Are you thinking about adopting a kitten? Maybe you’ve already brought a little fluff ball into your life.
Table of Contents
- Are You Ready to Raise a Kitten?
- Home Preparation
- Supplies You’ll Need to Raise a Kitten
- What Should You Feed Your Kitten?
- Veterinary Care and Vaccinations
- Spaying and Neutering a Kitten
- Should You Raise a Kitten Indoors or Outdoors?
- Microchipping, Collars, and Leashes
- Playtime and Exercise
Ideally, kittens are ready for adoption at 10-12 weeks. At this age, they’ve had enough time with Mama Cat and littermates to learn almost everything they need to know. They know how to use a litter box, and they know the limits with play-nipping or scratching. They’re probably used to humans like you, and they’re big and strong as can be.
But in reality, kittens are often adopted at around 8 weeks. This isn’t a bad thing, but if you want to raise a kitten to become a healthy, happy adult — without a lot of stress or worry on your part — you’ll want to know everything you can.
Are You Ready to Raise a Kitten?
Before you adopt a kitten — or even if you have already — it’s a good idea to think it through . Here are a few things you’ll need to consider:
- Willingness to learn
- Space in your home or apartment
You’ll need time for more than just cuddles. For starters, you’ll have to train your kitten to use a new litter box plus remove waste and wash it regularly.
Your kitten will need you to play with her, groom her, trim her claws, and feed her.
You’ll have to spend money on food and supplies as well as veterinary care.
You’ll need loads of patience, too. Kittens are hilariously funny as they run around exploring and testing their strength and abilities. But they can also test your patience if you find claw marks in the curtains or a power cord chewed to shreds.
Finally, do you have enough space to raise a kitten? An average, one-bedroom apartment is usually fine. In a tiny apartment, though, get creative with cat trees, climbing towers, and bridges or walkways near the ceiling. Have a large apartment or a house? Perfect.
It’s normal for kittens to climb, jump, and chew on anything that looks interesting. Expect it. And if your kitten doesn’t act rowdy, you should probably discuss that with a veterinarian.
You can avoid most damage by making your home kitten-proof.
- If you use commercial rodent poison or insecticide, replace it with a pet-safe product. Ant and cockroach poison will kill a kitten if they ingest it.
- Hide all electrical wires. Use plug covers designed for pets, and use heavy-duty tape to secure cords along baseboards.
- Move lamps and other items to conceal cords.
- Protect electrical cords that dangle with safety covers made for pets. An old bicycle inner tube or two is perfect for a desktop PC. Just cut it in half, slide the cord through, and use tape to secure it.
- Block openings in floors, walls, or cabinets.
- Make sure all windows are closed and/or screens are in good condition.
- Fold window-blind cords and secure up high so there’s no risk of your kitten strangling.
- Keep the clothes dryer door closed and double-check before you start it.
- Keep floors clear of strings, ribbons, and anything a kitten might play with and swallow.
- Get house plants out of the way. Some are toxic to cats, but even if a plant isn’t poisonous, many kittens will dig in the dirt and harm the plant.
- Hide anything you don’t want to be damaged.
Supplies You’ll Need to Raise a Kitten
You won’t have to break the bank, but you’ll have some expenses. Here are the essentials.
- A litter box
- Food dishes
- Cat carrier
- Scratching post
It’s tempting to buy a full-sized litter box, but it must be easy for your kitten to enter and leave. You can use an old, shallow dishpan or a small plastic storage box with an entryway cut out. Even a large shoebox lined with a plastic garbage bag can work temporarily.
As for the litter, ask what kind the shelter or previous owner used, so it’s familiar to your kitten. You can change it by mixing it with the type you prefer, little by little.
Stainless steel or ceramic food and water dishes are better than plastic since plastic can harbor bacteria. Be sure bowls are wide at the base so they can’t tip over easily.
A cat carrier is essential for driving with your kitten, especially to a veterinarian visit. You might want your kitten in your lap in the waiting room, but that’s risky if a dog gets out of control. Plus the vet office may have a strict rule about carriers.
A scratching post or two is important. Kittens need to scratch as their nails grow and shed the outer layer, and you don’t want your carpet ruined. Flat pads covered with carpet or sisal rope can work, too. Many cat parents make their own. Experiment!
What Should You Feed Your Kitten?
By the time kittens are 8-10 weeks old, they’re weaned from their mother’s milk and are eating solid food.
They have special needs, however, and you won’t want to give them adult food. Kittens need more meat-based protein, fat, and calories (as well as other nutrients) than adults.
Ask the shelter or previous owner what type of food they fed your new kitten. You can start with that so it’s familiar, but if you want to change it, introduce the new food slowly while decreasing the old.
Your best bet is high-quality canned food designed for kittens. It will provide the nutrition a kitten needs in amounts his small tummy can handle.
Although dry kitten food (kibble) is fine, canned food provides moisture and doesn't need preservatives. You could consider feeding canned food and use dry food as treats.
You might also want to try frozen raw, gently cooked, or freeze-dried kitten formulas.
Remember, the better the food is, the higher the price; feeding the best quality food you can afford may help avoid health problems (and expense) later on.
Veterinary Care and Vaccinations
There are three main reasons your kitten needs a veterinarian.
First, make sure your kitten is healthy. If you adopt from a shelter, the risk is low since every adopted animal receives a thorough examination. But you’ll want to be sure.
Second, your kitten needs vaccinations against life-threatening diseases. Even indoor-only cats need vaccinations since not all serious feline diseases require contact with other cats. Viruses can exist on your clothing, shoes, or that of visitors, or even a wild animal that gets in the house.
Most states require rabies vaccines, although a few allow local governments to oversee requirements.
Vaccinations start when your kitten is 8-9 weeks old and require a series of booster shots. If you adopt from a shelter, your kitten may already have the first round of core vaccines. You’ll need to make a vet appointment or return to the shelter for booster shots and other vaccines.
You can also get your vet’s advice about flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives.
Spaying and Neutering a Kitten
Your kitten should be sterilized — spayed or neutered — whether he or she’s an indoor or outdoor cat. The obvious reason is to prevent unwanted kittens. Another reason is that sexually mature cats (6-10 months) may behave in ways you won’t enjoy:
- An unaltered male cat may urinate around the house to mark territory.
- An unspayed female cat in heat (estrus, her time of fertility) yowls constantly to attract a mate (not fun when you need to sleep).
- Female cats may also urinate randomly and act oddly for around 4-6 days every few weeks.
Sterilization also means avoiding diseases and cancer of the reproductive organs. Plus, it reduces the chances of breast cancer, as well as your chances of going crazy when your female cat is in heat.
You can get your kitten spayed or neutered as young as 8 weeks, but most veterinarians recommend anytime up to 5 months. There’s no benefit to letting a female kitten have her first heat or a litter of kittens first.
Should You Raise a Kitten Indoors or Outdoors?
You might already know you want to raise a kitten indoors and continue through adulthood. But if you want him to enjoy the great outdoors, give it some thought.
Do you live in an area with a lot of traffic? The more traffic, the more likely she’ll eventually get hit. What about stray or loose dogs and other cats? That’s another consideration, especially considering vet bills if your cat gets in a fight and is injured.
If you decide your neighborhood is relatively safe, a kitten can be allowed outside under supervision when your kitten is
- Fully vaccinated (12-14 weeks)
- Spayed or neutered
- Wearing a collar that’s designed to snap off easily if it gets caught on something and has a tag with your phone number
Supervision is necessary until your kitten’s at least 6 months old. Younger kittens can’t defend themselves against other cats, dogs, and wild animals such as hawks that can swoop down and have your kitten for lunch. Potential dangers vary according to where you live.
If you start early, you can train a kitten to walk outdoors on a leash. You can also fence your yard with cat-proof fencing or adding a cat barrier to an existing fence.
Veterinarians advise all cats to be indoor-only cats. There’s less risk of injury or death, they aren’t as exposed to parasites and diseases, and they live longer, too.
Microchipping, Collars, and Leashes
Microchipping is essential for dogs, but it’s not as common for cats. Even so, you’ll want to get your kitten microchipped in case he or she gets out and gets lost.
It’s a simple, inexpensive procedure that doesn’t hurt and does no harm.
As for a collar, it isn’t necessary if you’re raising a kitten to be indoors-only, but it’s a nice accessory. Be sure to get a collar that fits properly and easily snaps off.
You can raise a kitten to walk on a leash if you start early. Use a lightweight leash about 6-feet long that hooks to a harness. With a little patience, you can bring your kitten outdoors safely without worry.
Kittens are already grooming themselves by the time they’re 4 weeks old. Most do a good job of keeping themselves clean, and they rarely need baths.
Combing and brushing help your cat’s coat stay clean and shiny. Plus, it can prevent hairballs — excess hair ingested that can cause your kitten to vomit. If your kitten is a long-haired variety, you’ll want to prevent tangles and matting.
- Start by holding, handling, and petting your kitten frequently. Stroke gently around the ears, neck, belly, hindquarters, tail, and paws. Press the toes gently. If your kitten resists, let her go and try again later.
- Use a soft brush or comb designed for hair removal. Be gentle. She may tolerate it only for short periods of time, but you can come back to it later.
- Use warm water to dampen a towel, and wipe your kitten when you’re done brushing.
- Inspect your kitten’s ears. Look for wax build-up, redness, or discharge. Wipe gently with a soft, damp cloth, and never use cotton swabs.
- Trim your kitten’s nails carefully with cat nail trimmers. If she resists, continue to handle her toes before you try again. Press the paw to expose claws and trim only the tips. Avoid the “quick” (the pink, red, or dark part of the nail) or your kitten may howl in pain and run away.
- Offer treats to reward good behavior after each task.
Playtime and Exercise
To raise a kitten to become a healthy, happy, adult cat, lots of playtime and exercise is essential. It’s easy and loads of fun for both.
Small rubber balls are great for chasing. A small, stuffed mouse on the end of a long cord will fascinate most kittens. Wave it above her, just barely out of reach, and praise when she snags it.
An inexpensive toy that many cats love comprises a thin wire with a cardboard weight on the end. As it bounces around, kittens leap and chase it over and over. Squeaky stuffed toys are a favorite as well.
Just be sure toys don’t have small parts, like eyes, that your kitten will rip off and potentially swallow. Take them off. Your kitten won’t miss them.
Ten or fifteen minutes of energetic playtime a few times each day will help your kitten burn off energy and develop strong bones and muscle. It’s mentally stimulating, too, and it’s a chance to have fun and bond with your kitten.
Be prepared to take pics and videos to share with friends!
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