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Six things to do before getting a new kitten

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From choosing a breed to bringing them home, this checklist will help you find the right kitten for you and your family, and will help keep your kitten healthy from the moment you bring them home.
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Choosing to bring home a new kitten can be an exciting experience, but it’s just the beginning. Once you’ve made the decision, you’ll need to pick the right kitten for you, prepare your home for the new arrival and find a vet if you don’t already have one.

Take some time to plan and prepare properly so your new kitten has all it needs to live a long, happy and healthy life in its new home. Follow this checklist to start.

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A kitten playing with a cat toy on a string

Decide what kind of cat you want and where to get it 

Deciding what type of cat you want can feel overwhelming. Your decision will be influenced by where you get your cat: either through a cat rescue centre or a reputable breeder. If you choose to adopt through a rescue centre, you may not be able to find certain cat breeds, but the centre staff will help match you with your ideal companion. If you have your heart set on a specific breed, buying a kitten from a breeder may work better for you.

Regardless of whether you adopt or purchase a new kitten, ask yourself these questions when choosing a cat:

  • How many hours will you be able to spend with your kitten?
  • Will they be an indoor cat or an outdoor cat?
  • Will they be living with other animals?
  • What coat length would you like?
  • How often will you be able to groom your cat?

A clear list of requirements and preferences will make it easier to find a kitten that suits you and your lifestyle. Additionally, take the time to consult with your local vet or cat rescue on the potential health issues of certain breeds.

Make sure the kitten is at least 12 weeks old 

Experts advise that you should leave a kitten with their mother until they are at least 12-13 weeks old. By this age, the kitten will have learnt essential life skills from their mother, including how to eat independently and use a litter box.

Kittens also learn valuable social skills from their fellow littermates during this time, so try not to adopt a kitten younger than 12 weeks old.

Purchase the essential supplies 

Before bringing home your kitten, you should have, at a minimum, these essentials:

  • A warm box, basket or bed in a quiet place to sleep
  • Cat food suited for your kitten’s age and development
  • Food and water bowls ·
  • A litter tray and litter – one litter tray for each cat in the household, plus one extra just in case

You might also consider purchasing these items:

  • A secure cat carrier to bring your kitten home for the first time ·
  • Toys and treats to encourage mental stimulation and aid in training
  • Grooming supplies like a brush and nail clippers
  • A scratching post
  • A collar with a tag containing your contact information
  • A leash and harness if you plan on leash training your cat
  • A toothbrush and toothpaste made for cats

Prepare your home for your new kitten 

Bear in mind that kittens are incredibly curious and will try to explore everywhere. Block access to potential escape routes or dangers such as toxic cleaning products, exposed electrical cables or potted plants that are poisonous to cats (e.g. lilies).

You may also want to consider using cat-safe cleaning products. And don’t forget, as well as protecting your kitten from your home, you also need to protect your home from your kitten. A scratching post or cat tree can help your new cat release any excess energy and keep your sofa and other furniture safe from their growing claws.

Choose a vet and make your first appointment 

Within a couple of weeks of owning your new kitten, you should take them to the vet to have them examined (and treated, if necessary) for fleas and worms. You will need to stay on top of parasite control for your cat’s entire life, so ask your vet about the best ways to do this.

Your veterinary appointment can also be used as an opportunity for your kitten to have a general check-up, including of weight, eyes, ears and teeth. Vaccination should also be discussed with your veterinarian as they are an important part of a kitten’s life, usually given starting at around nine weeks old, and you’ll need to keep up with them at least once a year. Your new kitten should also be neutered at around four months of age.

Your kitten may already have been microchipped before you brought them home, but if not, arrange for this to be done as soon as possible by your veterinarian or an authorized implanter. Microchipping is an invaluable resource and helps ensure your cat doesn’t stay lost for long, should they ever wander too far away from home. Microchipping for cats is mandatory in ACT, NSW, QLD, VIC, WA and TAS. Check your local Council registration requirements for cats; and be sure to check local rules and regulations on them straying beyond your property.

Prepare and educate yourself

Getting a kitten is much more than just cuddles and cute photos. Training and taking care of your new kitten can be stressful and exhausting work. Expect some late nights and early mornings as you help your kitten adjust to their new home, as well as a few ‘accidents’ as they learn to use their litter tray and scratching post.

Cats are curious, independent and love exploring, so it’s important to set some ground rules in the beginning. While there are bound to be some hiccups along the way, ultimately getting a kitten will be one of the best choices you can make, and you’ll be rewarded with infinite happy purrs and meows!

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