Who can resist the extreme cuteness and cuddliness of kittens? Adopting a kitten is a different story than adopting a fully-grown cat. Adult cats are often already trained to use the litter box and have developed their personality traits. As an owner of a new kitten, it is your job to make sure they get proper nutrition, vaccinations, and attention they need to bloom into a healthy cat. Our guide for how to take care of a newborn kitten will get you and your new kitty started on the right path.
Prepare Your Home
Litter litter boxes are step one of how to take care of a kitten. Since kittens may not be used to using the litter box, start off with two boxes and non-clumping litter. (Kittens sometimes eat litter, and clumping litter can be extremely harmful to their digestive systems). Keep the boxes in the same spot, so as not to confuse your little one. When the kitten enters your home, immediately place them in each box so they can familiarize themselves with it. Do so after meals and naps as well, to get them used to it.
Pro tip: If you find your kitten using the bathroom outside the box, try reducing their roaming space. They may be unable to locate the box by sight or smell.
In general, kittens will stay with their mother until they are able to eat solid food on their own, which happens at about 4-6 weeks of age. After this point, you can buy dry or wet food that is specially formulated for kittens. Mid-range brands and up will provide more complete nutrition, which is important to help develop their growing body.
Kittens need lots of playtime to hone their skills, develop their agility, and use up excess energy. Small toy mice are an excellent toy they can use by themselves to practice hunting. Feathers attached to strings make good toys for getting the kitten and owner active and bonding together in playtime. Scratching posts are also a must-have with any cat. Because cats have a natural instinct to sharpen their claws, they will do so on your furniture, walls, and carpet unless you provide them with a good alternative.
How to Take Care of a Newborn Kitten After They Arrive Home
Kittens need a ton of sleep. They will sleep for about 18-22 hours a day, and when they are awake, they will be extremely active. Some people like their cats to sleep in bed with them, while others don’t. If you fall in this camp, you will want to get them a cat bed and encourage them to sleep in the same spot every night. They may also love sleeping on the couch, a seat cushion, the carpet, in a box (definitely a box), or a variety of other places.
When learning how to take care of a kitten, you will find that many kittens and cats are fully capable of eating the right amount of dry food if you give them access to it at all times. Though, some cats tend to overeat. Kittens have high energy levels and need to put on weight to grow into a healthy adult. They prefer snacking and can eat 3-4 meals a day. To start out, leave dry food available to them at all times and feed them wet food twice a day. You will want to keep them on the specially formulated kitten food until they reach one year of age.
Healthy Potty Time
Tiny kittens have tiny digestive systems. They will usually defecate the same number as they eat meals, so if your kitten eats 3-4 times a day, they may poop up to four times daily. Remember to place your kitten in the litter box after meals to hopefully avoid any accidents.
One of the most important things you can do to protect the health of your growing kitten is to take them to the vet for their vaccinations. For most vaccines, you can start them at eight weeks of age, and they will need to return for several boosters as they age. The core vaccinations you will need are for rabies, panleukopenia (also known as feline distemper), feline calicivirus, and feline viral rhinotracheitis.
These diseases are very common and easy to spread, so protecting your pet early when learning how to take care of a newborn kitten will help safeguard them throughout their life. You can also ask your vet about non-core vaccinations, like for feline leukemia, which can be given to cats that are at high risk for contracting the disease.