Bringing home a new kitten is fun, exciting, and maybe just a smidge overwhelming. I mean... there is so much to consider! If you're getting ready for your brand new mini-cat, don't let the details bog you down. This short, snappy little guide will help set you up with all of the things you need to be ready for the new arrival!
When bringing home a new kitten, the litter box and all of its accoutrements are top priority. One mistake a lot of people make is picking out boxes that are incredibly small. Remember, your kitten is going to grow - and quickly! Of course, you want that little guy to be able to get in and out of his bathroom, so an extra large box will probably be too much. Most regular-sized litter trays, though, are small enough to get you started, but big enough to grow with your teensy little feline. You can also opt for a larger box with a low entry, which is convenient if you have a multi-cat household.
You will also want to select the right style of litter, not only for your new kitten, but also for your lifestyle. There are numerous options on the market. For instance, there are the common clay varieties that can be found in just about any store. The benefit of clay litters is that they are, in fact, so ubiquitous, and are also fairly inexpensive. The downside of this type is that it can be pretty weighty, dusty, and is not biodegradable. Some of the more earth-friendly options include highly absorbent walnut shell, recycled paper pellets, and super-green grass litter.
Though not mandatory, you might also want to consider some litter box accessories. Heavy duty scoops - which, actually are mandatory if you choose a clumping litter - are generally inexpensive, and just make life easier. As do litter-trapping mats, scoop holders, and box covers.
Food and Bowls
Picking the right food for your new kitten can be tricky, but if you follow a few simple guidelines, you'll be able to satisfy your little one, and also ensure that he grows up to be the strong and healthy big cat that he is meant to be! One major rule to follow, though, is to avoid feeding your little one adult cat food. This option might seem convenient - keeping your kitty on the same food throughout his whole life, or sharing food between your kitten and your mature cats - but unfortunately, adult foods usually do not contain the appropriate nutrients or the right ratios to help your kitten thrive.
The first thing to keep in mind when picking out food is calories. Because mature cats have already grown into their full majesty, and because they tend to expend quite a bit less energy than they did in their kittenhoods, they do not require a ton of calories in their diets. Kittens, on the other hand, use up about half of their calorie intake just on growth. The other half, of course, is spent on their excess of energy. Said simply, try to find calorie rich foods to help your new kitten grow! Also be sure to keep an eye out for higher proteins and fats, as these are just as important as calories.
Next, look out for nutrients. As is true with calories, there are certain nutritional components that are more important for immature cats than for their full-grown counterparts. For example, DHA is incredibly important for the development of your kitty's nervous system, while a proper ratio of phosphorus and calcium is essential for healthy bone and teeth growth.
Finally, find the right bowls to hold all of that food - and water, of course. Like litter boxes, the draw of teensy tiny kitten bowls can be all too alluring, but as your fuzzy little friend's body grows, so too will his head. As a result, in only a couple of months, his sweet little face just might not make it into that bowl. That said, go for the "adult-sized" bowl right from the start. You'll also have to decide between materials. Ceramic-style bowls are some of the easiest to find, and with good reason - they are easy to clean and relatively inexpensive. Other options include glass, stainless steel, and plastic - though, many people prefer to avoid plastic, as it can cause allergic reactions in some animals.
*Although these are all fabulous options, please speak with your vet or another pet professional before deciding on your kitten's new foods.
Cat toys are absolutely mandatory when you bring home a new kitten. Why, you ask? Well, at this point in their lives, kitties are vibrant, vigorous, rambunctious balls of fluff that need to disburse all that excess energy. If they don't? Well, then you, your other household members, and your house itself will pay the price for it - namely in scratched shins and obliterated curtains. Of course, playtime isn't just about keeping your kitty calm - it also helps hone all of his natural instincts.
Finding the right toy for your new little buddy is simply trial and error at this point. During this time, not only are you learning about his personality... so is he, so your best bet is to gather up a small variety of inexpensive items. It's a good idea to find play things that help him hone his natural instincts - for instance, fishing pole-style teasers, fast-moving electronic mice, and noisy crinkle or bell balls. If your kitty is very young, you might also want to look into more comforting toys, like plushy kickers or soft pillows. You'll find that some of them are quickly abandoned, while others are played with... well... to death. Keep tabs on your new kitty's favorites, and stock up on them later.
Posts, Trees and Scratchers
All right, so you might be wondering what the difference is between a cat post, a scratcher, and a cat tree. Well, it's pretty simple, really. A post is exactly that: a sturdy, medium-thick column post that is generally circled in sisal or jute rope, and usually grounded and topped with small, carpet covered platforms. These occasionally come with hanging toys or catnip pockets; however, they are otherwise fairly plain.
Cat scratchers can be either simple or complex. They are typically made up of highly scratchable materials - like corrugated cardboard or sisal fabric - and are kept low to the ground. In most cases, scratchers are meant exclusively for scratching, but many exciting cat toy manufacturers are making these simple items more interesting - adding interactive dangly toys, making the scratchers bigger and furniture-shaped, and using unusual materials like soft woods.
Finally, you have cat trees. These things come in a mind-boggling number of variations, and no matter your home, your cat, or its intended purpose, you are bound to find something that fits in beautifully. Trees can range from small, low-to-the-floor houses, to massive kitty mansions. But size isn't the only thing that makes trees different from posts. Unlike their simpler counterparts, cat trees are not simply meant for scratching. These fantastic pieces of furniture also usually boast plenty of enclosures for hiding, platforms for napping, and multiple posts for... well... scratching.
So should you get a tree, a scratcher, or a post? At a minimum, you should keep a post in your new kitten survival kit. As he grows, though, you might want to consider investing in something a little larger or more interactive. But, of course, it will depend on the space you have in your home, and also on what your cat likes and doesn't like. Although you might be riveted by some of the extraordinary contraptions on the market, your feline may not be.
Cats sleep pretty much wherever they want, so bedding might not be essential. However, being so young and tiny, your new kitten would benefit from a cozy, warm spot to snooze in. Just as with other items in this guide, you will want to get a cat bed that will grow with your kitty, so no need to opt for kitten-sized beds - instead, find something with lots of cushiness, but sized to fit your available square footage. You might also want to consider hangable perch beds for either the wall or a window that can be fitted with a comfy cushion or soft blanket. The advantage of going this route is that your kitten's bed can double as a play spot or hiding space.
Although your new kitten might be destined for house cat royalty, there will be times when you'll have to travel with him - for instance, if you need to move house or during vet visits. In fact, the latter will likely come up quite a bit in the early days. That said, you will want to find a decently-sized crate or carrier. If you plan to travel a lot with your cat, you might also want to start training him with a harness and/or collar and leash at this point, so be sure to keep these on hand as well. If you're going to use a collar, it would also be smart to have some tags attached, just to keep things nice and safe.
Although the above items are absolutely essential, there are a few other things you might want to have handy before you bring your new kitten home. For example, in case accidents happen - and they likely will - you will be glad you invested in a good enzymatic cleaner. Pet hair rollers, grooming items like cat combs and nail clippers, as well as training books and videos will all make nice additions to your new kitten survival kit.
Bringing home a new kitten is some pretty exciting stuff, but there is so, so much that goes into the preparation. If you've been planning this arrival for some time, you likely already have many of these things on hand. If not, I hope that this guide has given you enough information to get you rolling and ready!
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