Kittens should not leave their mother until they are six-weeks of age at the least, eight weeks is even better. Never take home a kitten that is under five weeks of age. Ideally your kitten should be vaccinated, veterinarian checked, and dewormed, before you take it home – this is rarely done to “free kittens” and the kitten would always come with proof in the form of veterinarian papers, if these were done.
Note: Never pay for a kitten that has not been checked by a veterinarian. If you are bringing home a registered kitten – it should come with registration papers the day you take it home.
Before Bringing the Kitten Home
You should have a small room prepared for the kitten, it should have a litter box, a water bowl, and food dish (ideally the water and food bowls will be ceramic or stainless steel). It is always best to continue with the same kind of food the kitten is currently eating, so if you know where you are to be getting the kitten from – inquire what food it is eating and purchase the same.
Bringing the Kitten Home
The kitten should be transported home in a cat carrier, or if one is not available, a solid cardboard box. Having a kitten loose in the car is generally not safe. A scared kitten might even be able to get away from somebody who is holding it, and this could be a disaster especially when trying to get it from the car to inside the home or to the veterinarian!
If Kitty is not Vaccinated etc.
An appointment should be made immediately to visit the veterinarian, where it can be checked, wormed, and vaccinated. The veterinarian will listen to the kitten’s heart, and lungs, they will also check its ears for earmites, and the body for fleas, or other problems. You do not want to take home a sick kitten, especially if you have other cats at home.
The First Day
The kitten should be brought into its new room, and the door shut so it cannot get out. Although you may be eager to allow the kitten to explore your home, this will be overwhelming for such a young cat. As well a wee kitten will not be able to find its litter box easily in a large, unfamiliar home, and should be allowed to adjust in quite. Absolutely do not let a kitten out of this room if you have another cat, you need to continue with an introduction process. Farm kittens may take longer to learn good litter box habits.
You will want to take it easy with the kitten, hold it, pat it, but also be careful not to smother it, or overwhelm it. If you have children make sure they understand that the kitten will be frightened by too much attention, and should be put down gently if it squirms, children should be told to allow the kitten to come to them and to never chase it. Many people (myself included) would prefer to see families with young children get adult cats rather than kittens due to the potential for problems.
Kittens need to sleep a lot, you may note that cats sleep 16 hours a day. Do not be surprised if the kitten does not eat too much in the first day, it may not use its litter box either. It will probably meow a lot as it looks for its mother, and litter mates.
Kittens under 3 months of age should have dry food out all the time, and be given a teaspoon of canned kitten food at least twice a day, three times a day for kittens under 10 weeks of age.
Day Two – Seven
If you were not able to get the kitten vaccinated, wormed, and checked, this should be taken care of as soon as possible if not done prior to getting the kitten.
The kitten still needs to live primarily in its little room, but can be brought out for short periods of time with supervision. The concern, again, is that a small kitten will not be able to find the litter box, and may start using another part of the home for this purpose. If scared a kitten will hide and can be hard to find. The home should be made fully kitten proof before the kitten is loose without constant supervision – there are many household hazards that could kill a kitten – including dangling cords from blinds.
If other cats are in the home the kitten may need to remain in the room for another week or two, follow proper steps for introduction.
Until the kitten is 10 -12 weeks of age it should probably remain in its special room at night, and when you are away.
Do not give the kitten any treats, or anything other than its proper food, until it has been in your home at least 1 week, and its stools are well formed. Introduce treats slowly (not too many in one day).
Your kitten will not enjoy cat nip at this young age.
If your kitten has blood in its poop, or has bloody diarrhea, this can be a sign of a health concern, such as worms or coccidiosis, diarrhea can dehydrate a kitten quickly and can lead to death.
If the kitten is vomiting, and you have not switched the brand of food it is on, this can be a cause for alarm.
If the kitten is sneezing, or as gunk on its eyes, keep an eye on it, if this progresses to the kitten being lethargic, or breathing through its mouth, this can be serious – even resulting in the death of the kitten.
If your kitten has any symptoms contact the seller immediately. If they are reputable they will have given you a health guarantee (generally for 7 to 14 days) and will honor it by paying the veterinarian bills.
If the kitten is not eating after 24 hours, contact the seller. Because so many things can go wrong in the first few days – this is a good reason why people should not get very young kittens (who are most vulnerable) and why it is good to get a kitten from a reputable shelter, or breeder – (not free from a stranger), and why kittens should visit a veterinarian before leaving their mother.