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Kitten Care 101: How to Care for a New Kitten (Week by Week)

Welcoming a new kitten into your home is really exciting. It’s such a joy to have new fluffy friends to care for, with the possibility of years of amazing adventures together ahead. 

But it’s also a little overwhelming right? They are so small and delicate, and they need so much love and care – it’s tough to know where to even start. 

Then there are all the questions that start running through your mind…

  • When do kittens stop nursing from their mother? 
  • How much food should I feed my kitten? 
  • How long should I keep my kitten in one room?

So whether you have a pregnant mom on your hands, or are planning to welcome a new kitten into your home once they are old enough to leave their litter – we’ve got you covered with this special kitten care sheet.

We’ve created this as a kind of kitten care 101, to help you give them the best possible start in life, and you’ll learn when to expect certain milestones on your kitten’s journey to becoming an adorable adult fluff ball. 

Cute kittens laying side by side

Kitten Care 101

We’ll cover:

  • A week by week kitten development timeline
  • What to get for a new kitten
  • Feeding, grooming and healthcare essentials 
  • How to help them adjust to a new home

Let’s dive into this full rundown of how our kitties become the beautiful felines they are today!

Kitten Development Timeline

1 – 3 weeks

  • Kittens are born with their eyes and ears closed. They also don’t have any teeth yet. Unable to regulate their body temperature, at this point they are very dependent on their mother for warmth and care. So if you see any little explorers, it’s best to put them gently back with mom.  
  • In week 2, those ears and eyes will open. But they won’t have full vision or hearing quite yet, so any bright lights or excessive sounds should be avoided. You might want to keep an eye on any yellow/green coloured gunky discharge here as eye infections are common in little kitties. You may start to hear a few little meows too!  
  • Week 3 is when ears will unfurl and teeth start coming in. Those blue eyes that kittens are born with may start to change color, and so will their sense of the world around them. And guess what – purrs are incoming!

It’s a good idea to weigh kittens frequently when young. Any kittens that aren’t gaining weight, or are losing weight, should call for a trip to the vet. 

3 – 5 weeks

  • Now it’s time for more activity, so expect those first shaky steps and some light play with their brothers and sisters. This is the real beginning of exploration, so you might want to up your proofing to ensure you have no escapees. Mom might start to leave them a little more, and they could take some sips of water – carefully supervised of course!
  • In week 4 balance begins to improve, and confidence will increase. This is a good time to introduce a litter box – preferably a shallow, low sided one. They can learn how to use it by watching their mom. But do still expect accidents!
  • By week 5 their eyesight is fully developed and they can start on small amounts of food at this point or soon after. They’ll need a very smooth consistency, almost like soup, to be able to eat. Try mixing some kitten formula with tiny amounts of cat food. 

6 – 8 weeks 

  • It’s playtime! By five weeks of age, kittens are confident enough to start really playing and exploring. This is an ideal time to start socializing with them. Gently handling, playing and introducing them to other people and pets will help them become quickly accustomed to the world. Prioritize experiences with new sights, sounds and smells. 
  • First vaccinations are usually around the 6 – 8 week mark, as well as deworming medications, so be sure to book a trip to your vets.  
  • While they still will be nursing, they will now start to be weaned onto solids. Slowly transition them to around 4-5 meals a day, slowly firming up the consistency of the food too. 

9 – 12 weeks

  • By this point they should be pretty much fully weaned, and feeling much more confident when mom isn’t around. 
  • It’s recommended that they shouldn’t be separated from mom until around 10 weeks. This is because they are learning valuable skills from both her and their littermates until this point. So, in order to give each kitten the best chance of becoming a well-adjusted cat, it’s best to wait until at least ten weeks before welcoming them to new homes.

12 weeks +

  • Kittens are now small cats! Their graceful elegance will replace those wobbly first steps. 
  • At sixteen weeks old they have reached sexual maturity and may be able to reproduce, so spaying or neutering should be done not too far from this point.

Usually they will have been introduced to their new homes by now. So now, let’s look at how to settle a kitten into your family, and how to continue giving them top notch care!

cute white kitten with black paw pads holding legs up in air

Bringing Home a Kitten _ Checklist

What to Get for a New Kitten

We are often asked what supplies do I need when I get a kitten? Below is a simple list of the things we’ve found super handy for young kitties:

1. Cat Carrier

A mesh, airline-approved cat carrier always comes in handy. Whether it’s for trips to the vet, car journeys to visit family or travels abroad when they are older, investing in a good one will pay off in the long run. Read our guide to the Best Cat Carriers!

2. Cat Bed

You’ll need somewhere warm and inviting to help your new fur friend adjust and feel safe. Something like this Self Warming Cat Bed will help remind them of mom’s warmth. We’ve also got a collection of eco-friendly beds we love, that can keep your kitty feeling comfy and sustainable at the same time!

3. Food & Water Bowls

Stainless steel is the easiest, most hygienic and super long lasting option for food bowls. This Double Stainless Steel Pet Bowl with Silicone Mat is a great way to keep your new kitten’s mess to a minimum, helping to secure those bowls in place.

4. Kitten Food

While Hollywood might have us thinking cows milk is the way to go – your kitten will thank you for choosing something much healthier and more appropriate for them! You can read our guide to the Best Kitten Food and how much you should feed your kitten, to find the right schedule and sustenance for your new furball. 

5. Litter Box

You’ll want to choose a litter box that’s easily accessible and easy to clean for those first few months to a year. We’ve got plenty of litter box reviews if you just search in the sidebar above, but if your kitty is on the move with you then Nature’s Miracle is a great option. They are sustainable, disposable boxes that are easily accessible and great for adventure cats. 

6. Litter

Litter can be a tricky subject, especially if you are trying to be more sustainable. So we’ve broken down the best Eco-friendly Cat Litter Choices in this handy blog post.

7. Collar & Tag

It’s super important to have identity tags on your kitten, especially if you plan on letting your little one outdoors. For kittens, you’ll need to start with something light and safe. The Pawtitas Recycled Cat Collar is a great sustainable option with reflective strips and an all important breakaway feature, helping to keep your little explorer safe.  

8. Toys

What do kittens love? TOYS! Playing is a fantastic way to bond with your kitty and helps them grow in confidence in a new environment. I always look for toys that will really enrich my kitty, and listed some of my favorites here.

9. Scratching Post

It’s really important to allow your kitty to perform natural behaviors in a safe way, like scratching. But this doesn’t mean they need to tear up your sofa! A good scratching post will appeal to their sharpening instincts and keep your house safe too.

10. Cat Tree

These go a long way in helping keep your little furball entertained, especially if you need to WFH. They offer a sense of safety for your young one too, as cats like to observe the world from above to feel more secure. Here’s our guide to the Best Cat Trees. 

11. Grooming Supplies

This will obviously vary depending on the breed of your cat, but any kitten can benefit from brushing. It helps keep their coat in wonderful condition, especially for longer hair breeds. Start with something soft, like the gentle side of this Greenbone All Natural Bamboo set, which includes a more proactive side for when your kitty is used to regular grooming. 

12. Health Care Supplies

It’s great to keep health care essentials in stock, to better support your kitten’s health. This means you’ll never have to run out for an emergency trip to the pharmacy or pet store. It’s wise to keep a cat first aid kit on hand. 

kitten laying on yellow pillow

Helping Your Kitten Settle In

Find a Great Vet

Before getting your kitten, find a veterinarian that you feel aligned with. They’ll be a critical part of your kitten growing up! Make an appointment for your kitten’s first exam before your little one comes home, so you can quickly get them seen and checked over on those first few days. 

Start in One Room

Keeping your kitten in just one room to start with can help them adjust. But how long should I keep my kitten in one room? Answer: Once you notice your kitten feels happy, confident and seems curious about the rest of the house rather than hiding under the furniture.

Keep a Calm House

Keep the house quiet and don’t invite over every single friend to meet your kitten straight away. Give them a chance to just adjust to you and being away from their littermates first of all. 

Allow Them to Come To You

While it’s tempting to cuddle your new little furball non-stop, be mindful that they will most likely need some time to get acquainted with you before they want to get up close and personal. Sit quietly in the room and let them come to you. Allowing interaction on their terms will help them feel more comfortable. 

Proof Your Home

Be sure there’s nothing dangerous at kitten height and cover loose cords or plugs that might be tempting playthings! It’s wise to keep eyes on your kitten when they are exploring, to ensure they don’t get into any trouble. 

Also Read:

Stay Close

Until your kitten hits around 16 weeks, they shouldn’t be left alone for long periods. So make some time in your schedule to just be with your kitten and help them feel really secure before slowly building their alone time. 

Become Adventurous

Once your kitten is fully vaccinated and seems happy at home, it’s a great time to start building the life you want to have together. If you are interested in traveling you could start taking them on short car journeys, introduce them to your bicycle or bring a harness & rucksack into the picture for future hikes. Short, positive training sessions can help build a true adventure cat!

We hope this kitten care guide week by week helps you feel confident and ready for your new furry arrivals.

By giving them a caring & solid start in life, you have the best chance of helping them grow into wonderful companions. 

Oh…and please do share photos of your little fluffers! There’s nothing cuter than a kitten!