Caring for your new kitten

Congratulations on the new addition to your family and thank you for giving a rescue kitten a second chance!

There’s a lot of information to take in when you collect your new friend and this guide gives a summary of some of the key bits of information you may find useful during the first few weeks of kitten ownership.

Of course, you may have further questions.  Please contact our shelter if you have queries you'd like to discuss. 

Just like humans, some kittens are outgoing and confident in new situations, whilst others find change more challenging.  With this in mind, there are some things you can do to make your new arrival feel as comfortable and safe as possible in their new home.

  • A safe haven – having the roam of a large and unfamiliar house, perhaps with unknown children and unknown other pets, can be very frightening for some kittens. If at all possible we recommend setting up a safe-haven for your wee one.  This can be any area to which you can restrict the access of other household members – a spare bedroom is ideal if possible.    This is where you will set up your new pet’s food, litter tray, bed, scratch-post, toys etc initially.  For some kittens, a few hours in the safe-haven is enough.  For others, a longer period (maybe up to a week) may be needed.  Your kitten will let you know when they are ready to explore further afield within their home – they will be eating and toileting normally and probably making efforts to leave the room!   Once out, make sure your kitten can return to their safe space should they wish.
  • On arrival back home – when you get home, take your kitten, still in the carrier, to the safe-haven area.  Set the carrier down and open the door.  Let the kitten decide when it is ready to come out.  A confident kitten may jump straight out of the basket and want attention, whereas others may just want to sit there for a time, getting used to the smells and sounds of their new environment.  Leave the kitten to explore their surroundings at their own pace.  Don’t be alarmed if your kitten hides – remember this is scary stuff!  The key thing – let your kitten dictate the pace.
  • Initial interactions – again, let the kitten dictate the pace. Spend time in the room with the kitten, playing if they want to play, stroking and cuddling if this is what they want, or just talking to them and getting them used to the sound of your voice if they are more timid.  Always let the kitten come to you.   Small children should be supervised at all times around the kitten to prevent injury to the kitten.
  • Introducing other cats – kittens are usually quick to accept existing cats; for the existing cat it may take longer.  When you feel your new addition is happy with your home and the humans, then tackle introducing other animals:
    • Swap scents – switch over cats blankets so each gets to recognize the scent of the other
    • Introduce at feeding time – set up their bowls in the same room, but a distance apart, and feed together. Hissing and growling at this stage is to be expected – do not be alarmed!  Keep them supervised at this stage.
    • If you’re lucky, your cats will very quickly be comfortable around each other, but until you are 100% happy that they are, do not leave them alone together unsupervised (e.g. over night).  An overzealous kitten can easily be injured by a older cat who is feeling unsettled by the new arrival. 

What and how often should I feed my kitten?
At the Shelter our kittens get fed several times a day. Small but frequent meals tends to work best. We do not feed our kittens any one specific brand of food, but we do tend to use food in jelly rather than gravy which can cause an upset tummy.  You will be advised if your kitten has been used to eating kitten food or adult food.

We suggest sticking to this routine for at least until you feel the kitten is settled.  

If your kitten is on a kitten food diet (which is higher in nutrients than adult cat food) we recommend you discuss the appropriate time to transition to adult food with your vet – the ideal time varies from animal to animal depending on how active and how greedy they are!

What should I give my kitten to drink?
Make sure fresh and clean water is available at all times.  It’s preferable to avoid giving them milk- some kittens are intolerant to lactose in cows milk and they can develop an upset stomach.

What about other treats?
At the Shelter our kittens are used to getting treats  – specific cat treat products or small bits of ham, chicken and tuna.  It’s not necessary to carry on giving treats but if you want to, give small amounts infrequently.

My new kitten seems off its food – should I worry?
Moving into a new home can be stressful for your kitten and it’s not uncommon for them to go off their food for a short period of time.  Don’t worry if your kitten doesn’t demolish the food you put down for them when they first get home.   Until the kitten knows you, it may feel uncomfortable eating with an audience, so if it seems nervous, try and set them up with their food bowls in a quiet place, where they can have some privacy.  Nervous kittens in particular are much more likely to eat (and toilet) when you are not there.   Treats of ham, chicken and tuna can be helpful in getting your kitten’s taste buds going.  If after two days you believe your kitten still isn’t eating or drinking (or toileting) contact our shelter for advice.

We recommend you keep your kitten inside until they have been neutered and chipped – usually at around 6 months of age.  During this time you will need to provide a litter tray.

How many litter trays should I provide and what litter should I use?
A general rule is a minimum of one litter tray per kitten.  However some prefer to have two litter trays to themselves and you will be advised if your new kitten has this preference.  At the Shelter we typically use wood-based litter, although on occasion we will also use grit litter.  Most kittens are not particular about the type of litter in their tray, but you will be advised at the time of rehoming if your kitten has a known preference.

Where should the tray be placed?
Initially you may have a tray set up in the safe-haven room.  Once your kitten has access to his entire new home, you may want to move this tray.  If possible set the tray up in a quiet position where your kitten can have some privacy in using it, and on a non-carpeted surface.  Show your kitten where the new tray is.  When moving the tray, your kitten may be adaptable enough to understand immediately that their tray has moved – however some kittens don’t understand this immediately and will want to go back to the place where the tray was initially.  In this case, keep the new tray in it’s desired area and move the old box gradually nearer to it (a foot or so a day).

My new kitten hasn’t been to the toilet yet – should I worry?
Kittens are able to keep their legs crossed for several days and at times of stress they often do.   Unless your kitten appears to be distressed with unsuccessfully trying to go to the toilet, try not to worry.  If you adopt a kitten and it hasn’t been to the toilet after 3 days, please contact us for advice.  If your kitten appears to be distressed by failed toileting attempts contact our shelter immediately.

My new kitten has sickness and diarrhoea – what should I do?
It is not uncommon for a new kitten to have an upset tummy when arriving into their new home, and in the first days some sickness and diarrhoea is not uncommon.  Make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water, and stick to lighter wet food (chicken and fish rather than meat).  If the sickness and diarrhoea persists for more than 2 days please contact our shelter for advice.

How often should I clean the litter tray?
At the Shelter all our litter trays are emptied and washed on a daily basis.  Cats are clean creatures and many will refuse to use a tray they consider to be dirty, so keeping the tray clean is in your best interest

LCR will never knowingly rehome a kitten that is unwell and all our kittens are health checked by our vet prior to being rehomed.  Details of the vet treatment provided to your kitten during its stay with us are included on your adoption agreement.  However like people, kittens can become unwell at any time and on occasion an underlying condition can surface shortly after rehoming. 

During the 2-3 weeks after rehoming a kitten, please contact our shelter immediately if you have any concerns about the health of your kitten, and we can arrange for the kitten to be seen at our vet, at our cost.  Please note we cannot cover the cost of any treatment given in this period if you choose to use your own vet.

We recommend that your kitten is microchipped by your vet at the same time that it is neutered.

Vaccinations help provide protection against diseases which cannot be treated otherwise. Kittens can be vaccinated against flu, enteritis, feline leukaemia virus and rabies (if travelling abroad).

Kittens usually obtain antibodies from their mother which provide protection against infectious disease for the first few weeks of life but these start to wear off leaving them open to infections. From this is the point when a vaccination course is administered to help protect the kitten.

Kitten vaccination courses usually involve two sets of vaccinations, the first at nine weeks of age, the second at twelve. The kitten is then fully protected about a week after the second part of the course. As immunity declines with age, annual booster vaccinations help to keep your cat up to date with protection.

We have agreed substantially discounted rates for vaccinations with a number of local vets, and should you wish to vaccinate your kitten, you will have been provided with a discount voucher for the vet closest to you. The vet will advise on the most appropriate vaccinations for your kitten.

All kittens leaving our Shelter have been treated for fleas and worms. The dates on which these treatments were given are written on your adoption agreement. 

In relation to fleas, there are two types of treatment we use: a spot-on which provides one month’s worth of protection or a spray, which provides three months’ protection.

In relation to worms, we typically protect our kittens with a tablet wormer.  At the Shelter  we do this every three months to ensure our cats remain worm-free.

It is important to keep your kitten up to date with these treatments, and we recommend that only vet-approved treatments be used.  Please DON’T USE supermarket products  – including flea collars – since at best these are ineffective and at worst they can actually cause serious harm to your kitten.

We recommend you  discuss the most appropriate ongoing flea and worm treatment with your vet.

Neutering is a surgical procedure which prevents cats having kittens.

If you rehome a kitten or young cat, we will provide a voucher to cover their neutering procedure at our preferred practices. Neutering must happen before 6 months of age and some veterinary practices will now carry this out at 4 months of age. We will follow up owners of rehomed kittens to ensure they have had their kitten neutered.

Medical health insurance helps support you financially should your kitten become unwell.

Veterinary fees can be a significant expense and so  small monthly or annual premiums can prevent you being faced with an unexpected bill of several hundreds or even thousands of pounds, as well as allowing your cat access to the best possible care.  

We recommend you discuss the most appropriate pet health insurance cover for your kitten with your vet.