New Kitten Checklist – Bringing A New Kitten Home

new kitten checklist - litter of kittens in a background of green grass

Last updated on February 3rd, 2024 at 10:03 pm

Getting a new kitten is always an exciting event. They add so much fun and joy to our lives. But what do you need to get ready to bring a new kitten into your home?

There are a few basic things that you will need before bringing your new kitten home: a cat carrier to bring them home safely, kitten food, food dishes, a litter box, and litter. Most other items can wait until your kitten is settled in its new home.

What do you need right away, and what can wait a bit? This new kitten checklist will help you decide what you need to purchase to get ready to bring your new kitten home.

First Things First – The Kitten

Maybe you’ve already found your new cat or kitten and are here looking for information on how to get ready to bring it home. Or maybe you have decided you are going to get a new kitten but haven’t actually found one yet.

If you are looking for a new kitten, my recommendation is to always check out your local pet shelters first. There are always kittens in need of new homes and you never know, you may just find the perfect new furry family member.

Kittens from pet shelters are usually up to date on their vaccinations and vet visits, so you know that your new kitten is healthy. They may also have additional information about the kitty’s personality, which can be helpful when making a decision about adoption.

Of course, you can also find a “free” kitten on online buy-and-sell pages, or from friends and family. These kittens usually have not had any sort of veterinary care and will need a vet check, deworming, and vaccinations – so they are not really free, after all.

If you are looking for a purebred cat, such as a Bengal or a Sphynx, I strongly recommend that you buy from a reputable breeder. Reputable breeders will usually health test their cats, vaccinate them and provide you with a written health guarantee.

I recently got a new kitten, and I didn’t listen to my own advice. I purchased a Bengal kitten from someone who wasn’t a breeder but still had a pair of intact purebred cats which, of course, equals kittens. Naturally, it hadn’t had any vet checks or vaccinations.

When I got the kitten home and examined it, I discovered that its poor ears were a mess with ear mites. A vet visit later for ear cleaning, ear mite medicine, deworming, and first vaccinations, this kitten cost me several hundred dollars in medical care in the first week!

(Yes, I am a veterinarian and I should have been able to do all this myself. But Bengal kittens can be wild! Two experienced people were needed to get the job done properly.)

Once you have found your new kitten, the next step is to get ready to bring it home. This new kitten checklist can help make sure you have everything you need for a smooth transition from new kitten to new family member. Let’s get started.

new kitten checklist - grey and white long haired kitten on a black background

You Will Need A Cat Carrier For Your New Kitten

This is the first item your new kitten will need. Cats and kittens don’t like to travel, so a secure cat carrier will help make sure they get home safely. Also, in many jurisdictions, it is now law that pets be restrained inside moving vehicles so that they don’t distract the driver.

You will want to buy a carrier that will be big enough to comfortably hold your cat once it is fully grown. Your tiny kitten may look lost and too small in it right now, but that will soon change as they grow quickly!

I highly recommend the Sleep N Go convertible bed and carrier. This is a clamshell-style carrier with a zip-up entry and a top that zips on and off. It has a waterproof lining and a comfortable fleece cushion.

I purchased this carrier when I got my previous cat, which was a rescue. She loves the cave-like bed and spent most of her time in there for the first few months.

The other thing I really like about this carrier is that because my cats use it daily for a bed, they are used to it and comfortable with it. This means I have no trouble getting them into it when it is time to take a road trip.

Litter And Litter Box

Recommended Litter Boxes

The next item on your new kitten checklist is a litter box and litter. Make sure to get a litter box that is big enough for your new cat or kitten, so they have plenty of room to move around in it even when they are grown.

I purchased the Omega Roll and Clean litterbox when I brought the new kitten home. I needed a litterbox in the living room since she was too tiny to make it all the way downstairs every time, so I wanted a covered one.

This litter box has a built-in “scoop” – as you roll the litter box over, clean litter falls through the screen and lumps are directed into the collection tray. Then you just pull out the tray and dump it.

While overall I like this litter box, I do have two criticisms (two points lost, it gets an 8 out of 10).

First, because one side is dedicated to the cleaning feature, the area available for the cat to use is much smaller than the box itself.

Second, for its cleaning feature to be truly useful, you must use a clumping litter and you must clean it every day. If any litter gets stuck to the side or the bottom you have to take it apart to get it cleaned out properly.

My litter box journey doesn’t end there. I have more litter boxes! The rule of thumb for litterboxes in multi-cat households is that you need one more than the number of cats that you have. I have two cats, so I have three litter boxes in the house.

The first litter box that I bought (when Joey, our rescued Sphynx cat joined our family) was pretty basic, just a run-of-the-mill box with high sides – except that it was a litter box designed for a corner.

I have no complaints about this one, and I really like that it takes up less space being in a rarely used corner. I do think I should have gotten a covered one though, similar to this one, since it is in my bedroom.

The next litter box I bought was for downstairs, so I wasn’t worried about having a covered one. But I did want one that was easy to clean. I went with Luuup easy-to-clean litter box with three sifting trays.

To clean this litter box, you just lift out the top layer and the clean litter falls to the tray below. Empty the lumps into the trash, hose off the tray if needed, and replace it as the bottom tray. It is pretty easy and convenient.

My plans for litter box management don’t stop there. My next purchase will be a self-cleaning litter box, the Litter Robot. I will also be getting a litter box enclosure so that I can hide the litter box that I currently have in my living room.

silver bengal kitten

Recommended Cat Litter

Of course, the best litter box in the world doesn’t do a lot of good without good cat litter. There are many options for cat litter, and it can be confusing, to say the least.

If your litter box cleaning strategy is to empty it all once a week and start fresh, without daily scooping, then you don’t need clumping litter. For non-clumping litter, my preference is for natural or recycled products, like Yesterday’s News.

However, if your cleaning strategy like mine is to clean lumps daily and do a full litter replacement monthly, then a clumping litter is a must.

My favorite clumping litter is BoxiePro. It has a low dust content and does an excellent job of controlling odors. Urine clumps at the surface, instead of soaking in and sticking to the bottom of the litter box.

It is also unscented, which is important to me since I have fragrance sensitivities. I highly recommend unscented litter for all cats, as they are just as prone as people to having allergies to fragrances.

Of course, it’s not always about what we like, it’s about what the cat likes. If you have a picky cat or kitten, you might need to experiment with a few different ones until you find the right one for her.

Whichever litter you choose, make sure to get enough for at least a month or two so that you don’t have to worry about running out.

Oh, and don’t forget to pick up a scoop!

Cat Food And Food Dishes

The first thing you need to do when getting a new cat or kitten is to find out what food the previous owner is feeding them. You don’t want to suddenly change their food or you can wind up with a sick pet.

Switching Your Kitten To A New Diet

Of course, the easiest thing is to keep feeding them the same food, but this doesn’t always work out. Maybe their old food isn’t available where you live, or maybe the breeder was feeding a special diet that isn’t practical for most pet owners.

To change your kitten or cat’s food, start by mixing in 25% of the new food with 75% of the old food. Feed that for three days, then slowly start adding more of the new food. By day 7 you should be up to a 50:50 mix.

Feed the 50:50 mix for a few days to make sure your cat is tolerating the new food well, then start slowly increasing the percentage of new food. By the end of the second week, 100% of their diet should be the new food.

When I got my Bengal kitten, the owners had been feeding her kitten milk replacer, canned kitten food, and cooked, shredded chicken breast. She had yet to start eating hard kibble.

My preferred feeding strategy for feeding cats is a good quality cat kibble that provides all of their dietary needs, with occasional canned food as a treat but not as a major part of their diet.

To transition my kitten to a kibble diet, I started by offering her all the same food that she had been getting already. I fed the milk, soft food, and chicken three times a day, leaving it out for about an hour at a time.

I also provide free choice dry kitten food and fresh water. Once I saw she was eating that, I slowly cut back on the other food over the course of a month. Now she is eating mainly dry food, with a small amount of canned kitten food once a day.

brown tabby bengal kitten

What Kind Of Food Should I Be Feeding My Kitten?

It is important to feed kittens a balanced diet of high-quality cat food specially formulated for growing kittens. Kittens have different nutritional requirements than adult cats and need food that is high in protein, fat, and other essential vitamins and minerals.

Kittens can start eating dry food at about seven weeks of age. So once your kitten comes home it should be ready for dry food. If it hasn’t been eating dry food yet, slowly transition it to as I described above.

Once they have transitioned to dry kitten food, the dry food should make up the majority of what they eat. Wet food and cat treats are okay in small amounts, but should not make up a large part of their diet.

Cat Food Dishes

To be honest, the type of food dishes you get for your new kitten is mostly about personal preference. Just about any container will do, so long as it is easy to clean.

However, you will probably want dishes that are dedicated to cat food alone. If you want to buy pet food dishes, you can find them in many styles in ceramic, metal, or plastic and in styles that will match your home décor.

But if you want something a bit more practical try looking at some stainless steel bowls that won’t absorb odors like plastic. Plastic dishes are sometimes implicated in causing feline acne, so I recommend stainless steel or ceramic whenever possible.

You might find that your cat has a preference for dishes that are raised off the floor. Lowering their head to the floor to eat can make some cats feel vulnerable. I found that my rescued Sphynx cat was much more comfortable eating after I got her a raised food dish.

Cat Trees And Scratching Furniture

It’s important to provide your new kitten with some cat-friendly furniture for them to explore and play on. Scratching is a natural behavior that they must do, so give them a safe place to do it. Cat trees, scratching posts, and tunnels are all great choices for new kittens.

I have several of these around my own house. The tall, multi-level cat tree gets the most use. I also have a cardboard scratching pad in almost every room, which also gets frequent use. The shorter scratching posts are less used but still important for keeping my cat’s claws off of my furniture.

My Bengal kitten loves the cat tree, as she loves to climb, jump and get as high as possible. That said, I am probably going to have to get something bigger and more challenging soon, or else the top of my cupboards is going to be her next goal.

cat climbing a green scratching post

Toys

Cats being cats, need a variety of toys to keep them stimulated, entertained, and exercised. Look for safe and interesting toys that encourage play, exploration, and exercise. Toys such as wand toys, feather teasers, and balls with bells inside them are all great choices.

I have quite the collection of these at my house. My new kitten loves chasing after anything with feathers. Her current favorite is this rattan ball with feathers and bell. My Sphynx, on the other hand, won’t even look at them and instead prefers these foam balls.

The most popular toys in our house didn’t cost a thing: cardboard boxes and toilet paper rolls! A close second is a clear plastic soup takeout container with a couple of marbles sealed inside.

There is no tried-and-true toy that every cat will absolutely love. It’s up to you and your new kitten to find the right toys. But whatever you do, make sure that all of the toys are safe for them.

Cat Bed

A cat bed is not a must-have, and in fact, your cat’s preferred bed will probably be yours. But if you want to train your cat to NOT sleep in your bed, it is helpful to have a bed they can call their own.

Cat beds come in all shapes and sizes. The key is to look for something that is comfortable and cozy for your new kitten. I like the round, hooded beds because they make cats feel secure, much like a cave or den.

Cats of all kinds also love a heated bed, especially in colder climates. When I got my Sphynx I was worried about her getting too cold, so I bought her a heated pet bed. It is constantly heated by a pet-safe heating pad, and she does tend to spend a lot of time in it.

orange and white cat lounging in cat bed

Other Supplies For Your New Kitten

There are a few other supplies you should have on hand for your new kitten. You will want to get some nail clippers to keep their nails trimmed, and grooming brushes, combs, or gloves.

It’s also worthwhile to invest in some cat-safe cleaning products. A good quality enzyme-based cleaner will help with unwanted cat messes and is safe for use around cats.

A cat collar to hold rabies and ID tags will also be needed. If you are considering taking your cat outside, a harness and leash would be a wise investment.

I also recommend getting a calming cat pheromone spray. This can help your new kitten settle into her new home easier and calm her in other times of stress.

To Sum Up Your New Kitten Checklist

Now that we’ve come gone through everything you might need to get ready for your new kitten, I’ve come to a realization – I’ve spent a LOT on my two cats over the last 9 months!

However, you don’t need to spend what I did, nor do you need to buy everything at once. Start with the basics, and then see what your new kitten takes a liking to.

When getting ready for a new kitten, make sure you have:

  • Cat carrier
  • Litter box and litter
  • Food and water dishes
  • Kitten food
  • Cat tree, scratching post, cardboard scratching pad or other scratching options

The other items in the new kitten checklist in this article can be purchased later, on an “as-needed basis”. You can also look for gently used second-hand items, just make sure everything is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before bringing it into your home.

Now that we’ve gone through the new kitten checklist, it’s time to get ready for your new feline friend. With this information, you are now better prepared to bring home your new furry friend.

Thanks for reading this new kitten checklist! Have fun with your new kitten, and don’t forget to share lots of cuddles and love. Enjoy the journey!

Editors Note: Is your new kitten a girl? If you are looking for a name for her, head on over to our article on names for girl cats, where we list 900 potential girl cat names.

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Author

  • Dr. Wendy Wilkins, DVM, PhD

    Dr. Wendy Wilkins is an experienced veterinarian and epidemiologist with over 20 years of expertise. She holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Throughout her career, Dr. Wilkins has excelled in clinical practice, academia, research, and regulatory veterinary medicine. She is a respected voice in knowledge dissemination, delivering factual information in a readable and understandable manner through articles, books, and public engagements.

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