and out of your home, then it might be too stressful of an environment to welcome a kitten.
You’ll want to spend at least a few days with your new kitten helping them adjust before returning to your usual routine, like work. It’s also a good idea to allow your kitten to get comfortable for a few weeks before you bring over friends or family to meet her.
Too much change all in a row can overwhelm a baby cat, which could lead to destructive, dangerous, or aggressive behaviours.
7. Plan Your Trip Home
The one aspect that many people often forget to plan for is the trip home with the new cat. It may be a short drive, but even still, you will want to ensure you have the right supplies to make sure the trip is comfortable and safe. Here are a few things you need to bring along with you:
As much as it’s tempting to hold your kitten in your lap, sometimes the safest place is in an enclosed carrier that full of soft and warm bedding.
8. Find a Local Vet
Research your local vets to find the right one for your new kitty. Check out reviews and the different services they offer to make sure they are a good fit for you.
Within the first month of bringing your kitten home, she should go in for a check-up, just to make sure she isn’t showing signs of any illness or disease.
New Kitten Checklist
Now that your house is prepped, it’s time to hit up your local pet store for some vital supplies. Here’s a helpful breakdown of what you’ll need:
The foundation of a healthy cat is a good diet. Most kittens are fully weaned off of their mother’s milk by the time you bring them home, so it’s just a matter of finding the diet type and formula that helps them thrive.
There are lots of options:
Kittens still have a lot of growing and development to do in the first year, so it’s important that you choose a diet that offers them the nutrients they need.
Cat’s are carnivores, so a meat-rich diet with minimal and low-glycemic carbohydrates will help support their energy needs and help them build the muscle mass their bodies need.
If you can, try to find out what food your new kitten was eating before you pick her up. Having some of her current diet to help you transition her to the diet you choose.
When you are ready to change their food, it’s best to slowly replace the old food with the new food over the course of 7-10 days. Start by replacing 1/4 of the old diet with their new one and gradually increase this quantity over the course of a week or so.
Cat Food Dishes
The type of dish you use to feed your kitten might not seem that important, but there are a few things you should consider before you buy.
Look for materials that are easy to keep clean. Plastic bowls are cheap and lightweight, but they also scratch or crack easily. Bacteria can collect in these marks and indentations which can be harmful to your cat and yourself. These bowls will need to be sanitized frequently and replaced often.
Glass, metal, and ceramic cat bowls are better options as they are less likely to collect bacteria and are easy to keep sanitized in between feedings.
The second factor you should consider is the shape of the bowl. Whisker fatigue is when your kitten’s sensitive whiskers are overstimulated. This can be very frustrating, disorienting, and can lead to anxious behaviours and poor eating habits. Look for a wide, shallow, saucer-style bowl, like Ore' Pet Bamboo Bowl, to prevent whisker fatigue.
Food Storage and Feeding Accessories
How you store your kitten’s food can affect the safety and quality of the diet. Proper storage can keep food from spoiling, getting stale, and prevent pest infestations.
Different food formats require different storage methods. Kibble has the longest shelf life, but you can keep the food fresher for longer if opened bags are properly stored in an air-tight container in and away from direct sunlight.
Canned foods are a bit different. They are not shelf-stable and must be refrigerated once opened, but still need proper storage in the fridge to ensure the quality, taste, and texture are maintained.
Can lid covers are one of the easiest ways to store canned cat food in the fridge. These covers help to seal in the moisture and keep out bacteria. Wet foods can only be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, and can lid covers should always be washed after each use.
Messy Mutts Stainless Steel Bowls with silicone lids are perfect for storing unfinished meals, or foods that have been meal prepped days in advance. The metal won't collect bacteria, and the silicone lids lock in freshness. They can be used to store any kind of food, including raw, freeze-dried, and homemade diets.
Check out 25 Pet Food Storage Tips to find the best way to store your pet for food safely.
Consider any other accessories you might want to make feeding easier. Food mats are great for keeping your floors protected from a clumsy kitten.
Cat Water Dishes and Fountains
Just like the food bowls, avoid plastic for their water dishes or cat fountains too. These are usually cleaned less often than food bowls, so the risk of bacteria growth is higher.
Cats don’t drink nearly enough water, so it’s important to encourage better drinking habits by always having fresh, clean water available. This could mean having multiple cat water dishes in your house or opting for a fountain.
Fountains are often preferred by cats because the constant movement and filtration of the water helps keep the water a degree or two cooler and much cleaner than stagnant water.
Check out all the benefits of cat water fountains to see if it’s right for your cat.
An excellent way to help gain your kittens' trust and bond with them is to treat train them. It’s not quite the same as treat training a puppy, but kittens respond well to rewards as well.
Crunchier, cookie-style treats are typically recommended for dental health. Cats don’t chew a lot, so dental cat treats are a good way to scrape some of the bacteria hiding at the gum line.
Some cats even like to chew, so this is when natural chews can come in handy. Dried fish skins and raw or freeze-dried chicken necks are all cat-safe natural chews that can help your kitten during her teething stage.
Brushing your cat daily is a great way to get your kitten used to her grooming routines. Regular brushing helps to reduce shedding, prevent mats, and stimulate oil production in the skin that helps to condition the skin and coat.
Kittens are small and need a gentler brush to get started. A slicker brush will keep away tangles and remove loose hair.
Longer hair kittens will benefit from a comb or pin brush, like the Bass Brush Detangler to prevent tangles and mats, especially on their underbelly and tail.
Deshedding brushes can be used once your kitten is used to the brushing process, but you shouldn’t deshed your kitten more than once every other week or so. Overusing a deshedding brush, like the Furminator, can pull out healthy fur if you are not careful.
Waterless Shampoo and Pet Wipes
Cats in general are better self-groomers than dogs and don’t require bathing as frequently, but kittens get messy sometimes. Cats are also usually water averse, so bathing them can be stressful. An easier solution for keeping your kitten clean is to spot clean them.
Waterless foaming shampoos, like Earth Bath Hypoallergenic Grooming Foam, are an easy way to keep your kitten clean in a pinch without fully bathing them. The foam can be gently massaged into your cat’s coat and then just use a damp cloth or pet wipe to smooth the coat.
Tropiclean Hypoallergenic Wipes for Pets also a great spot cleaning tool. Use them for a quick face wash after a messy mealtime, or to wipe down kitty’s paws after playing in her litter box.
If your kitten does need a full bath, then stick to a shampoo that is safe for sensitive young kittens. Hypoallergenic or fragrance-free shampoos are less likely to irritate their skin.
Kitten Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Most people don’t even think about brushing their kitten's teeth. The first set of teeth is going to fall out anyway, so what’s the point, right?
Wrong! Dental care is an important part of your kitten’s overall health. Yes, those baby teeth will fall out, but their gums need to be healthy too. Plus, starting a tooth brushing routine early helps your kitten get used to this practice.
Toothbrushing can also help with the teething process. A soft-bristled brush or a rubber finger brush can be used to massage the gums and help new teeth push through the surface of the gums.
Nail care is another important practice to start early. Keeping their nails properly trimmed makes it safer for both you and them. Overgrown nails can easily get snagged, which other than being a hazard to you and your furniture, can lead to their nails tearing or limiting their mobility.
Scissor-style nail trimmers are ideal for kittens because they are small and easy to handle. A kitten’s nails will be very tiny, so be very careful not to cut too far down. Start with just the tip until you get more comfortable with the process.
Baxter & Bella Nail Scissors for cats are a lightweight option that lets you easily see what you’re doing.
An alternative option is to use a nail grinder, like the JW Gripsoft Palm Nail Grinder. Some people prefer these because they are more intuitive, but the sound and vibration can be scary for some kittens. It may take some time for your kitten to get comfortable with this nail care tool.
The area that your kitten can’t groom on their own is their ears. Routine ear cleanings can prevent build-up that can lead to infection. Ear cleaning solutions for kittens should be a gentle formula that won’t irritate their sensitive skin.
Tropiclean Ear Cleaning Wipes for Pets are an easier and less messy option for routine ear cleanings. The pre-soaked pads are a gentle way to remove dirt and debris that collects in your cat’s ear.
Check out How to Clean a Cat’s Ears for tips to make this grooming practice simple and stress-free.
Cat Trees and Scratchers
You can’t stop a kitten from scratching - It’s a natural instinct - but you can redirect them to scratch on the right stuff. Cat trees and scratchers can save your furniture, your carpets, and your legs from a playful kitten’s sharp claws.
Scratchers are cheaper and disposable and are perfect for young kittens. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are perfect for a kitten that is just learning.
Cat trees are bigger and more durable. They can stand up to really aggressive scratchers and can provide a high platform for your kitten to nap on.
Cat trees are also a great choice for homes with multiple pets or young kids. Even when everyone gets along, it’s nice to be able to provide your kitten with a hideaway from the other monsters in the house.
Cats seek out warm and soft places to sleep, so a nice comfortable cat bed will help your kitten relax. Most cats prefer a bed with high sides so they can really cozy in, like the Rogz Snug Pods.
If your house is on the cooler side, then a self-warming bed might help keep your kitten snug as a bug. The K&H Self-Warming Hut uses a metallized insulation that is heated by your kitten’s body temperature.
A great option for cats that love to bask in the sun is the Sunny Window Seat. This comfy lounger bed suction cups to the window and can hold up to 50 lbs.
Playtime is an important part of the kitten stage. This is when they learn what is and isn't appropriate to play with. Having a variety of toys for interactive group and solo playtime, like Catit Senses, will help your kitten learn good playtime behaviours.
Always pick toys that are safe and take away any toys that your kitten has damaged. Broken toys could injure your kitten if there are sharp pieces or if your kitten tries to chew pieces off.
Natural Pet Cleaners
Kittens can make a mess sometimes, so pet-safe stain and odour removers are a must.
Look for natural pet stain and odour removers with active enzymes that get rid of pet messes, like Nature's Miracle. Chemical cleaners simply cover up pet messes, but may not discourage them or another pet to make another “mess” on the same spot.
Collar and ID
The best way to ensure your kitten makes it home from an impromptu neighbourhood stroll is if they can be quickly ID’d.
If you plan to take your kitten out for adventures, then we recommend a cat leash and a cat harness. Your kitten may need some practice to get used to these accessories, but they will help you keep them safe on walks and outings.
Litter and Litter Accessories
Choosing a litter box will depend on the size and ability of your kitten. You may think it’s cost-effective to pick up a litter box that is large enough to suit them when they are full-grown, but it may simply be too big or tall for your baby cat to get in and out of.
It’s best to start with a shallower open litter box until your kitten is big enough to use a larger or hooded box, like the Catit Jumbo Hooded Litter Box.
Choosing a good litter involves considering how the litter affects your kitten, but also how it affects you. A great starter litter kittens that are still learning good litter habits is Dr. Elsey's Kitten Attract Litter. The natural scent-based attractant in this litter helps to encourage your kitten to use the litter box.
Gravel litters are often very dusty and some pet owners are concerned about the harm caused by a cat breathing in that dust.
For a more natural option, you can try a non-gravel-based litter. Some are very similar in texture to gravel, while others are meant to be super absorbent. Here are a few of our faves:
Litter accessories aren't required but can make litter maintenance much easier. Litter scoops, mats, and filters can help reduce the mess and smell of your kitten's litter box area.
The Litter Locker Disposal System is one of our favourite accessories. The large bags can last up to 2 months and save you daily trips to the garbage. They lock in odours too, so you don't have to hold your breath when you walk by the litter box.
Are You Ready?
It’s a common misconception that cats are easy to care for, or they basically take care of themselves. This isn’t true. While cats may be more independent, they still require a structured environment, regular attention, and a variety of routines to keep them healthy, happy, and well-behaved.
Before you get a kitten, it’s important to think about how your lifestyle and routine will have to change to accommodate your new kitten’s needs. Cat’s need more one-on-one attention than most people think, so make sure you consider that in your day-to-day routine.
Also, consider the average cost of raising a cat:
According to Canadian Living, the average yearly cost of raising a cat is about $835.
This doesn’t seem too bad, but you also need to be prepared for incidentals. Routine vet bills, injury, and potential disease as they age can be a financial burden that not everyone can afford.
I personally just got saddled with a $2000 vet bill after my monster ate a cat toy and needed surgery to remove it from his intestines. You can’t always plan for everything, but having an emergency fund or pet insurance can help you be able to manage surprise costs like this.
Do your homework before you commit. This will give you a chance to make changes to create a safer and more suitable environment for your kitten.
We'd love to hear all about your new kitten experience. Let us know what you learned and what tips you'd give to a new cat owner. Share your story in the comments below!