Bringing a New Kitten Home – Preparation, Feeding and Litter Tray Training

Bringing a new pet home is exciting however it can come with some challenges. Here is some guidance to help you look after your new family member.

Created: 21/03/2022 Updated: 22/03/2022 - Vicky Payne

behaviour, Behaviour & Training, cats, health, new pet, parasite, training

What could be more exciting than bringing a new kitten home?! As the excitement builds there are a few things to buy and plan for. This article covers aspects of preparation to think about before your new kitten arrives.

Checklist before you bring your new kitten home

  • Register with a vet. Choose your vet based on location, facilities, and personal recommendations, as well as price.

  • Book a health check and vaccinations. Many veterinary practices are still suffering from staff shortages so try to book this before your kitten comes home.

  • Prepare a space for your kitten. In time your kitten will need lots of space to explore and play, but in their first few days set aside one room as their home base.

  • Ask your kitten’s breeder or rescue centre for a toy or blanket from the nest to help them settle in.

  • Plug in a calming cat pheromone diffuser a few days before your kitten comes home.

  • Buy litter trays, a litter scoop, and litter. You will need at least two trays for one kitten. Ask your kitten’s breeder (or the rescue centre) what litter and tray size your kitten is used to.

  • Buy food and water bowls. Cats typically prefer shallow stoneware bowls, but ask your kitten’s breeder or rescue centre what they are used to. Plan to keep the food bowl, water bowl, and litter tray in separate places and avoid putting them in corners.

  • Buy Pet Insurance. Your kitten may come with a few weeks of free cover from the breeder, or from the vet surgery when you have their vaccinations done, but you will need to find suitable long-term cover.

  • Kitten proof your house! Protect wires, move breakable objects, and cover holes your kitten might explore.

  • Buy toys, scratching posts, and beds. Kittens like toys they can chase, catch, and ‘kill’! They need to scratch, so a well-placed scratching post will save your furniture.

Agree the house rules with all family members. Will your new kitten be allowed upstairs, into the bedrooms, outside?

Black and white kitten with mouth open

Feeding your kitten

The breeder or rescue centre should provide you with enough food that your kitten has been eating to last you at least a week. Once your kitten is settled in, you can gradually change to your OSCAR kitten food

To ensure your kitten grows well but does not become overweight, weigh the daily food ration using digital scales. This ration can then be split into several smaller meals. In the wild, cats eat several small meals a day and you can mimic this by offering a morning and evening meal from a bowl, with other portions in feeding toys as previously discussed.

When feeding a complete, balanced diet (such as OSCAR) you do not need to add any additional vitamin or mineral supplements. Make sure treats make up no more than 10% of your kitten’s diet. Use the feeding recommendations as a guide, but regularly monitor your kitten's growth and adjust the feeding amounts as required. For specific feeding advice please contact our FREE Helpline on 0800 195 8000

Your kitten should have access to fresh water at all times, and cats prefer their water to be away from their food bowl. Some cats prefer running water from a pet fountain or filtered water over tap water. Kittens fed a wet diet will drink less than those on a dry diet.

Interactive feeding

Most kittens play with toys, but as they get older the appeal can decrease. If your cat loses interest in toys, get them to work for their food instead! Active feeding taps into natural stalk-pounce-kill-eat behaviour as well as encouraging your cat to explore more of their environment.

Start with simple scatter feeding of dry food or treats on a rug or snuffle mat. Put food into egg boxes and toilet roll middles, as well as using shop bought feeding toys. Start with easy to solve puzzles so your kitten doesn’t become frustrated.

Simba the cat and egg box slow feeder

Litter training your kitten

Most kittens arrive in their new homes knowing how to use a litter tray having learned from their mother. You can make the transition easier by choosing similar trays and litter to those used by the breeder or rescue centre. Ask for a small amount of clean litter from a tray your kitten has already used as this will have familiar scents to guide your kitten to their new tray.

You must have at least one more litter tray than the number of cats you own to reduce the chance of toileting problems developing. Covered trays can be popular with owners but less popular with cats, so offer a choice. Place litter trays in quiet areas but make sure your cat can enter from the back and see out into the room. Never place litter trays close to food and water bowls.

There are many choices of cat litter. Some cats can find different textures uncomfortable on their paws and can find different scents off-putting. You may need to experiment with different litters until you find one that suits both you and your new kitten. The ‘perfect cat litter’ comes down to personal preference: OSCAR stocks a variety of different cat litters to help ensure we can provide the best option.

  • Breeder Celect is a non-clumping litter made in the UK from 99% recycled paper. It is highly absorbent with natural odour control. The litter is made from paper, water and air so is soft on paws of all sizes.

  • OSCAR Agility Crystal Cat Litter is a non-clumping crystal litter that has unique absorption qualities; the granules contain micro-pores to soak up moisture but remain dry to touch. The crystals inhibit bacterial growth and neutralise odours. The chunk style of granules reduces tracking, leading to a more hygienic environment for both you and your furry friend.

black and ginger cat in red litter tray
  • Pinewood Cat Litter has a high absorbency and masks any unpleasant odours due to its own in-built natural scent. This litter is made from white wood fibres, managed and sourced sustainably. This is a light- weight, non-clumping, biodegradable and environmentally friendly option.

  • Premium Grey Natural Cat Litter is a clumping litter, allowing you to easily remove damp patches which will form clumps. Clumping litters can be less wasteful as soiled material can be removed leaving the rest in the tray. This clay litter is dust free and has odour control to clamp down on any unpleasant scents.

If you need any advice on finding the best substrate for your cat, please get in touch with our free helpline: 0800 195 8000

When you first bring your kitten home lift them into the litter tray, which should be set up with familiar litter. Let them sniff and explore and keep the tray in this position until your kitten is using it confidently. Place your new kitten in their tray after meals, when they wake up, and if they show any signs of needing to toilet such as scratching the floor and sniffing.

Offer calm praise and a reward such as a treat or a game when your kitten uses their tray and NEVER punish a kitten for accidents outside the tray.

Hesitant tabby kitten looking worried hunched down

Cat litter tray maintenance

Remove waste from cat litter trays at least once a day. Cat waste should be bagged and added to your landfill waste. Top up with fresh litter as needed and completely replace the litter at least once a week after washing the tray.

If your kitten has an accident outside of the tray, please make sure you use a product designed for cleaning up pet waste; many ordinary household cleaners contain ammonia which will actually encourage your cat to use the wrong place again!

Grey kitten with yellow eyes sat in sunny section of a room with a wooden floor

What to do if your kitten is having trouble with litter training

Training kittens to use a litter tray is usually very easy. If your kitten is regularly toileting outside the tray this may be because:

  • They may not like the size or shape of the litter tray. They may feel too exposed, or too trapped.

  • They may not like the texture or smell of the litter.

  • They may not like the location of the tray.

  • You might also need to scoop the tray more or less often.

Cats are individuals and you may need to experiment with these different elements to find a good litter tray routine.

If your kitten is not spayed or neutered by the time they reach adolescence, they may spray urine to mark territory. Being spayed or neutered helps eliminate this behaviour. Some cats also spray when they feel afraid or unsettled. Calming cat sprays and pheromones can help reduce indoor urine marking.

If your kitten has been consistent with using the litter tray but then stops, this could indicate an underlying problem including stress or cystitis. If your kitten develops an indoor toileting problem, contact your vet to rule out a health problem.

Do you need further advice?

If you need any further advice, please contact the OSCAR Helpline Team on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email helpline@oscars.co.uk.

©OSCAR Pet Foods Ltd