Kittens first year


Kittens first year

Owning a kitten brings its own special rewards and responsibilities, your kitten will be a member of your family for many years so it is worth considering how you will provide for the kittens/cat’s needs.

These needs include

  • A suitable environment to live
  • A suitable diet
  • To exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • To be housed with or apart from other animals if applicable
  • To be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.


Type of kitten

The majority of cats in NZ are non-pedigree often called domestic shorthairs or domestic long hairs depending on the length of their coat. Those with long hair will require significantly more grooming so you should consider this in advance.

If you are considering taking on a pedigree cat it is worth taking the time to find out more about the breed and their characteristics as well as particular health concerns.


Although cats do not require to be taken for walks they still need to be able to exercise. Kittens are very playful and you will need to provide them with a safe environment to explore. Older cats will exercise themselves if given free access to the outside world but again you need to consider how safe your outdoors is for a cat. If you live on a busy road you may need to provide an enclosed area or cat proof fencing in your garden.

If you are going to keep your cat permanently indoors you will need to consider even more carefully how you will provide for its welfare, needs, particularly the need to exhibit normal behaviour.


Most cats are solitary animals, if you have more than one cat think about how you are going to ensure that they each have their own space.

If you have other animals, you will need to make the introductions slowly and carefully to ensure that neither the kitten nor the other animal is frightened or injured in the process.

Caring for your new kitten

  1. A suitable environment


  • House and garden safe and secure.
  • Dangerous or toxic items out of reach.
  • A quiet place to sleep and retreat to.
  • Start with one room with his/her carrier to retreat to.
  • Food and water bowls.
  • Litter tray and toys.
  • Once she/he is confident in her surroundings, gradually introduce her to new rooms.
  • Introductions to other family members or animals are best to be slow and gentle. Try to keep children quiet and their movements slow so kittens are not frightened.
  • If you have a very busy household it may be worth investing in a kitten pen or crate to provide a safe place for your kitten.


  1. Bedtime


  • Kittens must have a quiet resting place, to retreat to and to sleep.
  • Kittens need plenty of rest. Don’t wake her/ him up to play- the kitten will let you know when she/he is ready for action.


  1. Litter Training


  • Often before you get your kitten they will be litter trained and the most you will have to do is stand the kitten in the litter tray.
  • It is best to keep the litter box in the same location, in a quiet place well away from the water and food bowls.
  • Keep the litter tray clean as kittens/cats are very fastidious.
  • If you have multiple cats, you need a litter tray for each cat plus one. I.e. For two cats three litter trays.


  1. Going outside
  • Your kitten should have completed her full series of vaccines first.
  • Be microchipped
  • Best if you can wait until your kitten has been desexed.
  • Choose a quiet time when you are available to supervise and preferably shortly before feeding as young kitten will likely not go far and it will be easier to get him/her to come back again.


  1. A suitable Diet
  • Initially stick to the diet the kitten is used to, you can slowly change it if you want to but very slowly.
  • Aim is to provide a complete nutrition for healthy development and growth. Growing kittens have specific nutritional requirements, therefore buy a good quality kitten food.
  • Most kittens prefer to eat little and often throughout the day.
  • It is good to measure the overall amount of food being eaten.
  • Never feed your kitten or cat with dog food or a vegetarian diet. Cats need more protein than dogs, and also taurine. Cats who don’t get enough taurine run the risk of developing series eye and heart problems.
  • Remember that raw food can be a source of bacteria and other infections and we don’t recommend this for your cat or kitten.


  1. Water
  • Always have a fresh bowl of water available.
  • The water is best not placed next to your kitten’s food bowl as cats prefer to drink in a separate location from where they eat.
  • Kittens/cats are best not given milk as a significant number are unable to digest lactose in cows milk and this can cause diarrhoea.


  1. Normal behavior
  • Socialization
    • Expose your kitten to a wide variety of new experiences and new sights, sounds, smells and people. This will help ensure your kitten grows up feeling confident and secure.
    • Make sure when you are exposing a kitten to new experiences they have a bolt hole to escape to if your kitten feels frightened.
    • With introductions to new people let the kitten approach the new person in her own time.
  1. Exercise and play
  • Play is key to your kittens learning and provides exercise.
  • Boisterous play with their mum and siblings develops their physical and mental abilities, strengthens their muscles and increases social skills.
  • Toys should be small and light enough to bat and carry around but not small enough to swallow.
  • Pieces of rolled up paper or a table tennis ball or a large cardboard box make excellent play toys.
  • Check toys regularly for damage and discard.
  • Cats scratch to mark territory and to shed claw coverings so a scratch post can help divert attention from your furniture.


  1. Protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease
  • Register your kitten with a veterinary clinic
  • Safe, sensible carrier available
  • Never carry your cat in your arms to the vet, a loud noise, or dog in the carpark or waiting room could make any cat take flight.


  1. Vaccinations
  • There are vaccinations available to protect your kitten from a number of serious and highly infectious diseases.
  • All kittens should be vaccinated against
    • Feline influenza
    • Feline infectious enteritis
  • Kittens usually get three vaccinations at 8-9 weeks,12 weeks and 16 weeks of age.
  • After the 16 weeks vaccination the kitten is not due for a vaccination and health check for another year.
  • At this annual check and vaccination your cat will have a full check over to look for any early signs of disease, and to discuss preventive health care for the year ahead.


  1. Worms and worming
  • Main types of worms
    • Roundworm
    • Tapeworm
    • Lungworm
  • Remember your kitten/cat may have worms even if you do not see any sign of them. Regular preventive treatment is essential.
  • Worming for kittens is
    • Every 2 weeks until 12 weeks old then every month until 6 months old then every 3 months for life.
  1. Fleas
  • Once kittens start going outside they will pick up fleas.
  • Fleas can transmit tapeworm
  • Severe infestations can cause anemia in kittens and cause death.
  • Ask us what is a safe product to use in your kitten


  1. Desexing
  • This is the responsible thing to do.
  • Prevents unwanted kittens
  • Reduces roaming and therefore injury from road accidents.
  • Reduces fighting and abscesses.
  • Reduces risk of urine spraying
  • Mostly this is done at 5-6 months of age depending on your kittens sex


  1. Pet insurance
  • This is an extremely good idea to help with unexpected veterinary fees.
  • This can reduce some of the worry at what can be a tough time when your family pet becomes ill or has an accident.
  • Shop around and check exclusions.


  1. Grooming
  • Establish a routine as your kitten settles in.
  • Grooming removes dead hairs but also reinforces the bond between you and provides the perfect opportunity to check your kitten for any abnormalities, and check for fleas.


  1. Hairballs
  • Regular grooming removes loose hair and helps prevent hairballs forming.


  1. Claws
  • Outdoor cats generally keep their nails from becoming overgrown by scratching on trees or fence posts. Indoor cats may benefit from a scratching post. In older cats the claws may become overgrown as they become unable to scratch normally and the nails need clipping regularly to prevent them getting caught or growing into paw pads.


  1. Dental Care
  • A kittens baby teeth come through when it is about 3-4 weeks old and its adult teeth start to erupt at around 4 months.
  • Good dental care is very important as dental lesions can be very painful
  • Regular inspection of your cat’s mouth will help pick up problems early and they will be thoroughly checked when at our veterinary clinic.
  • Look for teeth that are dark, loose or chipped and check that gums are not bleeding, puffy or discolored. If your cat has difficulty eating or you notice any of the above have us check your cats mouth.
  • When your kitten reaches adulthood at 12 months there is a dental food called T/D diet that is very good to help stop tartar build up.


  1. Travelling with your cat
  • Try to get your kitten used to its carrier so when you have to travel on holiday or to the vets it is not as stressful. Include some soft bedding.


  1. Microchipping
  • If your cat can be identified, it is much more likely to be returned to you if it gets lost or injured.
  • Veterinary clinics, SPCAs, councils have microchip scanners so your kitten/cat can be returned to you quickly.
  • You can also use a collar and tag but be sure it is a proper cat collar with a quick release catch if the collar gets snagged or caught.


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Kohimarama Vets

325 Kohimarama Road
St Heliers, Auckland 1071