Getting a kitten: are you ready?

If you’re thinking of getting a kitten, there’s a lot to do to prepare for your new arrival. You need to be sure your home, family and finances are all ready for your new feline friend.

If you’re excited about the idea of adding a cute kitten to your family, it’s important to consider if you can provide everything they need before taking the plunge. Here are five things to think about before you make your decision.

1. Do you have everything you need?

Cats don’t need much equipment, but you’ll want a few essentials before bringing a kitten home:

  • Kitten food. Kittens have different dietary needs from adult cats, so buy special kitten food for the first year. Start with the brand your kitten is used to from their previous home and gradually introduce different foods.
  • Food and water bowls. Fussy felines like to have their food and water apart and prefer china, glass or metal bowls to plastic. They don’t like their whiskers to touch the sides either, so choose wide or shallow styles.
  • Litter tray and litter. Kittens shouldn’t go outside until fully vaccinated (and not unsupervised until neutered) so they need a litter tray for at least the first few months. Buying the type of litter they’re already used to will reduce the risk of accidents!
  • Cat flap. You won’t need this until your kitten is older, but it’s worth planning where to put a flap if you decide to give your pet outdoor access.
  • Pet carrier. Get a strong, lightweight pet carrier to bring your kitten home and take them to vet appointments. A towel or blanket over the top may help them feel safer, and another inside will soak up toileting accidents.
  • Scratching post. A cat scratching post could save your furniture from claws. Pick a tall, sturdy post with a vertical rope pattern.
  • Cat bed. Help your kitten settle in with a comfy, machine-washable bed, preferably lined with a blanket from their previous home.
  • Brush or comb. Kittens shouldn’t need much grooming but it’s good to get them used to a brush or comb, especially with a long-haired breed.
  • Toys. Make playtime more fun, and support your kitten’s development, with a selection of toys for practicing pouncing and leaping.

2. Financial preparedness

It’s cheaper to own a cat than a dog or exotic pet, but the cost of getting a kitten could still make a big dent in your bank balance. Not only will you pay for the kitten itself (typically £50 to £350 for a moggy, £60 to £90 for a rescue cat, or into the thousands for a pedigree breed), and the equipment above, but also vets’ fees, vaccinations, neutering and microchipping, flea and worm treatments, weekly food and cat litter, and perhaps cattery costs too. One charity calculated the costs of cat ownership at around £12,000 over an average cat’s lifetime of around 14 years.

No one likes to imagine their lively new kitten being ill or injured but it could happen, landing you with a vet bill for hundreds or even thousands of pounds. Paying a small amount each month for pet insurance from an established provider such as Petplan gives you peace of mind knowing these costs will be covered if the worst should happen.

3. Is your family ready?

Kittens and kids are a great combination. As well as playing and growing up together, your new cat will teach your children about caring for animals and behaving considerately.

If you’re pregnant or have a new baby, there’s no reason not to get a kitten if you follow hygiene guidance. But you might prefer to wait until your child can be fully involved and is less likely to grab a furry tail, sample the kibbles or drive toy cars through the litter tray. Some cat charities won’t place animals in a home with a young child.

If anyone in your household hasn’t had cats before, make some feline friends before getting a kitten to check for allergies. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not cats’ fur that causes an allergic reaction but a protein in saliva transferred to the fur when they wash. As all cats lick themselves, even the hairless sphynx, and curly-coated Devon Rex aren’t truly hypoallergenic.

Finally, don’t forget furry family members. Would your dog or adult cat tolerate a kitten, or would it be fairer to wait a few years?

4.Kitten proofing

Kittens play with anything they can get their paws on, so ensure your home is safe for them. Tape up or tuck away loose wires and cords and hide string and ribbon toys when not in use to prevent choking. Young kittens squeeze into the tiniest spaces, so block holes in plinths and skirting boards to stop them from getting somewhere inaccessible.

Their curious nature and continual licking make kittens and cats susceptible to poisoning. The most common culprit is lilies – even a few grains of pollen can be fatal to cats, so banish lilies from your home and garden.

    Other potentially harmful substances include:
  • Slug pellets and insecticides
  • Rodent bait
  • Weedkillers
  • Antifreeze
  • Cleaning products
  • Medications for humans or animals
  • Essential oils
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco products, including vape liquid
  • Chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions and garlic.

Keep all of these out of reach so your inquisitive kitten can’t sample or spill them.

5. Is your lifestyle right for a kitten?

Like all babies, kittens need frequent meals and playtimes. If you’re out at work all day, or often away overnight, an older cat will suit you better.

Ideally, you won’t be going away, hosting crowds of people or having building work in your first few months as a cat owner. However excited you are about getting a new kitten, it’s worth waiting for the right time – even if that’s months or years away – to give the best start to a relationship that could last 20 years or more.

Read our getting a kitten checklist to ensure you and your home are ready for your new arrival.

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