Congratulations on becoming—or considering becoming—a proud parent of a cuddly, curious, and energetic ball of feline sweetness. These little bundles of joy offer so much to love, but you must remember that they also require a significant commitment. Kittens require time, resources, and lots of patience. Our Walnut Creek Animal Hospital team wants your kitten to get the best possible start in life, so we are sharing five tips that will help you care for your kitten during their crucial first year. 

#1: Help your kitten acclimate 

A young kitten can be overwhelmed by new people and a new environment filled with strange sights, sounds, and smells, but you can help them acclimate to their new home and ease the transition for the whole family. Before bringing your kitten home, prepare a small, quiet space or room with food, water, and a litter box where your kitten will feel safe to explore their new surroundings. Give them plenty of time to familiarize themselves with the room, and as their confidence increases, begin to introduce them to other family members and areas of the house. 

#2: Introduce pets slowly  

If you have other pets, introduce them gradually to minimize stress and promote a positive relationship. Follow these steps when introducing your kitten to current pets:

  1. Separate — Keep your kitten in one room, which not only helps them acclimate to their new home, but also lets your current pets adjust to the new family member’s presence. Both parties will become familiar with each other’s scent, and their eventual introduction will be less stressful. 
  2. Keep it positive — When introducing your pets, allow them to explore each other, and reinforce positive behavior with treats and praise. If you observe stress signs, end the interaction, and try again later when your pets have calmed down.
  3. Spread the love — A new kitten is a big adjustment, especially for your current pets, who need extra quality time and attention each day to feel cared for and to maintain your bond.

#3: Schedule a kitten wellness examination

Schedule a wellness exam no longer than 48 hours after bringing your kitten home. Your veterinarian will examine your kitten from nose to tail to ensure their good health. The examination will include:

  • Mouth
  • Abdomen
  • Heart and lungs
  • Temperature
  • Muscles and joints
  • Eyes
  • Fur

Your veterinarian may also perform a fecal analysis and blood work to identify potential parasites or transmissible diseases.

#4: Vaccinate your kitten against disease

Kittens receive antibodies from the mother’s milk when they are born that protect them from infection, but the protection wanes, and they need vaccinations starting at 6 to 8 weeks of age and booster shots every three to four weeks until they are about 16 weeks old. Core vaccines for kittens include panleukopenia (i.e., feline distemper), feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus type I (i.e., rhinotracheitis), and rabies.

#5: Socialize your kitten 

Start socializing your kitten as early as possible, ideally between 2 to 7 weeks of age, when they are most receptive to new experiences and less likely to develop fear or anxiety. Socialization helps your kitten feel comfortable, confident, and well-adjusted around people, other animals, and different environments. Here are some tips to socialize your kitten:

  • Introduce gentle handling — Handle your kitten gently and frequently so they get used to being touched and held. Start with short sessions that you gradually increase. 
  • Meet new people —  Encourage positive experiences with different people, including family members, friends, and visitors, by offering treats and gentle play. 
  • Play with your kitten —  Play sessions using interactive toys provide physical exercise and promote bonding and socialization.
  • Expose your kitten to new things — Gradually expose your kitten to different stimuli, such as vacuum cleaners, doorbells, car rides, and grooming tools. Expose them for short periods and gradually increase the duration as they become more comfortable.
  • Provide positive reinforcement — Always reward your kitten with treats, praise, and affection for their calm and confident behavior while they socialize. This helps reinforce positive associations.

When you bring a kitten into your home, you’re starting a journey of companionship that hopefully lasts for many years. Ensure your new feline friend has a long, happy life by prioritizing their health from day one. Contact our Walnut Creek Animal Hospital team to schedule your kitten’s first wellness visit.