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How to Take Care of a Kitten: Complete Guide

How to Take Care of a Kitten: Complete Guide

Bringing home a new kitten is both a joyful celebration and a big responsibility. To help you to provide your kitten with a great start to a long and healthy life, check out the tips below from our Tucson vets.

Raising a Kitten

Kittens are adorable and lovable household pets, however, they have very specific needs that have to be taken care of. These needs are different for every stage of their life, and if something goes wrong or is missed it can impact their overall health and longevity. Here we talk about how you can care for your new furry friend during their kitten years.

0-4 Weeks Old

When a kitten is between 0 to 4 weeks old, they are considered newborns. During this time, they are still learning essential skills like meowing, walking, and regulating their body temperature. If they have a mother, she will take care of most of their needs, including feeding.

Your role is to ensure that the mother is in good health and that the kittens are in a warm and safe environment. Provide a blanket on the floor of their crate or area and a cozy bed for them to rest on.

In case the newborn kitten doesn't have a mother, the first step is to take them to a vet. The veterinarian will assess the kitten's health and provide you with detailed instructions on how to properly care for your tiny companion.

5-11 Weeks Old

When the kitten you're taking care of reaches around 5 to 10 weeks old, it's time to gradually transition them from bottle feeding or nursing to consuming high protein meals. Aim to feed them about 3 to 4 times a day.

You can start by pouring the formula into a food bowl and consider mixing in a bit of softened dry food or canned food to help with the transition. Since their motor skills will be improving, they will become more adventurous, so it's important to closely monitor them to prevent any accidents or mishaps.

During the period of 2 to 4 months old, your kitten will need plenty of supervision and interactive playtime.

3-6 Months Old

3-4 months of age is the optimal time to adopt a new kitten. At this age, they are adorable little bundles of mischief and fun. At 4 months your kitten is entering adolescence which can be a challenging time and require some work on behavioral modification.

This is also when you should start considering having them spayed or neutered before they reach the 6 - 8 month mark.

Bringing Home Your New Kitten

Before bringing home your new feline family member it's a good idea to get prepared. Below are a few things you will want to have on hand when your kitten comes home:

  • Litter box placed somewhere that is easy for your kitten to access but not near their food or bed
  • Cat-sized food and water dishes set up in a special spot well away from the litter box
  • Cozy bed and safe hiding space. This could be as simple as a cushion in a cat carrier with the door left open, a small box with some soft fabric to make a bed, or a luxury teepee-style bed.
  • Scratching posts and/or interactive play tower
  • Cat toys to ensure that your kitten doesn't get bored
  • If possible it can also be a good idea to bring something home along with the kitten that smells familiar to them. A blanket their mother has slept on or a soft toy from their first home. This can help to reduce your new kitten's anxiety.
  • Specially formulated cleaner to deal with mistakes that are bound to happen when litter training.

Kitten Proof Your Home

Your kitten is bound to begin enthusiastically exploring your home almost as soon as you bring them home, so be prepared by kitten-proofing ahead of time.

  • Block off gaps in furniture, cupboards, or appliances that they could become trapped in.
  • Close the doors on all appliances such as front-loading washing washings, dryers, and even toilets
  • Cover or move any wire that may look like the ideal chew toy, or cause your kitten to become tangled

Litter Training (Potty Training) Your Kitten

Kittens can start learning to use the litter tray as early as 4 weeks old, when they begin the weaning process.

When choosing a litter tray, make sure it's an appropriate size for your kitten. A box measuring about 9" by 13" is generally suitable, but you may need to switch to a larger one as your cat grows to full size. Many cats prefer uncovered litter boxes, which are also more cost-effective compared to covered versions.

Most cats prefer fine granules of litter, as they are softer on their paws. Whether you choose clumping or non-clumping litter is up to you, as cats don't typically have a strong preference.

However, some cats may avoid litter made from wheat or corn as it resembles food to them. It may take a little trial and error to find the litter that your cat prefers, but you will soon learn their preference.

Steps for Litter Training

Stay patient and persistent when it comes to litter training your new kitten. Kindness and positive reinforcement will go a long way to teaching your young cat good litterbox habits.

  1. Show your kitten the location of their new litter box and let them have a good sniff around
  2. Gently place your kitten in the litter box. In some cases, kittens will instinctively begin pawing at the litter. If they don't you could demonstrate by doing small digging motions in the clean litter with your fingers.
  3. If your kitten does not sure the litter box when you sit them in it, don't worry, just be sure to place your kitten gently in the litter box whenever they wake up from a nap and after every meal. Soon they will begin using the litter box without your help.
  4. When your kitten does use the litter box appropriately provide some positive reinforcement with playtime or a small treat.
  5. If your kitten makes a mistake do not yell or punish them. Simply clean up the mess.

Keep in mind that it is essential to keep your kitten's litter box clean and fresh-smelling. Many cats will not use a dirty or smelly litter tray.


To help prevent your kitten from getting into mischief it is a good idea to spend some quality time playing with your new cat.

Playtime ensures that your kitten's mind is kept active and will help them to use up some of their boundless energy. If your kitten begins biting or showing predatory behaviors such as pouncing, jumping, or biting it's time to pull out a toy and rechannel your kitten's energy into more positive pursuits. This is when cat toys attached to a string and stick can come in very handy.  Change up your kitten's toys regularly to avoid boredom.

Avoid waving your fingers as a way to play. Allowing your kitten to bite at you or claw will send your cat the message that these behaviors are acceptable. Ignore bad behaviors and use positive reinforcement for good behaviors. If your kitten is biting or clawing at your feet stay perfectly still so that your kitten learns that your toes are not prey.

Use positive reinforcement to encourage appropriate behavior. 

Essential Preventive Care For Your Kitten

No matter how old your kitten is you should take them for their first veterinary appointment during the first week they are in your care. Your veterinarian will evaluate the health of your kitten as well as inform you of their dietary needs. This also provides you with the opportunity to ask any questions you may have regarding the care of your new family member.

Regular `will give your kitten their best shot at a long and healthy life. These cat checkups allow your vet to assess the overall health and well-being of your kitten including their dietary requirements. Your vet will also be able to detect any diseases early before they become severe when they are easier and more affordable to treat.

You also need to make sure your kitten gets all of its vaccinations and parasite prevention on schedule. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, and you should have them spayed or neutered when they are 5 to 6 months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.

Signs That Your Kitten Should See a Vet

When caring for a kitten there are many things you need to keep an eye out for in every stage of your kitten's life, which could indicate a problem or even a veterinary emergency. If you see your kitten displaying any of the following signs call your vet immediately to schedule an appointment.


Here is what you need to keep an eye out for in a newborn kitten:

  • Delays or difficulties in motor skills or coordination
  • Lethargy
  • Refusing food (especially if being bottle-fed)
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting

4 Weeks +

When your kitten is 4 weeks old or older you still need to keep an eye out for the signs above in addition to these behavioral signs:

  • Litter box usage/ not using the litter box
  • Signs of play biting or aggression
  • Fears and other concerning behaviors that should be managed when they are still young

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you are welcoming a kitten into your family, contact Pet Doctor today with any questions. 

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