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Five tips for success with a new kitten

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Congratulations, you’ve decided to get a kitten! Now all you have to do is narrow down your choices and decide what kind of kitten – or cat – fits your personality, home and lifestyle best. Do you want a purebred or a mixed-breed rescue? How should you prepare your home? And do you have the necessary resources at hand?

Owning a cat is a commitment for the next 12-20 years of your life, so you want to make sure you get it right.

Use our Top Five Checklist to help ensure you and your new best friend get off to a happy and healthy start, together.
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Cute kitten plays with a ball of wool

1. What kind of kitten or cat do you want?

With so many varieties of kittens and cats available, deciding which one is right for you can be a bit overwhelming. Here are some important things to think about when making your choice.

a. How many hours will you be able to spend with your kitten or cat? Kittens, like all baby animals, require more of your time and attention. If you are planning to leave your new friend alone for long periods, it may be best to adopt a more independent full-grown cat from a breeder or shelter. Even better, to ensure your new friend isn’t lonely while you’re off at work, why not adopt two bonded kittens or adult cats. They will have one another for company when you’re not home, and you’ll have double the welcome when you return home. It’s a win-win for everyone!

b. Are you ready to commit to keeping your cat indoors? Contrary to popular belief, life for outdoor cats can be dangerous for them - and for the local birds they prey on. Cats who live outdoors are vulnerable to a number of potentially deadly diseases and parasites, predators, and cars. Most veterianarians recommend that you limit your cat’s access to the outdoors when they’re safely supervised or using a leash.

c. Will your new cat be living with other animals? Are you considering getting a kitten with an older cat? Depending on the older cat’s temperament it can be a great fit – or not at all. It’s important to take the introduction slowly and not to rush it. If you are considering getting a kitten with a dog, make sure your dog doesn’t have a high prey drive. Introducing cats to birds or other small rodents is always a risk. Cats have strong hunting instincts and may never be safe around small creatures.

d. High or lower maintenance? Short-haired cats may not require much grooming. Other breeds, however, may have daily grooming requirements or will require regular visits to the groomer that can end up being costly. Do your research to identify the type of cat that will suit you, your lifestyle and your budget best.

2. Is your kitten at least 8 weeks old?

Some experts believe you should leave a kitten with their mother until they are at least 8 weeks old. By this age, they will have started learning essential life skills from their mother and littermates, including how to eat independently, use a litter box and even how to play appropriately.

3. Are you properly equipped?

You’ll need to prepare your home before you welcome your new friend. A warm bed in a quiet area to sleep, food and water bowls and a litter box are the absolute essentials. You’ll also need a secure cat carrier to transport them home for the very first time. Ask the breeder or shelter what kind of food they are already eating, and what kind of litter they are used to. You can gradually transition to your preferred choices, but for the introduction it’s best to stick with what they know. You can experiment with a couple of different styles of toys and treats to start with, to discover which type your kitty prefers. Playing with your new kitten is a great way for you to get acquainted with one another!

Bear in mind that cats of all ages are incredibly curious and nimble – they can and will get everywhere! Make sure you block access to any potential escape routes or dangers, such as toxic cleaning products, exposed electrical cables or potted plants that might be poisonous. You may also want to consider using pet-safe cleaning products. Don’t forget, you also need to protect your home from your kitten. Provide your new kitty with a scratching post before they resort to using your sofa!

4. Do you have a local veterinarian?

As soon as you’ve picked up your new kitten or cat, head straight to the veterinarian to have your pet examined (and treated, if necessary) for fleas and worms. Parasite control will be something you need to stay on top on for their entire lives. Your veterinarian can help you set up a regular treatment plan.

Your veterinarian will do a general check-up of their weight, eyes, ears and teeth. Vaccinations also start when a kitten is around eight weeks old, then they’ll need boosters in the first months. After that boosters can be required at least once a year for the duration of your pet’s life. Your kitten may already have been microchipped before you brought them home. If your new kitty is not microchipped yet you can discuss with your veterinarian about getting that done – even if they are an indoor cat. Cats can dart out your open door without you even realizing! You should also have your kitten spayed or neutered around six months old.

5. Are you mentally prepared?

Getting a new kitten is much more than just cuddles and cute photos. It can be stressful, hard work and exhausting – it’s not that different from bringing home a human baby! Expect some late nights and early mornings as you help your kitten adjust to their new home, as well as a few missteps as they learn to use their litter box and scratching post.

Cats are curious, independent and love exploring, so it’s important that you set some boundaries from the start. While there are bound to be some hiccups along the way, ultimately getting a new kitty will be one of the best choices you can make. You’ll be rewarded with years of happy purrs, meows and rewarding friendship.

Cat litter training is an important step for kittens – read our guide.

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