Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Nothing stirs up a household quite like a new kitten. A bundle of energy on the biggest adventure of her young life, she’ll need plenty of sweet talk and a little forethought to ensure her quick assimilation into the household. Initially, you’ll want to create a temporary refuge in your home to create a sense of security for the kitten.
Inquire about the kitten’s history with the seller or shelter provider. A well-socialized kitten who has been weaned properly and has had frequent interaction with people is likely to be open to new experiences. A less trusting kitten will require more patience and care.
Prior to the kitten’s arrival, prepare a small room, such as a bedroom or bathroom: Remove any objects that may be dangerous to a cat, such as unstable shelves, small furniture, houseplants, knickknacks, etc. that could fall over if jumped on.
Place appropriate bedding in a quiet corner.
Set out food and water, fill the litter box with litter and arrange the items near the carrier, though keep the food distant from the litter. Later you may move the food and litter box gradually to other areas of the house. It’s a good idea to continue feeding your kitten with whatever type and brand of food she was previously fed. Once your kitten adapts to the new environment, the menu can be adjusted as well.
Bring your kitten and carrier to the designated room and close the door. Open the carrier door, but don't force the kitten to come out. She’ll emerge in her own time. After your kitten does emerge, remember to leave the carrier door open so the cat can retreat if feeling scared. If your kitten arrived home with cat toys, keep these in or around the carrier. It is especially comforting for the kitten to have her towel or blanket from her previous home.
During the first several days, spend significant time just being with your kitten in the room. Have patience if your kitten does not initially want to be held or petted. Sitting nearby and chatting or playing with your kitten will increase her sense of security. As you bond, your kitten will generally look to you for social encouragement, but don’t force the issue.
After the kitten has adjusted to the room and to you, leave the door open. Depending on her temperament, the kitten may take a week or longer to venture forth and begin exploring her new digs.
Once the kitten has become comfortable with you, introduce other family members slowly. Have them come into the room one at a time to pet and play with the cat. Have younger children sit down, then show them how to gently stroke the cat's fur.
Expect other household animals to display curiosity about the newcomer. You’ll want to closely supervise their initial encounters. If you have a dog, one breeder suggests that you place a child gate in the door to the kitten’s room. This will allow the kitten to roam freely (the kitten will climb the gate) but will keep the dog at a distance. Generally, kittens will quickly adapt to dogs and older cats. Older cats may express resentment over the attention paid to the newcomer. Try to provide the other animals in your household with a bit of extra attention to soothe any jealousy or insecurity. Patience and common sense will resolve most conflicts.
You’ll discover that your kitten will explore all levels of the household, including the vertical, so evaluate your home for potential kitten hazards. Ensure there are no areas where the kitten may be injured or household items may be rearranged or damaged. Place scratching posts around the house.