Bringing a new kitten home is very exciting, but some prep work ahead of time can go a long way to making your kitten as comfortable and safe as possible. Consider how to kitten-proof your home ahead of time, set up the necessary supplies your kitten needs, and get on the same page with any family members about how to acclimate your kitten to their new home. Here's how to set kitty up for success, from the drive home all the way through your first several days together.
Before You Bring a Kitten Home
Create a Kitten Zone
If you live alone, create a designated "kitten zone" for where your kitten will be kept at least the first few days. Kittens are small, and while they like to explore, too much space can mean they forget how to get back to the litter box, their food and water, or get trapped in a dangerous space. Make sure the space is small — a small bathroom would do well. Try to pick a room that doesn't have a ton of appliances they can climb behind or under, like a laundry room. It just needs to be big enough for their litter box, food and water, and a small bed.
If you live with others, make sure everyone in the house is on the same page with where the kitten zone is, and that the kitten will be there whenever unsupervised. This step is important for any kitten, but especially if you already have resident pets. A gradual introduction, rather than drop-and-go, can keep everyone safer and help your new kitten thrive.
Make a Vet Appointment
If possible, get your new kitten to a veterinarian within the first 48 hours of being brought home. Your vet will perform a basic health check to make sure the kitten has no obvious illnesses, parasites, or defects. They'll also receive any vaccinations due at that time, and you'll make an appointment for the next set while you're there.
Shelters and rescues often spay and neuter kittens before adopting them out, but if your cat hasn't been fixed, you can talk to your vet about scheduling that at your visit.
Get Supplies: What Kittens Need
Even though kittens are small, they need a lot of supplies. Set up the basics — food, water, bed, and litter box — in your kitten zone and make sure it's kitten-proofed, then expand the zone and the kitten proofing as kitty gets access to more space.
Find out what kind of food and litter your kitten is using now and buy the same. Even if you plan to change it later, using the same food can avoid tummy upset and same litter can help your kitten avoid accidents.
- High-quality kitten food (wet and dry).
- Food and water bowls
- A litter box, scooper, and non-clumping litter
- A bed for kitty to snuggle in
- Cat carrier
- A few cat-safe toys
- A small brush for grooming your kitten
- A small collar with an identification tag
- A scratching post
- Kitten nail trimmers
Even if you plan to move to clumping litter later, kittens need unclumping cat litter to avoid potential intestinal blockages.
Kitten-Proof Your House: Here's How
Kittens are babies and, like babies, like to get into everything! If you have a corner or an electrical chord you don't want them near... yup, they'll get there. Here's a simple checklist for kitten-proofing your home:
- Insert childproof electric plug protectors in all unused outlets.
- Remove breakable items from shelves and tables that your kitten could knock over.
- Cover exposed wires to prevent chewing.
- Be sure the windows have secure screens on them at all times.
- Tie all blind and curtain cords out of reach.
- Pick up rubber bands, tacks, paper clips, string, and any other small items that could be ingested.
- Remove any plants from your home that might be toxic to your kitten.
- Block off any small spaces the kitten could squeeze into and hide or get stuck.
Getting Your New Kitten Home
Congratulations! You're ready to bring kitten home. But how to get them there?
Use a Cat-Safe Carrier
Although it may be tempting to hold your kitten during the drive, it is far safer to buy a small pet carrier and line it with a blanket to keep your kitten comfortable and safe. If possible, have someone come with you to either drive or keep an eye on the kitten while you drive.
Be Prepared for Accidents
It's not uncommon that kittens pee and poop in a carrier on the way home. If this happens, wait until you're home to give kitty a wash. The last thing you want is a poop-covered kitten getting loose in your car!
Go Straight to the Vet or the "Kitten Zone"
If possible, bring your kitten to the vet before bringing them home, especially if you have other pets. If not, put them safely in your new kitten zone and sit with them. This is a great place for you to start the bonding process.
Don't force kitty out of their carrier once you're home. Try opening the door and reading quietly aloud, or playing some relaxing music to help coax kitty out.
Your First Day With Your New Kitten
Even if you don't have any other pets in your home, you'll still want to confine your new kitten to a single room because giving them free rein of your house can be overwhelming for them. This also allows them to learn where their food, water, and litterbox are.
Plan to spend as much time as possible in the kitten zone with your new family member. Bring toys, but also try things like reading aloud so the kitten can get used to the sound of your voice. It's tempting, but don't let your kitten out for at least a few days. This will help increase their confidence and sense of safety.
Can I Leave My Kitten Alone While I Sleep?
Yes. The best way to acclimate your kitten to their new environment is by providing them with a quiet space for the first few days. This means it's usually best to have your kitten sleep in their own room for their first night.
Try to bring a blanket or bed from their previous home, whether that was a foster or the rescue, that has a familiar scent on it. That can provide them with some comfort and help them adjust to their new surroundings.
Consider adding a heating pad on low or a ticking clock to your new kitten's bedding. This can mimic another cat's heartbeat and warmth and help them feel safer.
How to Soothe a Crying Kitten
Just like puppies, kittens can cry when they first come home with you. Kittens usually cry if they're hungry or if they're trying to get your attention, so first make sure that all their basic needs are met, like food, water, a clean litter box, and a warm bed.
It's extremely common for kittens to cry at the door of the "kitten zone" once they settle in a bit. They're calling to you for attention and affection and this is good. However, if your kitten continues crying once you're in the room and does so excessively, have your vet rule out a medical issue.
Gradually Introduce Your Kitten to Their New Home
Watch your kitten's body language over their first few days. Some kittens will feel comfortable right away, whereas others might need more time to adjust.
When they begin to look confident and content, you can introduce them to the rest of the house piece by piece. To do this, open the door to their room and let them explore for short, supervised periods. Make sure they know where their "safe room" is and can retreat there if they become overwhelmed.
Use a lot of treats and positive reinforcement to create a positive experience around all the new things your kitten interacts with. You'll also want to do this with handling.
Give Your New Kitten Time
Bringing a new kitten home is definitely fun, but it will take time for the newcomer to get used to her new family. Introduce the kitten slowly to other members of your household and the house. The slower you go, the better. She'll be more confident and relaxed with each step and pretty soon it'll be like she's always been there.