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Kitten Care 101: Setting Up Your New Feline Companion

Advice on preparing your home, introducing your kitten to other pets and more

In partnership with our friends at Nationwide

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When the weather starts to heat up, so does kitten season. That means from now through fall – longer in warmer climates – there are kittens galore needing loving homes, like yours.

Kittens are great fun to have around, of course, and easy to raise. Taking the time to get your relationship off to the best possible start pays off with a lifetime of feline love.

Preparing your home

No matter how small your living space is, it’ll seem very big to a little kitten. Make the transition easier by limiting your new family member to a small area in your home, set up with food and water, a place to sleep and hide, a place to scratch, toys, and, of course, a litter box. This space can be anything from a bedroom to a large dog crate.

For the first couple of weeks, your kitten will stay in this dedicated area, with you spending time there cuddling and playing with the fuzzy little one. Pick up throw rugs, tie up drapes to keep your kitten from climbing them and put away any loose items including work, hobby projects, and personal effects.

The goal is to create not only a calm, quiet place to adjust, but also to focus your kitten on using the litter box and staying out of trouble. While you’ll find all kinds of litter boxes for sale, from the simplest to self-cleaning models, save those for later. Start with a box with a low side for easy entry and fill with unscented litter. Clean daily: Everyone likes a clean bathroom, and you want your new kitten to be happy with

Managing introductions

If you have other pets in the house, gradual introductions make it more likely everyone will learn to get along. When you first bring your kitten home, set the carrier in a quiet, sheltered corner with a towel over the top. After things settle down, open the door to the carrier and let your kitten choose when to come out. Keep other pets out of the
room for now so everyone can get used to each other’s smells and sounds before face-to-face introductions.

If you have another cat, never force the cat and kitten together. After your kitten has spent a few days in the designated kitten area, open the door a crack and let the two of them interact – or not – as they choose. Many cats (but not all) will eventually accept a kitten, given time to negotiate space on their own terms.

If your cat wants nothing to do with the kitten, don’t stress about it. Just be patient. Some cats just need to establish separate territories, short-term or forever. Let your cats work out the details for themselves. By the way: If you don’t have another cat, feel free to consider adopting two kittens at once!

If you have a dog, don’t allow the dog to chase or roughhouse with the kitten. Keep your dog on leash for introductions, and keep the leash clipped to their collar for a few days until the excitement wears off, so you can head off any pushy behaviour. After a couple of weeks, you may find it helpful to place a pet door across the opening to their kitty corner. This allows the kitten to escape to a safe, dogless place if they feel threatened.

Small pets need to be protected from cats, who are, after all, skilled
predators. Birds, in particular, can develop deadly infections from even brief interactions and a bite or scratch. Bunnies typically get along well with cats, though, and often make great companions. Again, let the pets pick their own speed for learning to get along.

Getting a healthy start

If you’ve adopted from a shelter or rescue group, they may have already started a vaccination schedule, added a microchip for ID and treated for parasites. Set up a wellness appointment with your veterinarian and take that information with you to continue a good preventive care regimen. Follow your veterinary healthcare team’s recommendations on preventive care, and schedule your kitten’s spay or neuter as recommended to prevent unplanned litters.

While many cats do just fine on dry food, many feline veterinarians believe that wet food is a better option. Cats tend to dehydrate easily, and wet food is an effortless way to increase water intake. To the same end, consider a pet drinking fountain: Cats are naturally attracted to clean, flowing water, and a drinking fountain encourages them to lap up hydration regularly.

Check out Nationwide’s free Pet HealthZone to learn what health issues your kitten is most at risk for at different life stages, including symptoms and treatment options. You can also get a quote at to cover everything from injuries and illnesses to wellness and preventive care, so you can choose the best cat insurance for your needs.

Eat, play, sleep

With your kitten safely home and settling into new routines, the final ingredients to good kitten-raising should be added liberally: Lots of love, snuggling and playtime. Toys such as cat “fishing poles” with feathers at the end of the line are great for bonding and exercise. Choose other safe toys that are appropriately sized and without hanging string or fraying edges.

As your kitten grows and expands their territory to the entire home, gently discourage them from habits you don’t want established, such as jumping on the counters or scratching the furniture. For the latter, you can apply double-sided tape to the scratched areas to make them unappealing, and place scratching poles, pads or cat trees nearby, praising and offering treats for use.

Don’t forget to introduce brushing/combing, nail-tip trims and tooth- brushing. It’s easy to acclimatize a kitten to these important healthcare rituals, but much harder to teach an adult cat!

Kittens are fun and generally easy to raise, and the best thing of all is having the companionship of a loving cat for years to come.


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