• Dr Caity Venniker

Getting a Kitten – What You Need to Know

Since the start of the pandemic, over three million households in the UK acquired a new pet(1). That equates to 11% of all households(1) and a massive increase in ownership. Dogs were the most popular new pet at 57% and cats were second at 38%(2), with younger animals being favoured over old.

Approximately three quarters of new owners reported that their pets helped them to cope mentally(1). With the isolation of lockdown and the stress of uncertain times, animals have been a huge comfort to many. At KatKin, we want to make sure that we look after our cats just as well as they look after us, so today’s article is about exactly what a new kitten needs.


Finding The Right Fit


First of all, it’s important to choose a kitten that will suit your home and lifestyle. For example, if you like long haired cats, remember that they require regular grooming; and maybe don’t choose a Siamese if you won’t appreciate a chatty cat! Try to find out a little about the breed and, if possible, the parents of the kitten.


If your kitten is still with its mother, it should ideally stay with her until around 12 weeks of age. This allows them time to learn normal feline behaviours, and also delays the stress of moving to a new environment until they are more able to cope with it.


Lastly, if you are keen to have more than one cat, it’s advisable to get two from the same litter - preferably a boy and a girl. There’s no guarantee that any cats will get along, but it’s less of a gamble if they are from the same litter, or at least together from a young age.



The Veterinary Side of Things


It’s a good idea to take your new kitten for a check up at the vet. The vet will perform a clinical exam to look for any potential issues. They will also advise you on a vaccination and deworming protocol depending on the kitten’s age and what they have received thus far.


Your kitten should be vaccinated at eight to nine weeks of age; and boosted three to four weeks later. Thereafter, cats are generally vaccinated annually.


Flea treatments are usually given monthly, depending on the product used.


Deworming is generally given every two weeks until three months of age; and then monthly until six months of age; and thereafter every three months. Flea and worm treatments must be suitable for use in cats (many dog products are highly toxic to cats). (For more information, read our blogs Deworming 101, De-fleaing 101 and Vaccines for your Cat.)


Microchipping is soon to become compulsory for cats in the UK. This is a process whereby a tiny microchip is inserted under the skin via an injection. The chip carries a number which is linked to all your details, so that you can be traced if your cat is lost. (Read more about microchipping here.)

If you are not planning to breed with your cat, it is advisable to sterilize them, usually at five to six months old. (Read everything you need to know about sterilizing your cat here.)


Home Life


A rule of thumb is to provide a litter tray for each cat in the home, and one extra. Even cats who are allowed outdoors may benefit from having the option of a tray inside. For kittens, the trays must be shallow and easily accessible. It may be helpful to place the kitten in the tray after they have just eaten or woken up; and scratch the litter with a finger – this helps them get the idea of where to go. If they do make a small mistake outside of the box, it’s worth putting it into the tray so that the smell is there to guide them, and for a while position the tray over the scene of the crime! (For more information take a look at our blog, Litter Tray 101).


A variety of resting areas should be provided, preferably at different heights; as well as scratching posts - activity centres are great for this. Environmental enrichment is especially crucial for indoor cats (read more about it here).



Your kitten needs a complete and balanced diet, and it’s advisable to expose them to a range of flavours early on. KatKin’s recipes Splash!, Bubble & Quack!, Cluck!, Gobble!, Quack! and Mooo! are all suitable for kittens from eight weeks of age. Baaa! and Oink! are at this stage only suitable from 12 months.


If you already have a cat, take a look at our blog, Introducing a New Cat to Your Home, for some tips on the best way to let them meet your kitten. And, for first time owners, don’t forget to check your home for potential toxins (Read up about feline toxins found in human food and medication here,(@chelsea this is toxins part one) and in plants, pet products and chemicals here. (@chelsea, toxins part two))


Growing Up


Play for kittens is extremely important as it helps them to express and practice normal predatory behaviours. You should play with your kitten with toys rather than your own hands and feet, to avoid encouraging the tendency to bite or scratch in the future.


Early life has a great influence on your kitten – especially from three to nine weeks of age, which is considered a critical socialization period. Ideally kittens should have a foundation of positive experiences with people, other pets, cat carriers, and gentle handling of the nails and mouth. Good behaviours should be rewarded, and punishment avoided. It’s not always possible, but a good start can go a long way towards a relaxed and cooperative cat later on.


Moving Forward


If you are planning to allow your cat access to the outdoors, this should only start from six months of age – once they are sterilized, microchipped, and their vaccinations complete. (Read about Letting Your Kitten Outside For The First Time, as well as Welcoming Your Kitten Home.)


Pet insurance can be a very worthwhile investment, and there are many different companies and options available. It may be helpful to have a chat to your vet about what they recommend.


A new pet is a wonderful blessing but also a big commitment. The kitten of today will grow into a cat that still needs you long after lockdown has ended – for, on average, the next 14 years. For most of us cat lovers, it’s never long enough, and our mature moggies are every bit as adorable as they were when they blinked at the world through baby eyes. For all that, we must concede, there is something quite exquisite about a kitten. When they enter your home, eyeing out their future with their new family, we must agree with Leonardo da Vinci when he said, “The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”


If you bring a little masterpiece into your home please post a pic on our Facebook group – we’d love to see! And if you have any queries about your new kitten, feel free to contact us at meow@katkin.com.



References:

  1. BBC News. (2021) Households ‘buy’ 3.2 million pets in lockdown. Retrieved: August 28, 2021, from: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-56362987

  2. PFMA. (2021). Pet Food Manufacturers Association. PMFA confirms dramatic rise in pet acquisition among milllennials. Retrieved August 28, 2021, from: https://www.pfma.org.uk/news/pfma-confirms-dramatic-rise-in-pet-acquisition-among-millenials-

Related Posts

See All