If you're a cat lover, there are few things more joyous than welcoming a new kitten to your family. And if you've never had a cat before, all the more reason to be excited. Whether you're new to being a kitten parent or are an experienced cat lover, there are a number of things to buy and prepare for your new arrival, and we've laid everything out to help your new kitten settle in.
Preparing for a new kitten
Kittens are fluffy little balls of fur that your heart just can't resist. But at the same time, they're fluffy balls of fur with sharp claws they haven't figured out how to use yet, they're young hunters with a strong prey drive that makes them want to pounce on everything, and they need to be taught how to do basic things like use a litter box. Kittens need a warm, safe place to snuggle and sleep and toys that stimulate them and help them figure out how to use their sharp claws and teeth in an appropriate manner.
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Food for kittens
Kittens are growing so fast that food for a kitten has more nutrients and fat, along with important vitamins and minerals, so that their swift development can be supported. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals calls kittens "baby carnivores with special needs."
Kittens naturally start to wean off their mother's milk at around eight weeks old. Because kittens grow so fast, they need a balanced, high-quality food that is formulated specifically for the life stage of kittenhood. It is best to start feeding wet kitten food while they're young so that their teeth and gums can become stronger, and then introduce dry kitten food later. Kittens should be offered food at least four times per day.
Our Pick: Purina Pro Plan Focus Kitten Food - Chicken & Rice
Kittens want to start nibbling solid food around four weeks old, but their teeth aren't fully developed enough to crunch on hard kibble. A food like this Purina Pro Plan Development Formula in Chicken and Rice flavor that is formulated for kittenhood can be moistened to give your kitten the flavor to encourage them to eat and the nutrition to get a great start in life.
The first ingredient is chicken, and each serving contains DHA, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and vitamin A, which promote healthy vision, skin, and coat, and brain development. There are no artificial colors or flavors in this kitten food.
Our Pick: Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition Thin Slices in Gravy
Royal Canin's Feline Health Nutrition Thin Slices in Gravy will be a delicious and high-quality food that will tempt your little carnivore with meaty gravy and thin meat slices to get them used to eating solid food. Since kittens need specific nutritional requirements, it's important to use a food that is formulated for the right stage.
This one is ideal for kittens between four months and one year old. Since their teeth are still small, this food's tiny, thin meat slices in gravy are made with optimal levels of fat, protein, and nutrients to maintain healthy growth.
- Easy to chew
- Contains antioxidants and vitamins for immune system development
- Helps digestion with proteins, fiber, and prebiotics
Water and food bowls for kittens
Kittens will gain weight quickly from the ages of two to six months. Kittens need access to fresh water at all times and should have small meals several times a day. Because they aren't full-size yet, having small food bowls that are close to the ground makes it comfortable for your cat to eat and drink easily. Purina says a day's serving of dry kibble or wet food can be placed in a food bowl all at once and left out for the day, or divided in half for twice-a-day meals.
A seven-week to five-month-old kitten should be eating from 1/3 to 1 cup of dry food each day. A kitten aged six months to one year should be eating 2/3 to 1 1/4 cups of dry food each day.
Our Pick: MPP Kitten Low Height Shallow Feeding Bowls, 5-Count
Since kittens have to eat and drink so frequently, it just makes sense to have a set of bowls that are easy to clean. These dishwasher-safe stainless steel bowls definitely fit that bill. These bowls have a low height, which makes them suitable for a tiny kitten's size, and they'll last for years so you can use them as a feeding bowl throughout your cat's life if you wanted to. They're six inches wide and can hold 14 ounces. As a bonus, they are available in sets from just one dish, two, five, or 10 dishes, all the way up to 100 dishes.
Our Pick: PetRageous Designs Frisky Kitty Oval Ceramic Cat Dish
If you're moistening dry food for your younger kitten, an easy-to-clean and sturdy but cute ceramic bowl like this could be just what you need. It's shallow enough that a kitten can easily eat or drink while keeping her whiskers clean, but it's also deep enough to accommodate a scoop of food along with some water or broth to keep the kibble soft.
- Microwave-safe if you want to warm up your cat's food.
- Dishwasher-safe for easy and sanitary cleaning.
- Hand-crafted from durable ceramic.
- Fully compliant with FDA Regulations & Standards for human consumption (lead-free) — so you could eat from it if you wanted to!
- Measures 5.5 inches long by 5.5 inches wide by 1.5 inches tall.
Beds for kittens
Kittens seem to have an uncanny ability to fall asleep wherever they are and in the middle of whatever they're doing. Since they can pretty much sleep anywhere and through anything, it might seem like they don't need a bed. But International Cat Care says they do. Giving the kitten a cozy and warm bed can help them feel safe, and if your kitten is still getting used to her new home, she might really appreciate a hideaway that's just for them. The best kitten bed should have high sides to keep out cold drafts, let them snuggle in, and be easy to get in and out of.
Our Pick: Mau Lifestyle Fluffi Donut Dog & Cat Bed
This bed gives kittens everything they need for comfort:
- A round shape for snuggling
- Soft fur that is just as soft as their mother
- Warmth, comfort, and safety
A raised rim creates a sense of protection and provides head and neck support, but it's shallow enough that they can easily climb in and out. The cover is also machine-washable, which is always a plus when kittens are involved. Your kitten will love to curl up in this bed, and it's available in two colors.
Toys for kittens
Toys for a kitten are one of the most important purchases you can make. Kittens are full of rambunctious energy and they need toys that satisfy their prey drives of stalking, jumping, and capturing. Plus, toys that keep them satisfied and worn out will help keep them from climbing your curtains! (To be honest, kittens will probably climb your curtains anyway, but that stage doesn't last for very long.) To choose safe toys for a kitten, look for toys without small things that can't be removed and accidentally swallowed like tiny bells or string. Don't let your cat play with household items like rubber bands, plastic milk jug rings, or paper clips.
Our Pick: Pet Craft Supply Magic Mewnicorn Multi-Cat Tunnel
You might not ever need another kitten toy if you purchase this Magic Mewnicorn. It truly is a magic kitten toy. The tunnel gives them a place to run in and hide, the entire thing is made of crinkle fabric, plus it's got a plush tail that dangles down for swatting and four side tunnels for pouncing out of. You won't believe how much kittens love this toy. It's made of the same kind of collapsible frame as other "pop-up" toys and tents, so when you're ready to get it out of the living room, all you have to do is fold it up for easy storage.
Get this 12-pack assortment of kitten toys and your kitten will never be bored. This pack has every type of toy that you might want, plus it's safe and doesn't contain little glued-on eyes or things that might be a choking hazard for your little hunter. Tease your kitten with a feather wand, toss a crinkly pouch toy, let them chase fuzzy mice, or pounce on a rolling ball. As a bonus, this kit comes with catnip that you can tuck into some of the toys. Pro tip: Put your kitten and a rolling ball in the bathtub. The toy won't get away from them and they'll love how it rolls back and forth.
Litter for kittens
It may not seem like it matters what kind of cat litter you use but, in fact, it does. If you already have an adult cat, Michelson Found Animals recommends not continuing to use the same litter you've been using. The danger is in your kitten ingesting any of the litter. Clumping litter contains compounds that make it expand when it gets mixed with liquid, and this could be very dangerous if your kitten eats it, which they might do out of a sense of curiosity. The litter may stick to your kitten's paws and she may try to lick it off.
Our Pick: Tidy Cats Breeze Pellets Litter
Vets recommend non-clumping litter or crystal litter for kittens, due to the fact that non-clumping litter doesn't expand when wet, and also that the particles are larger than what they can easily consume. Try this litter pellet system, which allows urine to pass through, leaving solid waste on top. These pellets are 99.9 percent dust-free and unscented, so they don't contain things that your little kitten shouldn't breathe into their lungs. These litter pellets can be used in any litter box, but these pellets are designed to work with the Tidy Cats Breeze litter system (sold separately).
Fresh Step Crystals Premium Cat Litter works well for kittens because the larger grain size makes it less likely to stick to their paws or be ingested. The crystals lock in odor better than clay litters and are easy to scoop through. One eight-pound bag of crystals gives you the same number of uses as a 28-pound bag of clumping cat litter. Since it's dust-free, this type of litter can be a positive for cats who may experience lung irritation from clay dust.
Litter boxes for kittens
The biggest need for a litter box for a kitten is that it is shallow enough that your kitten can easily get in and out of it. Cats have a natural instinct to do their business in places where they can scratch and bury, so it doesn't usually take much to get a cat to want to use a litter box. VCA Hospitals recommends introducing your kitten to the room where the litter box is, and then let them explore the room. If you see signs that your kitten may need to eliminate, calmly carry them back to the litter box.
Our Pick: Kitty Go Here Shallow Litter Box
This is a wide and shallow litter box that is perfect for kittens. The opening is only three inches from the floor, so it's easy for kittens to access and provides plenty of room for them to turn around and feel open yet safe. Several color choices and two different sizes available. The plastic is sturdy and strong and will last you through kittenhood and beyond if your cat likes it.
Scratchers for kittens
All cats and kittens need something to scratch. There are lots of different types of scratchers depending on whether your cat prefers to scratch vertically or horizontally, but you'll need time with your kitten to figure out their preferences. In the beginning, we recommend starting simple.
Our Pick: Frisco Nesting Cat Scratcher Toy
The diagonal shape of these simple scratchers makes them the best of both worlds for any cat or kitten. Kittens love scratching, and they love running up things, which guarantees these to be a hit. Plus, it's a good idea to buy scratching items in threes, as they will be shredded very soon.
When bringing home a new kitten, there are some things that you may only need to buy once, such as food and water bowls and a pet bed. But there are other things that you'll buy over and over, such as food and litter. It pays to find a brand you trust and products your kitten likes, and also to find products designed specifically with kittens in mind.
As your kitten grows, you may discover that she has her own tastes as to the types of toys she enjoys. Likewise, if you are bringing home a new adult cat or senior cat, part of the fun will be in discovering their personality for themselves so that you can tailor these essential purchases to the things they like.