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How to Take Care of a Kitten

While it's always exciting to bring home a new kitten, keeping them happy and healthy brings some significant responsibility. In this post, our Leighton vets offer some tips on how to care for a kitten. 

Caring for a New Kitten

Kittens make adorable and loveable household pets. However, newborn kittens have specific needs that every owner needs to take care of. These needs will change as they mature, and a need isn't met or something is missed, it can impact their general health and longevity. Below, we'll discuss what's involved in taking care of a kitten from the time they are born until they reach six months old. 

0 – 4 Weeks Old 

Your kitten's first month will be a busy one, as they learn to walk, meow, and regulate their body temperature. If they have a mother, the mother typically does most of the work, including feeding. All you'd have to do is make sure the mother remains in good health and they their environment is kept safe and warm. Cover the floor of their crate or area with a blanket, and give them a warm bed to lie on. 

If your newborn kitten does not have a mother, take your furry friend to see a vet soon after you bring them home. Your veterinarian will assess your kitten's health and provide you with detailed instructions on how to meet your tiny little companion's needs. 

5 – 11 Weeks Old 

During this phase, your kitten will gradually stop feeding from its mother. If you are bottle-feeding your kitten, you should gradually wean them and start feeding them high-protein meals about three to four times every day. Do this by pouring the formula into a food bowl. You might add a bit of softened hard food or canned soft food to help ease them into the process.

Since your kitten's motor skills will also be improving at this stage, they will become more adventurous and you'll need to monitor them closely to make sure they don't hurt themselves or get into too much mischief. 

Keep in mind that your kitten will need a lot of supervision, interaction, and playtime when they are between the ages of two and four months.

3 – 6 Months Old 

The ideal time to adopt a kitten is when they are between the ages of three and four months old. While they are still adorable little bundles of fun, they will have hit key developmental milestones. By the time they hit four months, they'll be entering adolescence, which can be a challenging time for cat parents and require some behavioral modification. 

You should also start considering having them spayed or neutered at this point, and make the appointment before they reach the six-to-eight month mark. 

Bringing Your New Kitten Home 

Before you bring your new kitty home, it's a good idea to get prepared. Here are a few things you'll want to have on hand when your kitten arrives:

  • A litter box placed in an area that's easy for your kitten to access, but not near their food or bed
  • Cat-sized food and water dishes set up in a special spot well away from the litter box 
  • Safe hiding space and a cozy bed. This may be as simple as placing a cushion in a cat carrier with the door left open, putting some soft fabric in a small box to make a bed, or creating a luxury teepee-style bed. 
  • Scratching posts and/or interactive play tower 
  • Providing cat toys to keep your kitten entertained 
  • If possible, you might also want to bring home an item that smells  familiar to your kitten, such as a blanket their mother has slept on or a soft toy from their first home. This can help to decrease your new kitten's anxiety 
  • Specially formulated cleaner to clean up messes that are bound to happen when litter training

Kitten-Proofing Your Home 

Almost as soon as you bring them home, your kitten is sure to start exploring their new space, so get prepared by kitten-proofing your house or apartment ahead of time. Taking these steps is a good start:

  • Close gaps or repair holes in cupboards, appliances, or furniture that your kitten could become trapped in. 
  • Close doors on all appliances, such as front-loading washers, dryers, and even toilets. 
  • Cover or move any wire that may look like the ideal chew toy to your kitten, or cause your furry companion to become tangled. 

Litter Training Your Kitten 

Kittens can start litter training as young as four weeks old, when they begin weaning.

Check that the litter tray you purchase is appropriately sized for your new friend. A litter box should be about 9 inches by 13 inches to fit most kittens. However, you'll need to purchase a larger litter tray once your cat grows to its full adult size. Many cats prefer an uncovered litter box, so this may be a good choice. Uncovered litter boxes are also significantly less expensive than covered versions. 

Cats tend to prefer fine granules of litter, which are softer on their paws than thicker litter. However, they don't tend to have a preference between clumping or non-clumping, so this choice is likely yours. Some cats refuse to use litter made from corn or wheat, since it smells like food. When it comes to litter, you may have to experiment to find one your kitten will tolerate. You'll soon learn about your cat's preferences in this and other aspects of their life. 

Steps for Litter Training

Stay patient and persistent when it comes to litter training your new kitten. Kindness and positive reinforcement will go a long way to teaching your young feline friend good litterbox habits.

  1. Show your kitten the location of their new litter box and let them have a good sniff around
  2. Gently place your kitten in the litter box. In some cases, kittens will instinctively begin pawing at the litter. If they don't you could demonstrate by doing small digging motions in the clean litter with your fingers.
  3. If your kitten does not use the litter box when you sit them in it, don't worry, just be sure to place your kitten gently in the litter box whenever they wake up from a nap and after every meal. Soon they will begin using the litter box without your help.
  4. When your kitten does use the litter box appropriately provide some positive reinforcement with playtime or a small treat.
  5. If your kitten makes a mistake do not yell or punish them. Simply clean up the mess.

Keep in mind that it is essential to keep your kitten's litter box clean and fresh-smelling. Many cats will not use a dirty or smelly litter tray.


To help prevent your kitten from getting into mischief it is a good idea to spend some quality time playing with your new feline friend.

Playtime ensures that your kitten's mind is kept active and will help them to use up some of their boundless energy. If your kitten begins biting or showing predatory behaviors such as pouncing, jumping, or biting it's time to pull out a toy and rechannel your kitten's energy into more positive pursuits. This is when cat toys attached to a string and stick can come in very handy.  Change up your kitten's toys regularly to avoid boredom.

Avoid waving your fingers as a way to play. Allowing your kitten to bite at you or claw will send your cat the message that these behaviors are acceptable. Ignore bad behaviors and use positive reinforcement for good behaviors. If your kitten is biting or clawing at your feet stay perfectly still so that your kitten learns that your toes are not prey.

Use positive reinforcement to encourage appropriate behavior. 

Preventive Care for Your Kitten

No matter how old your kitten is, you should take them for their first veterinary appointment during the first week they are in your care. Your veterinarian will evaluate your kitten's health and guide you to make the right choices for their dietary needs. You'll also have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have regarding the care of your new family member.

Regular wellness exams will give your kitten their best shot at a long and healthy life. These cat checkups allow your vet to assess the overall health and well-being of your kitten including their dietary requirements. Your vet will also be able to detect any diseases early before they become severe when they are easier and more affordable to treat.

You also need to make sure your kitten gets all of its vaccinations and parasite prevention on schedule. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, and you should have them spayed or neutered when they are 5 to 6 months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.

When Your Kitten Should See a Vet

When caring for a kitten there are many things you need to keep an eye out for in every stage of your kitten's life, which could indicate a problem or even a veterinary emergency. If you see your kitten displaying any of the following signs call your vet immediately to schedule an appointment.

Newborn Kittens

Here is what you need to keep an eye out for in a newborn kitten:

  • Delays or difficulties in motor skills or coordination
  • Lethargy
  • Refusing food (especially if being bottle-fed)
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting

4 Weeks +

When your kitten is 4 weeks old or older you still need to keep an eye out for the signs above in addition to these behavioral signs:

  • Litter box usage/ not using the litter box
  • Signs of play biting or aggression
  • Fears and other concerning behaviors that should be managed when they are still young

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. If you are concerned about your pet's health, contact your veterinarian right away for diagnosis and treatment.

Does your newborn kitten need a checkup? Contact our Leighton vets today to book an appointment.

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Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Leighton animals. We currently only take pets by walk-in, so bring your pet to us today and let us help ensure their well-being.

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