Kitten care guide

Cats & Kittens

Thinking about adopting a cat?

Cats & Kittens

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Cats & Kittens

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What to expect

Having a kitten in your home requires care, patience and dedication. It's also extremely rewarding. Their first few months are the key learning time, so think about how you introduce them to new experiences through short play sessions, so they find out when to be curious and cautious.

Frequent touching, stroking, grooming and handling are important: kittens will learn, gradually, to welcome physical contact - but only if you are gentle and persist. Even then, many cats allow this only on their own terms! You need to establish frequent contact early on so you can get them to accept you checking that they are healthy (ears, eyes and other body parts).

Getting to know them

When you’re a tiny little kitten you want to have fun but the world seems scary and enormous. So, when you first bring them home, it's best to start them off in just one room. Once settled, however, kittens are very inquisitive and can easily get lost or stuck in the most unlikely places, so supervise them as much as possible.

Obviously,you'll provide your new resident with a range of suitable toys and a small cosy bed - but you'll also expect that they may choose somewhere else as their favourite slumber spot! On the first few nights of being in your home a warm (not hot) water bottle under a blanket may help compensate for the absence of the warmth of their mother or litter mates.

Keep your kitten inside until at least a week after completing the first course of vaccinations (at 13 to 14 weeks old, depending on the vaccine). On their first outing, accompany them and let them explore with you close by. Keep doing this until they are used to your garden and can find their way back to their house entry point.

To teach your kitten to use a cat flap, prop it open and entice them through with a tasty morsel: our tried-and-tested favourite is asmall piece of cheese. Gradually close the flap so the kitten learns to push it to get through.

Building a relationship

By adopting a kitten you have the ideal opportunity to develop a loving,responsive and rewarding relationship. This requires effort on your part; literally, the more you give, the more you get back.   Show the kitten friendship, care, love and loyalty, give the kitten time and attention, and watch the results. Encourage cuddles but on the kitten’s terms. Never force cuddles.  Never, ever, shout at a kitten, and be considerate with noises in the home.

Food and feeding

Your BARKS kitten will be at least 12 weeks old and fully weaned. Check what he has been eating and, when you first get home, feed the same thing to avoid a sudden change of diet causing a tummy upset. Feed him little and often and choose a complete growth diet food, which is probably dry rather than wet. As a rough guide, kittens of eight to 12 weeks need four meals per day, between three and six months three meals and over six months just two meals per day. Never give your kitten milk as it can cause diarrhoea. Fresh drinking water should be available at all times.

Health and hygiene

If your kitten is inclined to go to the toilet as the moment takes them,anywhere in your house, try confining them to one room with a litter tray until they learn to use it regularly. Place the tray on newspaper in a quiet corner and not next to food and water bowls.Keep the tray clean, but don't empty the whole thing every day: just remove the soiled litter so the kitten will be more inclined to revisit as it will smell ‘familiar’. Experiment with different litter textures to find the one they prefer.

Your BARKS kitten will come to you fully vaccinated and you will enter into a contractual commitment to have the kitten neutered.

The most common ongoing key issues around kitten and cat healthcare are annual booster vaccinations, worming, flea treatment and ear mites.Get your vet to advise on all these during the first six months of your kitten living with you.  

We recommend you consider insurance.  Vet bills can be very expensive,and clearly it is your choice whether or not to insure. However, if you choose not to insure it is vital that you have ongoing access to funds to cover the bills.   It is unacceptable to take on a kitten without due preparation for health finance.

Safety tips

If you have children they need supervision when playing with the kitten and should be encouraged to wait for the little chap to come to them and to keep play sessions short. Also be very careful and gradual in introducing the kitten to other pets. Seek advice from your vet and from BARKS.

As they get around and explore more, it's sensible to regard your home as a place of potential hazards. Make sure all windows and outside doors are closed, nooks and crannies are blocked and any appliances(dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer) and toilets are kept firmly shut at all times!

Remove plants that may be poisonous - like poinsettia, lily of the valley,rubber plant and ivy. If you live in a flat or if the kitten will have access to the upstairs in your house, keep the windows closed or fit screens.

Outside,keep garden chemicals stored safely and think twice about using slug pellets or chemicals  – many are toxic to animals.


Remember, a healthy cat can live for more than 20 years.  This is a long-term commitment to a new family member.