The thought of bringing home a new kitten can be at once exciting and overwhelming. Here are some kitten-specific suggestions that will help make your new friend’s welcome a warm and lasting one.
Kitten-Proof Your Home
Keep small items, such as tinsel, rubber bands, buttons and beads out of reach — your kitten could choke on them. Place all electric cords out of reach. Also, be aware of those household products and plants that may be harmful to your new kitten.
Bring your new kitten home in a cat carrier. Cat carriers are a safe and familiar place for your kitten when you visit the veterinarian or travel, and they can keep your curious kitten out of trouble when need be.
You can help your kitten to understand what is expected by placing her in the litter box after feeding. Kittens do not need a full-size litter box and might do better in a box with lower sides (about 1 inch).
Watch your kitten closely. When she begins nosing in corners or squatting, place her in the litter box. Gently scratch the kitten’s front paws in the filler, so she begins to learn that this is the place to deposit and bury waste. If your kitten has an accident, wipe it up with a paper towel and place the paper towel in the litter box. Then, place the kitten in the litter box and repeat the process of scratching with her front paws. Do not punish your cat for having an accident. This won’t help her to learn to use the litter box, it will only teach her not to eliminate in front of you.
When your kitten begins to understand, don’t take her good behavior for granted. Continue to praise her for using the litter box.
Grooming Your New Kitten
It is important to make your kitten feel comfortable about grooming from an early age. Look into her ears, eyes, nose and mouth regularly. Look at her paws to prepare her for claw trimming when she needs it. Brush comb your kitten regularly.
Diet / Nutrition
Kittens can benefit from a different kind of diet than adult cats, as their stomachs are smaller and their nutritional needs somewhat different. Feed your kitten a kitten food that is specially designed to meet her nutritional requirements. Feed her in small amounts, several times a day.
The most desirable age to adopt a kitten is between 8 and 12 weeks of age. Kittens obtained after 12 weeks may be more difficult to manage. The experiences of kittens during their first few months of life are important in helping to shape their temperaments and personalities as adults.
Your kitten will need time to adjust to her new environment, and understanding this is the first step in getting off to a positive start. Place your kitten in a small, quiet place with food and a litter box. As she becomes more comfortable, you can gradually allow her access to other rooms in the house. Talk quietly to your kitten and gently pet her. Set a regular time and place for feeding your kitten.
A kitten separated from her litter-mates and deprived of play activity may demonstrate some behavior problems in later life. Play helps introduce her to her environment and is very important in her behavioral development. Stalking and pouncing on imaginary prey aids in a kitten’s neural and muscular development.
Your kitten’s socialization can be enhanced by frequent petting and handling, as studies show that petting a young kitten can make her more responsive as an adult cat.
Exposing kittens to as many people as possible is important in helping to lessen their fear of strangers as adult cats. Kittens should also be introduced to children. Show children how to pet the kitten. A kitten not socialized with children may reject or even bite them after she has matured.
Introducing Your New Kitten to Other Pets
Keep your kitten confined to one room of the house for the first few days, giving your other pet(s) a chance to grow accustomed to her smell. Make the first introduction short and sweet, removing the kitten after a few minutes. Most pets will work things out in their own way, which may take about a week. If your pets are having more difficulty adjusting, supervise their time together and be patient. Offer both pets a place to go when they want to be alone.
Introducing a new kitten to an older animal can be very stressful on the older animal. Lavish most of your attention on the older animal, not the kitten, making sure that the old-timer doesn’t feel threatened by the newcomer.
Holding and Carrying
Place one hand under your kitten’s chest and use your other hand to support the rear. Gently lift the kitten into the crook of your arm.
Your new kitten will sleep up to 16 hours a day. Establish a sleeping place for her right away, but think twice before you make that spot your bed. Once she gets comfortable, your kitten may sleep there for the rest of her life.
It’s not a good idea to use hands, fingers, feet or clothing when playing with a kitten, as your cute little kitten will eventually grow into a healthy-sized cat and you do not want to encourage aggressive behavior. Providing appropriate toys for exercising her natural predatory instincts of pouncing, stalking and chasing will ensure she has a safe and healthy outlet for these behaviors. Do not use toys that are too heavy for the kitten to move or that are small enough to be swallowed.
A scratching post is an excellent investment for your new kitten. It will allow your kitten to scratch, stretch and exercise all at once.