Congratulations, you are now the proud caregiver of a new kitten! Over the next several weeks, months, and years you'll come to learn and experience so many wonderful things. But one of the keys to success is preparation. Make sure you have these kitten checklist items on hand before you’re distracted by a licking, happy ball of fur in the house.
Adapted from Kitten Checklist: Getting off to a Great Start written by Jessica Vogelsang, DVM
Growing kittens need a cat food that is specially formulated for their developmental stage — the “kitten” or growth life stage. Kittens need certain nutrients to grow strong bones and muscles, to feed their developing brains, and to build their immune systems without overdoing it on the calorie count.
Cat treats are highly useful in a variety of situations: distracting kitty at the vet, getting them ready for a nail trim, or even training them for basic tricks (yes, you can train a cat to sit!). Just make sure you keep the pieces small and not allow cat treats to account for more than 10 percent of your cat's total daily calories. It’s easy to overfeed cats when they are so tiny to begin with, so choose your treat portions accordingly.
Cats are naturally inquisitive, and a basket of cat toys will give them something to keep them occupied while sparing your shoelaces and calves from the ministrations of a bored kitten. Toys with feathers, crunchy fillings, and catnip are very popular. Try a few different types to see which kind your cat prefers. And don’t forget to get a scratching post or two — scratching is a normal cat behavior, and training your cat to use a post early in life can spare your furniture down the road.
Cats crave comfortable and secure snoozing spots. While a cat bed isn’t considered a necessity, most cats love having a soft space all their own. In addition to the standard pillow-like cat bed, there are elevated cat beds and cat beds integrated with cat trees to satisfy the feline’s natural desire for using vertical space.
Choosing a litter box is one of the most underrated decisions you will make as a cat owner. Covered or open litter box? Manual or automatic litterbox? Scented or unscented litter box? While many people choose litter boxes (and cat litter) based on their own preferences, it’s vital to keep in mind that your cat’s preferences are the deciding factor in whether or not he or she will use it. Also, if you have more than one cat, you should have extra litter boxes to avoid problems. The rule of thumb is to have n + 1 boxes in the house, where n = the number of cats.
Cats are generally fastidious, but they can get sick or make messes just like everyone else. There are plenty of cleaning supplies on the market depending on your flooring and your preferences. Choose a product labeled "pet safe" to ensure the product is non toxic when ingested. Enzymatic cleaners, which specifically break down proteins such as the ones found in urine, are very helpful for those house training and spraying incidents.
Yes, cats can be trained to walk outside on a leash and harness. In fact, many find this a wonderful way for a young kitten to explore the outdoors in a safe manner. Of course, it's ultimately up to you.
A cat collar, meanwhile, can hold ID tags but should not be attached to a leash. In most cases, a collar that expands is the safest for inquisitive cats to prevent accidental stangulation.
Don’t forget a solid, comfortable cat carrier, too. Your kitten will spend a good deal of time shuttling back and forth to the vet during those first few months. Make the trip pleasant by investing in a well ventilated, easy to open and close, secure carrier with padding inside. Your cat — and your vet — will thank you.
Finally, and most importantly, before you bring that new kitty home, make sure you have established a relationship with a veterinarian. Your new four-legged bundle of fur will require ongoing care and advice from a veterinarian. Don't be afraid to ask questions, either! A veterinarian can help you make decisions about several things, including vaccinations, neutering, and diet based on what is best for your new kitten!