Caring for new kittens: an overview for first-time pet owners

Take all the right steps to make sure your new kitten starts off on the right foot.
Take all the right steps to make sure your new kitten starts off on the right foot.

By Lidja Gillmeister, DVM

Last month, we introduced new pet owners through the joys and adventures of bringing home a puppy -- and this month, we turn our attention to the proud owners of baby kittens. First, congratulations, and welcome to the journey. Properly

caring for new kittens

establishes the building blocks for your pet’s long, healthy and happy life. The following expert tips are designed as an introduction to optimal health and lifestyle care: and remember, the first step in every new kitten’s life should be a visit to the veterinarian for a thorough physical examination.

Getting started

Your veterinarian will use this first physical exam as an opportunity to identify any health concerns at the outset and incorporate preventative healthcare measures. In addition, she will follow up with additional exams every three to four weeks to closely monitor your kitten’s development. Preventative healthcare for kittens includes vaccines (recommended based on your pet’s age, vaccine history and lifestyle) and so-called “kitten shots” to protect against specific threats like rhinotracheitis, calici virus and panleukopenia. In addition, your pet will be screened for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus, and receive the rabies vaccine on the same day as the last of the kitten shots.


During the initial physical exam, a veterinarian will also take a fecal sample to check for parasites. Monthly flea, intestinal parasite and heartworm medications are recommended as a preventative measure throughout the year. As far as at-home safety is concerned, it is important to check your home for potential hazards before introducing your new pet to the environment. Look for poisonous house plants, string-like objects, loose power chords and other hazards that a kitten may attempt to chew or swallow.


As with puppies, it is important to limit kittens’ exposure to other animals and the outside environment until after their vaccine series is complete. However, while animal contact can be dangerous for kittens, human contact is absolutely essential to healthy growth and development as a human-oriented pet. At home, try keeping your kitten within a single room of the house for the first week or so: this will allow your pet to adjust to new smells and faces while also limiting opportunities for accidents during litter box training and feeding. Eventually, introduce your kitten to other household pets, if applicable, using gradual methods to help ease acceptance on both sides.


Most kittens take easily to litter box training. However, if your kitten does not use the litter box, don’t punish him. Instead, try different types of litter to find out your pet’s preference. In addition, make sure to have enough litter boxes in the house to accommodate all your cats (there should be one box plus the number of cats per household). Place litter boxes in low-traffic areas for optimal safety and sanitation.


Make sure your kitten receives clean, quality food and fresh water daily, and use high-quality kitten food until your pet is about 12 months of age.

To learn more about caring for you new kitten, or to ask questions about training, sterilization and at-home health care, contact us at

La Jolla Veterinary Hospital

today. We look forward to welcoming your new kitten into the world and providing the best possible preventative health and wellness service to your furry new friend. Visit us online, at