Litter Training a New Kitten

Cats are constantly grooming and as such are naturally clean. This makes litter training relatively easy. Remember, your kitten will want to toilet somewhere out of the way, somewhere clean, and in a material where they can bury it.

  1. Ask the breeder or shelter what type of litter they were using. The cat will be used to that type of litter and will find it easier to know where to go, once they are living in your home.
  2. When you bring your kitten home, place several litter trays around the house so that there is always one within easy reach. Show your kitten the litter tray, so they know where it is.
  3. If you have more than one cat, you will need more litter trays. Use the + 1 rule – you need as many litter trays as you have cats, plus one extra, otherwise you can end up with guarding and anxiety problems.
  4. Make sure the litter trays are clean and that they are situated in a relatively quiet area. They also need to be away from food and water bowls and sleeping areas.
  5. If you are having problems litter training your kitten, try confining them to one room. Place their sleeping spot, water and food in one corner, and the litter tray as far away as possible in the other. Once they get used to using the tray, you can start to let them regain their freedom.
  6. If you are still having difficulty, have a look at our ‘toilet training problems’ article for more help.

Kitten Nutrition

Many food choices are available and it can be confusing, but here are a few simple ideas on what to look for when it comes to your cat’s food:

  • Choose a food that is designed to suit their age and size. Kittens have different nutritional needs to adults, whilst specific breeds may also have different dietary requirements. Older or large cats will need foods that support their joints, whilst smaller and younger cats need more calories to keep up with their faster metabolism.
  • Choose a food that suits the breed. For example, the short nose of a Persian may need kibble designed to be easy to pick up and chew, whilst the sensitive skin of a Russian Blue will need higher levels of Omega 3.
  • Choose a food that suits their health. From renal health to hairballs, there are many foods that have been formulated to support the different issues that cats face.
  • Choose a food that suits their temperament – cats with a diminishing appetite may find wet food more palatable, whilst cats prone to gulping their food will benefit from a large sized kibble.
  • Choose a food that suits your lifestyle – if you are a busy working mother, dry food stores well and is easy to feed. If you prefer a more holistic approach, a raw diet may be your preference.

Try a variety of foods, and choose one that suits both you and your cat’s health and well being.

Choosing a Kitten From The Litter

Many people believe their pet chose them. Others may be looking for a specific breed with particular markings. Whatever brings a new kitten into your life, you are bound for an exciting adventure together.

  • All kittens in the litter should appear healthy. They should be round, with soft stomachs and no ribs showing. Eyes and ears should be clear, their bottoms should be clean and there should be no sign of fleas on them.
  • They should be happy, friendly, curious and trusting. If several of the kittens are anxious, cowering or hissing, walk away.

Choosing a Kitten

Stand back and look at the litter as a whole before you interrupt them. Watch the way they interact with each other. You can tell a lot about a kitten’s personality by how they are playing with their siblings – which ones are gentler and quieter, or which ones are more active and exuberant.

There are several things in particular you should look out for:

  • Energy levels – this can vary hugely even within a litter. Watch them play for a while, and ask the breeder for an insight. Pick a kitten whose temperament matches your family needs.
  • Shyness – don’t think that the smallest shyest kitten needs rescuing, or that you can bring them out of their shell with some love and care. A shy kitten will be a shy adult, and you may not get the play time or cuddles you were hoping for.
  • Pick up your kitten and cradle them. Touch their feet, mouth and generally pet them all over, kittens will not usually be distressed by this. See how they react – some may settle in and purr, others will try to use you as a climbing post, while others will want to get down and play. Decide if you would rather an active cat or a lap cat, and choose accordingly.
  • After you have selected a few kittens, drop something that will make a loud noise. All kittens will startle at the noise unless they are deaf. Ideally, they should then recover and come over to investigate what it was. A kitten that stays away will likely be fearful as an adult.
  • Kittens should not instinctively be afraid of people. Most will be interested in who you are and what you are doing. Drag a piece of string along the ground – healthy kittens will eagerly jump on it and play. Independent kittens may be more interested in exploring, shy kittens may be more interested in hiding.

Bringing Home Your New Kitten

Picking up your new kitten is exciting for everyone, except maybe the kitten, who is going to be confused by the change. There are many ways you can make the transition easier and ensure that your kitten settles quickly.

  1. Place the kitten in a pet carrier for the journey home. As tempting as it may be to get him out and cuddle him, kittens can often get car sick and most will not like the movement through the windows.
  2. When you arrive home, let the kitten explore the house at their own pace, without too many people around. Put down the carrier and allow your kitten to emerge whenever they become comfortable – don’t pull the kitten out. Other dogs and cats should be kept away, initially. After the first few days you can begin to introduce them – see our article ‘Introducing a new cat’ for more help.
  3. Have lots of toys available for the kitten to play with and encourage them to bat toys around and chase them. You should have designated scratching posts around the house – if the inevitable happens and your kitten mistakes the sofa for the pole, simply pick them up and place them on the scratching pole.
  4. If you have decided on a name, then say it excitedly if your kitten looks round to see what’s going on and give them a reward.
  5. Have a litter tray somewhere out of the way and quiet, but still easily accessible. Cats naturally like to bury their waste, so litter training is usually relatively easy. Take your kitten there every hour or so, until they get the idea.
  6. After a few hours, your kitten will need to sleep. Kittens and cats nap throughout the day. Try to let your kitten sleep without disturbing them, no matter how cute they look – you have both had a big day!
  7. Feed the kitten a small meal of the same food being fed by the breeder or rescue shelter. You may want to change the type of food you feed later, but gradually introduce the change so that you don’t upset the kittens’ stomach.
  8. If you would like your kitten to be allowed outside during the day, wait until they are a bit older, have had all their vaccinations and are used to their routine before letting them out. They need to feel safe and secure in your home and know when to return for dinner time. Using a pet door that has multiple locking options, allows you to call your pet in and prevent them from going back out.