New kitten shopping checklist (and prep tips)

September 5, 2023 - 7 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
black and white kitten with green eyes and teal colored tag looking over new owners shoulder

Bringing a new kitten into your home should be a cause for joy, not stress…okay, maybe SOME stress. Training a new pet is always taxing, especially if they’re scratching up chair legs and nipping at your heels. But you shouldn’t be pulling your hair out in distress — or worse, rushing to return or rehome your new feline family member.

And this isn’t just about YOUR feelings. Your cat deserves a loving, mentally stimulating environment, complete with all the toys, food, and litter scoops they could want. With the right preparation, you can give them just that — and keep your hair in the process.

Choose the Right Kitten for You

If you don’t choose a kitten that’s right for you and your family, you’ll be setting yourself up for trouble before you even bring them home.

Adopting vs. Purchasing a Kitten

First, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of adoption vs. purchasing a kitten. From an altruistic standpoint, adopting a cat is a wonderful choice. You’ll be providing a loving home to a kitten who may have been abandoned or faced other hardships. You’ll also be freeing up resources and space for a grateful animal shelter.

two kittens with blue eyes behind metal square gate at shelter

You may even be saving a life.

But if you have your heart set on a specific breed or certain traits, we can’t blame you for deciding to purchase your pet. There are, admittedly, potential benefits to buying from a breeder — so long as you patronize a RESPONSIBLE breeder and not an unethical cat mill.

Ethical cat breeders perform genetic testing, and they possess a detailed understanding of their kittens’ ancestry. This knowledge can help you predict how your cat is likely to behave when they’re older, including how calm and sociable they’ll be. When kittens have a murky lineage, it’s a little harder to predict their future behavior.

On the other hand, it’s hard to predict the future in general. Adopted cats tend to have lovely personalities. Just as important, adoption fees are usually less expensive than purchasing from a breeder. And when it comes to taking care of a pet, financial stability is kind of important.

How to Evaluate a Kitten's Personality and Health

Before you welcome your new feline friend into your home, it's vital to assess their personality and overall health.

You can start by simply observing their behavior and temperament. Look for signs of playfulness and sociability. And — contrary to that slanderous old saying — curiosity is a powerful sign that your cat is mentally and physically healthy.

See if they’re exploring their environment and confidently approaching people or other cats. Friendly and sociable kittens are often more adaptable to new surroundings and human companionship. But do keep in mind that some kittens may simply be a bit shy when they first meet you. Patience and gentle interactions are essential.

You should also note the kitten’s energy level. Some kitties are active and adventurous, while others are calmer and cuddlier. You can’t always predict what they’ll be like in the future, but a kitten’s energy level may provide some clues about what you’re in for.

Finally, do a quick health check. Look for clear, bright eyes, clean ears, and a shiny coat. Listen for normal breathing and take note of any coughing, sneezing, or discharge from their eyes or nose. These could signal future health problems. 

Evaluating a kitten’s personality and health can help ensure that they’re the right cat for you and your family.

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Kitten Shopping Checklist

Wondering what you need to buy before your kitten comes home? Here are a few things to start with.

1. Litterbox and Litter

You’ll need at least one litter box (maybe more, depending on the size of your home) and all the cool litter box accessories, like scoops and, well, litter.

2. Kitten Toys and Accessories

You’ll need toys to keep your cat occupied, like a laser pointer, feather wands, or puzzles. A climbable, scratchable surface like a cat tree can help keep your cat happy and well-exercised. Don't forget the cozy cat bed.

Little black kitten playing and enjoys with orange ball at living room of house

3. Kitten Food

Oh, and get a lot of kitten food. Kittens have different dietary needs than adult cats, so make sure you select the right kitten food (and feed the right amount) for their best health.

How to Kitten-Proof Your Home

Before your kitten steps paw through your door, you need to make sure your home is equipped to meet their needs. If you don’t establish an environment where your kitty can thrive, you won’t like the result.

Here are a few key steps to take:

Kitten-Proof Your Home

Keep in mind that while child-proofing a home is all about protecting a child, kitten-proofing a home is about protecting your kitten AND YOUR HOME.

  • Start by removing or securing potential hazards, like toxic plants, household chemicals, or small objects your kitty could swallow.

  • Make sure they don’t have access to unsafe human foods.

  • Keep electrical cords and cables out of paw’s reach.

  • Block off any unsafe areas of your home, including windows and balconies.

  • Cover up trash can lids so your kitten can’t dive in. And secure heavy furniture or objects that could fall over and hurt them.

Make sure your cat has access to a scratching post so your shoes, furniture, and skin don’t bear the brunt of their claw-happy instincts. Make valuable or fragile items completely inaccessible.

Oh, and litter train them quickly — your carpet will thank you.

Set Up a Quiet Space for Adjustment

When you bring your cat home, there should be a designated, out-of-the-way space waiting for them. This area should be tranquil, comfortable, and equipped with essentials like a bed and toys.

Gradually introduce them to other parts of their home once they’ve settled in and gained confidence — but make sure they always have access to this space in case they need a break from the action. 

So your cat is home and well-supplied. Wonderful! Now it’s time to help ease their transition.

How to Introduce Your Kitten to Your Family and Other Pets

Cats are territorial creatures, and integrating a new kitten into the family can be a delicate process, especially if you have existing pets.

If you have other cats or dogs, you can try scent-swapping. Exchange bedding or blankets between your new kitten and your other pets to help them get used to each other’s scent before they have direct contact. To minimize stress, make sure their initial interactions are brief, controlled, and supervised; then they can gradually get longer over time.

child wearing white tee shirt holds kitten on their lap while laying on purple bedding

Introducing your kitten to human family members, including kids, isn’t all that different. Keep interactions between your kitty and your family (and yourself, for that matter) brief and controlled — then gradually increase the duration of these interactions.

If you’re introducing your pet to a child, be sure to teach them the importance of gentle handling and respecting the kitten’s boundaries.

How to Train, Play, and Build a Strong Bond with Your Kitten

You’ll need to set up a daily schedule for your cat. Kittens thrive on routine! Establish consistent feeding times, designated rest periods, and regular play sessions. Predictability gives structure to your cat’s day and helps them feel secure. These kinds of interactions will also help you bond with your cat.

For a smooth transition, it may be wise to continue with the same food and litter products they were used to at the shelter or breeder they came from. If you do introduce them to new products, try not to make further changes after that — at least not immediately.

Speaking of litter, cats don’t potty train themselves, though they often have an easier time of it than dogs. You can use positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats and praise, to reward good litter box behavior. Lucky for you, we wrote an article all about how to quickly litter train a kitten.

Adorable little kitten scratching around in his litter box on the floor of his new forever home

You should also spend quality time engaging your cat in interactive play sessions. Kitty playtime is crucial for both mental and physical stimulation. Again, you can use toys like feather wands, laser pointers, and interactive puzzle toys to keep your cat entertained and encourage their natural instincts.

If you notice any behavioral issues that seem more extreme than the usual kitty growing pains — like biting or scratching, excessive meowing, or persistent litter box troubles  — do your best to address them promptly and calmly using positive reinforcement techniques. Treats are your friend! Never resort to punishment, which is likely to make their behavioral issues worse, not better.

If you’re all out of effective solutions, consult with your veterinarian or a cat behaviorist.

Your Kitten's First Vet Visit

You can’t ensure your kitten’s health and wellbeing without taking a proactive approach to veterinary care. Regular vet checkups and other preventative care are absolutely essential.

You should schedule a visit with your cat’s new veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet will perform a basic check-up and get started on your cat’s vaccine schedule. You’ll also be able to schedule follow-up appointments. At around six months of age, it’s wise to have your cat spayed or neutered.

calm kitten british cat sitting on the sofa

This is also an opportunity to get started on parasite prevention. Your vet will likely advise you to start your kitten on preventative medications for parasites like fleas, ticks, and heartworms.

By prioritizing regular vet visits, vaccinations, preventive care, and responsible spaying or neutering, you’ll be setting your kitten up for a long, healthy life.

How ManyPets Insurance + Wellness Can Help

Accidents and illnesses happen. Purchasing kitten insurance now could make it easier to pay for an unexpected chronic condition or a sudden veterinary emergency. The younger your cat is when you insure them, the better. The older they get, the more likely they are to develop pre-existing conditions that won’t make them eligible for coverage.

Accidents and illnesses aren’t the only concerns. The first year of your kitten’s life will be filled with vaccinations and checkups. And even as an adult, your cat will always need routine care. Fortunately, the optional, non-insurance ManyPets Wellness Plan can reimburse you for the costs of preventative vet care.

David Teich
Lead Editor

David oversees content strategy and development at ManyPets. As Lead Editor, he focuses on delivering accurate information related to pet care and insurance. David’s editorial background spans more than a decade, including a pivotal role at Digiday, where he wrote content and managed relationships with media and tech companies. As an Associate Editor at Cynopsis Media, David wrote the Cynopsis Digital newsletter and interviewed executives and digital marketing experts in the TV industry. His background also includes film journalism. His diverse experiences in journalism and marketing underpins his role in shaping content within the pet care industry.