Surviving your cat's 'Kittenhood'

Kittens have a way of finding trouble

Kittens are fuzzy and completely adorable, but anyone who’s raised one recently will admit they require time, energy, strategy, and patience. Here are our top ‘survival’ tips, tricks, and gear.

The best first step is to be matched to a kitten who will fit well in your life.

  • Before you adopt or purchase a new kitten, consider your lifestyle and goals: is your house quiet and calm? busy with housemates or children? do you have other pets? do you enjoy going for walks and want a cat who will take well to a leash & harness? These types of questions can help you pick the right breed, energy level, and temperament of cat for you.

  • If this is your first pet, check out local veterinarians, pet sitters, boarding facilities, and online cat forums. These folks may help steer you to a rescue or breeder who can help you find your perfect cat or kitten.

  • Find a quality rescue organization or breeder, and apply.

  • Be patient. The right match takes time, but it’s well worth the wait.

Read up

  1. There are several guides to body language, but we like the illustrations and real photos used by TuftandPaw though the popups can be distracting..

  2. Jackson Galaxy has a wonderful summary about what to do before you bring home a kitten here. We love Jackson’s thoroughness and commitment to the long-term happiness of cats.

Watch, listen, learn

  1. Our favorite online cat training tutorials are from Cat School. Their videos break down training to easy-to-approach steps with nice progression videos.

  2. For behavior concerns, Jackson Galaxy’s channel can’t be beat

  3. There is an example of cat play here. If you’re adopting a pair of kittens, they will definitely play, but be mindful of when to intervene if one kitten is playing too rough for the other kitten.

  4. If you’re interested in seeing our home movies of kitten, puppy and rescue critter training, check out our informal channel here.


Covid has certainly changed the game for socialization strategies, but it remains vital to raising a well-balanced adult cat. Every kitten is unique, so coming up with a custom plan for your kitten is important. Don’t forget to recruit friends and neighbors for polite introductions and new objects/costumes, too! With confident kittens under 5 months, I try to show them at least one new thing every single day. It pays off big later in life! Kittens particularly struggle with learning to ‘relax’ when being handled, so practice this skill often with kittens who are already a little sleepy. Handle paws, ears, tail, face, lips, and belly when the kitten is tired and relaxed. Calm, confident, relaxed kittens become easy-to-handle cats, which allows better medical care and much better senior cat care.

“New” things to expose your confident kitten to:

  1. cat carriers
  2. brushes
  3. tooth brushes
  4. nail clippers
  5. toys
  6. big boxes
  7. objects from other homes with cats/dogs/exotic pets/pocket pets
  8. a cat-friendly dog
  9. a cat-friendly cat
  10. doorbells, knocking, strangers entering
  11. riding in the car
  12. harnesses & leashes
  13. target training



Potty Training

One nice thing about kittens is they don’t require much to ‘potty train’ them. With an easy-to-access litter box in a semi-private, safe space, most kittens will only potty in the box. Be sure to keep the box(es) clean to encourage your kitten to use the box frequently to avoid health issues. The general ‘rule’ of litter boxes is to have n+1 where n = the number of cats (2 cats? have 3 boxes. 3 cats? have 4 boxes) - this generally prevents territorial disputes. If you notice a reluctance in using the box, try changing the litter (less scented or a different base substance: clay/corn/wheat/newspaper), or try making the location more private (and a box cover or little courtesy partition).

Pee Pads come in many shapes, sizes, and scent options, but we really dig the Frisco unscented for their versatility. If you have access to a washer, PoochPads reusable pee pads hold up well. These are useful around litter boxes to help keep messes off kitten paws and off of your floors.

Nature’s miracle has amazing products, including a virus disinfectant that tackles parvo and giardia, too. It’s truly miraculous!

The Bissell SpotBot allows us to spend a lot more time with our pets and a lot less time with their accidents. Their full, stand-up ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner is also spectacular, if you have more mud to remove.

Ruggable rugs are quite tough and machine-washable, too. Great for keeping kittens and older cats from slipping and hurting themselves, while still allowing you to clean them thoroughly.

A waterproof mattress cover is a worthwhile investment for critters young and old to safely share your home without depriving you of sleep.


Nothing really makes teething easy, but here are some tips to get through it:

  1. Encourage kittens to play with toys, not hands! (avoid being a chew toy)
  2. Encourage kittens to play with toys, not clothes or shoe laces! (avoid yanking sensitive teeth out with clothing while in movement)
  3. Avoid playing tug or pulling toys out of your kitten’s mouth with too much vigor. If your kitten loses a tooth while playing with you, the kitten may think playing with you ‘hurt’ and that can damage your relationship with your new pet.


Just Arrived & Nervous?

Training and desensitization is a great long term solution, but sometimes we need a little short term help! Thunderease sells a variety of products that are kitten-safe to help new pets acclimate with less stress (for both of you). These pheromone diffusers are also great if you end up moving to a new location with your cat or kitten!

Find your own calm/centered self - if you feel stressed, over-excited, or nervous, the kitten will pick up on that, too. Confident kittens should explore with slight caution, but overly shy kittens may hide, freeze, or even drool/shake in new places. Be sure to provide your new pet with a small, safe space to begin with (a dog crate, a bathroom, a closet - somewhere private from other pets and away from exuberant humans, with private food/water/litter box/bed). For particularly shy kittens, it may be useful to sit with them during meal times to help them associate you with positive things, but be sure your kitten is eating! Be patient, consistent, kind, and encouraging to show them how incredible your shared lives will be going forward. Also, bribe them with abandon - treats, wet food, churu sticks, toys - whatever it takes to get them out of their shell without fear will really help them gain confidence in the space and in your presence.