New Kitten – What Now?

So you got a new kitten? Congratulations and welcome to the crazy cat lady or gent starter kit! I want to talk about everything to expect when you are expecting a new mini-lion. In the excitement of bringing a new addition home, we often forget about the little extras that can be super important to making your new kitten safe, happy and comfortable with their new surroundings, so here are a few tips.

1. You already have a cat at home and you are bringing in a new kitten?

No problem! Put the new kitten in a room with a litter box, some toys, water, etc, and close the door. This allows your new kitten and your current cat to sniff each other through the door. This allows them to get comfortable with each before coming face to face. When they do eventually come face-to-face growling and asserting dominance from the older cat is normal. Don’t step in unless they begin to physically fight. They need to be able to figure out where everyone sits in the hierarchy of the home. Give them the space to figure that out. The more you intervene, the longer this will take.

2. This is your first cat? Congrats! They are wonderful – but how do you get them used to your home?

Cats are fairly independent creatures but will need some basic guidance. You will need to show them where the litter box is. I find the best way to do this is to put them directly into the litter box so they are aware of where it is. Cats are intuitive and will remember and keep coming back to the litter box. Give them space and time to explore. As tempting as it is to want to snuggle them right away and try to play and talk with them, and generally love them, it’s important that they have time to explore their surroundings. Cats need to feel comfortable and confident in their space.

3. Mr. Snugglesworth is now scratching your furniture and climbing your curtains? No worries! Here’s what you can try.

Kittens have a lot of pent-up energy and, when they want to play, they go full tilt. This sometimes means destruction. If you don’t have scratching posts in your home get some now! They will save your furniture. When you see them scratching your furniture, do not spray them, simply pick them up and put them on the cat tree – redirect the destructive behaviour. Same thing with climbing curtains or destroying toilet paper rolls – redirect to a toy like a catnip mouse. Spend a lot of time tiring them out with laser light toys or toys on a string. Another technique for high energy cats is the “hunt/work for their food” technique. Make them play hard – to the point where they are panting – they’ll stop when they are done or tired, then feed them. Their instinct is to hunt to kill so recreate this with regular play. You can also spread their kibble around the home in small amounts and make them hunt for it or use a feeder ball.

4. How to properly feed my kitten?

No matter what diet you purchase, whether it’s low-end pet store food, ‘organic holistic all natural’ food or high-end vet diets, you MUST feed them the right amount. Cats are prone to obesity, which can lead to many health problems in the future including diabetes and arthritis (amongst other issues). Read the bag for the caloric intake, come to the clinic and discuss your diet with our nutritional counselor – we will use the diet you are currently feeding but ensure you are feeding the right amount to keep them trim and healthy. Timed feeding is also very important to get them used to at a young age. Grazing or free-feeding encourages weight gain when it is not controlled. If you have multiple cats, they will eat each other’s food when it is left out.

5. When should I vaccinate Mr. Snugglesworth?

Kittens need three sets of vaccines starting at eight weeks. They will receive another set at 12 weeks and the final set at 16 weeks. At Dartmouth Veterinary Hospital you can go with our kitten bundle which includes all the basics for your kitten including vaccines, exam and deworming. (We cannot advertise pricing online due to regulations – if you are interested in cost please feel free to contact the clinic directly). Routine testing for communicable diseases such as Feline Leukemia is important as well and is available for an additional fee.

6. When does Mr. Snugglesworth need to be neutered?

We typically want to spay or neuter cats at 6 months of age. They have typically done the majority of their growing at this point and we want to complete this before females go into their first heat OR before males start spraying around your home.

It seems like a lot of work – and it should. Cats are a much bigger responsibility than we often think and need a lot of attention, stimulation, and care. Ensure you provide them with lots of toys, scratchers, and space to run around. Think about all of these facets before adopting. Are you able to give them everything they need to live a happy and healthy life? And remember, there is no such thing as a free cat! Remember to expect cost associated with their health care, and general life care – food is never free no matter where you buy it, toys, emergency care, vaccines, regular flea medicine, etc. Most of all – have fun and enjoy your new kitten!


Written by Blair Lutes

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