A person sitting down with a cup of coffee, cuddling a small kitten
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What to Know When Adopting a Kitten: Essential Tips

Americans adopt over two million cats from shelters each year. Adopting a cat from a shelter or humane society means not only giving a kitten a home but also potentially saving their life.

If you’ve decided to adopt a kitten, you may feel like you have a lot to prepare for. A new kitten requires time and attention, and you also have to make sure you’re meeting their needs. 

In this article, we’ll cover essential tips you can use throughout the adoption process. From evaluating what kind of cat is right for your lifestyle to bringing your cat to a safe home and supporting their long-term health, we have you covered.

What To Consider Before Trying To Adopt a New Kitten

Before signing adoption papers, it’s important to consider how a cat will fit into your lifestyle. Beyond the financial implications of adopting a cat, kitten care can be especially time-consuming. Other things to consider include what color of cat you’d like and whether you only want one cat or if you’re open to a bonded pair.

 Resources, time, and environment: 

  • Is the financial impact of having a pet something you can afford? You’ll need to pay for food, vet care, and ongoing supplies.

  • How much time do you spend at home? Do you travel a lot?

  • What is your space like? Is it large enough to give a cat dedicated spaces for rest, food and water, and litter boxes?

 Color can matter: 

  • Gray cats have the highest scores for shyness, aloofness, and intolerance.

  • Orange cats have the highest scores for trainability, friendliness, and calmness.

  • Tabby cats have the highest scores for boldness and activeness.

  • Tricolor cats tend to be stubborn.

  • Bicolor cats tend to be more tolerant.

 Two may be better than one: 

  • One kitten can become lonely and afraid.

  • A cat can develop single-kitten syndrome, which occurs when a cat comes from a multi-cat environment (like a shelter) into a single-cat environment. Single-kitten syndrome can cause destructive behavioral issues due to stress and anxiety.

Questions To Ask When Adopting a Kitten

It’s important to ask questions when adopting a kitten to ensure you can meet their needs. A reputable shelter will welcome questions, as this shows them you’re committed to being a good pet parent. 

That said, here is a list of questions to ask when adopting a kitten:

  • What vaccinations, dewormings, and veterinary care has the kitten received, and what do they still need? What was the date of the care?

  • What is the kitten currently eating? It’s ideal to feed the cat the same food they’re used to after you adopt them, then gradually transition them to a new food if needed.

  • What is the age of the kitten? Kittens typically should be 8–10 weeks old before adoption. Until this point, they’re still reliant on their mother’s milk for proper immunity and nutrition. Weaning them too early can be detrimental to their long-term health.

  • Has the kitten been spayed or neutered? Many shelters don’t adopt kittens out before spaying or neutering. If they haven’t done this, ask the shelter if this is a service they provide.

  • Are there any illnesses in the shelter or breeder environment? Rescue groups are set up to handle these issues and work with local veterinarians to help the kittens get healthy. Examples include:

    • Fleas

    • Ear mites

    • Upper respiratory infections

  • Has the kitten been ill or exhibiting symptoms of illness? Any current health issues need treatment before adoption. 

  • Does the kitten have any behavioral issues? 

Be sure to get a health record with all of your kitten’s documented health and behavior issues to share with your veterinarian.

Before Adopting the Kitten

In addition to assessing the health of your future cat, here are some additional areas to think through before adopting.

Understand the Differences Between Caring for a Cat vs. a Kitten

Kittens are typically more high-maintenance than adult cats. They require more food and specific nutrients that may not be as important for adult cats, so getting kitten food is a must. Kittens are also extremely curious, increasing the chance of them biting or chewing inappropriate items around your home. 

On the flip side, kittens have less life history, meaning changing behaviors can be easier than trying to change the behavior of an adult or senior cat. So, if you are up for a high-energy, curious kitten, it can be a really rewarding experience to raise a cat from kitten to adult.

Prepare Your Home For a New Pet

Below is a checklist for kitten-proofing your home and setting up necessary supplies. 

  • Cover electrical outlets.

  • Secure electrical cords.

  • Put smaller objects they could swallow out of reach, such as small children’s toys, beads, etc.

    • We recommend getting on the ground from the same perspective as your cat to explore what they may be able to get into or get tangled in.

    • Things that are in a string form or may look like a worm (rubber bands, string, sewing needles, etc.) are a big danger to cats because of their curiosity. 

  • Get scratchers for your cat — otherwise, they will learn to scratch furniture.

  • Buy litter boxes (one more box than your number of cats) and litter ahead of time and show the new kitten where it is as soon as possible.

Buy the Right Products

There are some essential things you’ll need to buy before bringing your kitten home. Some products and supplies are also nice to have and not completely necessary, but you may find them helpful. 


  • Scratching posts, pads, or cat trees

  • Litter boxes and cat litter

  • Kitten food: Check out The Honest Kitchen’s Minced wet cat food and Smittens White Fish Cat Treats (both of which are healthy for kittens).

  • Cat carrier for vet visits and travel

  • Food and water bowls

  • Cat toys: Feathers, crinkle toys, etc.

  • Grooming tools like brushes, nail clippers, and teeth care items

  • Collar, ID tag, and microchip: Even if your cat is an indoor cat, there is still a chance they could get out of the house.


  • Catnip

  • Calming diffuser: Some diffusers emit cat pheromones to decrease stress. Talk to your vet about the right option for your cat.

  • Litter box furniture: There are a ton of options when it comes to disguising your litter boxes. 

  • Automated gadgets: Though not necessary, an automated litter box, automated food dispenser, and water fountain can be a great way to ensure your cat is on a schedule and make your life a bit easier.

Consider Adoption Options

It’s also important to consider where you’re going to adopt your feline friend from. You may already know of a local rescue group or humane society in your area, but we recommend researching your options to ensure the adoption center is aligned with your values. 

It may even be worth visiting a few places to learn about the facilities. You may realize that some are cleaner than others, have higher standards, or just provide new pet parents with more support.

During the Adoption Process

Once you’ve decided on an adoption facility, you'll want to prepare yourself for the adoption process.

Come Prepared

Though every facility is slightly different, you’ll usually start the process by meeting the cats available for adoption. The staff may also encourage you to spend a little time observing or even playing with the kittens to see who you connect with. This will also be a good chance to see which cats are bonded. 

You’ll likely receive lots of information on what the adoption fee includes, what the facility’s policies are, and what they need from you to ensure you’re a suitable pet parent. Some shelters require potential adopters to fill out a survey to determine if they’re a good fit for a pet. 

During the paperwork process, you can ask all of the questions we covered above and more. Be ready with any documentation the shelter may require, such as identification and proof of residence. If you’re renting, you may need a letter from your landlord confirming you can have a pet in your apartment.

Meet the Kitten for the First Time

As mentioned, each shelter does first meetings differently, but generally, it’s best to approach a group of cats and kittens with a calm demeanor. Try not to make loud noises or fast movements, as this could scare some of the cats and cause defensive responses. If a cat backs away or hisses at you, let them be. Don’t force anything. 

If you’re interested in a particular kitten, ask the shelter volunteer or foster for their favorite toy and see if they'll play with you. The fishing pole toys and balls that crinkle are often favorites. Keep the play soft and easy to begin with because, right now, you're a stranger.

After some play, pick the kitten up and see if they’ll settle down in your hands. If they’re still fired up from active play, they may not — but if they’re getting tired, they may be willing to snuggle with you.

Finalize the Adoption

Finally, after you’ve gone over the paperwork, bonded with a cat or two, and decided you’re destined to be together, you’ll be ready to finalize the adoption. This will likely include signing contracts, paying any fees, scheduling your first vet appointment (some shelters will do this for you), and arranging for your cat’s transport home.

After Bringing the Kitten Home

Once the adoption is finalized and the kitten is officially part of your family, these tips can help you get through those early days of cat parenthood.

Take Extra Care in the First Few Days

Taking time to introduce the kitten to their new home is important. Establish safety and comfort from the get-go, as this will help your cat acclimate to their new surroundings and bond with you as you begin to raise them.

Try to keep things calm and quiet for a few days. Gentle petting and handling in a quiet room is important for them to learn to trust you. Gradually let them hear, smell, and see your normal home and routine.

Make Sure the Kitten Goes to the Veterinarian

Depending on the age of the cat and the shelter’s involvement, your kitten may already have some of their shots. (Be sure to ask about medical documentation, so you know what they’ve received before adoption.) 

Regardless of their health care up until adoption, it’s a good idea to take your cat to the vet immediately after bringing them home. An immediate vet visit is even more crucial if your new cat is a stray. 

This is to ensure they don’t have any illnesses or health issues, some of which can even be transmissible to humans. For example, Bartonella can lead to cat scratch fever in humans. 

This first vet visit is also an opportunity to establish a relationship with the veterinarian and review medical records from the shelter, if applicable. You can also discuss a schedule for future health checkups.

Work on Training and Socialization

Training a cat isn’t as simple as training a dog, but with patience and consistency, you can do it. The most important training that you’ll need to do right away is litter box training. Some cats may be litter box trained already when you adopt them, while others may not be. 

Other training typically centers around behavior, such as knowing where they’re allowed to scratch, and socialization with other pets and people. You can support your training efforts with treats, clickers, and redirection.

Plan for Ongoing Care

Cat ownership can be a long-term commitment, as the average lifespan for cats is 13–14 years, and some cats live to be 25 or even 30. Thinking about ongoing care of your cat is important, from diet and exercise to grooming and overall lifestyle. The more you get to know your cat’s personality, the clearer these things will become.

The other key here is to be adaptable and willing to make changes based on your cat’s needs. For example, if they develop an allergy or disability at some point in life, you may need to change your lifestyle to accommodate them.

Embrace the Journey With a New Kitten by Your Side

All in all, being a cat parent can be a wonderful journey, but it is also a serious one that you shouldn't take lightly. From researching adoption organizations to preparing for a cat’s current and future needs, there’s a lot to consider. 

And when it comes to supporting your cat's health from kitten to senior cat, look no further than human grade cat food from The Honest Kitchen. With delicious wet food, supplements, dry food, and treats, The Honest Kitchen has something for even the pickiest eaters. 

Learn more and explore The Honest Kitchen’s cat and  kitten food. 

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