So you’ve decided to bring home a new bundle of furry joy! Congrats! Whether the kitten is your first pet, or an addition to your growing family, being prepared will make her transition safe and easy for everyone. Here are a few tips for housing a healthy and happy kitten!
– Give it time: Some kittens are adopted at 6 weeks old, but 10-12 weeks is better. Those extra few weeks spent with her mother will help a kitten learn acceptable behavior, from getting along with siblings to getting accustomed to human contact. If a kitten has been gently handled by people, she will likely be friendlier and better adjusted. When choosing a kitten, look for one that is inquisitive, who doesn’t shy away from your touch and is ready to play!
– Provide all the comforts: Kittens are growth machines for their first year and need different nutrition than adult cats. Extra protein for muscle and tissue development, fat for fatty acids and plenty of calories are key to kittens’ health. Specially formulated kitten foods fitting their nutritional requirements should be given until the kitten is a year old.
Away from his littermates or mother, the kitten needs to feel secure as well as warm. Whether you provide a cardboard box lined with a blanket or a fancier bed from a pet supply store, keep your kitten’s bed in a quiet place, away from household traffic.
Litter training is easy , cats instinctively bury their waste , but takes patience. Put the litter box in a corner or other secluded spot. After your kitten has awakened from a nap, or shortly after she’s finished eating, place her in the box. If she doesn’t dig or scratch, gently take one of her front paws and simulate digging with it. Praise her if she uses the box, but never punish her if he doesn’t. Just place her in it at hourly intervals until she gets the idea.
To discourage clawing furniture, provide a carpet-covered scratching post.
– Meet the family: Although everyone will want to hold the kitten, limit handling for the first few days while your new pet adjusts. Set up his bed, litter box and food in a quiet room where he can be secured until he gets to know his new home. Introduce one family member at a time, allowing the kitten to come to you and learn your touch.
Children under five should not interact with kittens; many shelters and rescue groups will not allow families with very young children to adopt kittens because children can be rough, sometimes tragically, with kittens. Older children can be shown how to hold a cat — with one hand just behind the front legs, the other supporting his hindquarters. They should be taught never to grab a kitten’s tail or ears, or pick it up by its scruff. Show children how to gently pet a cat’s head and back. Remind them to always wash their hands after being around kitty. Always supervise children’s interaction with kittens, especially if they have friends visiting.
Kitten proof your home: Kittens can get tangled or choked by anything swinging or hanging. Therefore, keep your new pet safe by securely anchoring drape or blind cords out of reach.
To prevent chewing on electric and phone cords, bundle them with a cord manager and fasten away from kittens’ reach.
Rubber bands, jewelry, Christmas decorations, balloons and other small items are dangerous to kittens that may swallow them. Remove poisonous plants, and roach or ant traps and make sure the toilet lid is down. Keep kitchen and bathroom cabinets closed so your kitten doesn’t encounter bleach, detergent, dental floss and other household items when exploring.
In the laundry area, keep washer and dryer doors closed: A kitten may climb into a warm dryer for a nap. Remember, if something would be harmful for a toddler, it’s the same for your kitten.
– Meet the animals: Before bringing in a new kitten, be sure your resident pets have recently been checked by your vet, and are disease-free. When the kitten is in his or her secured room, your other cat will sniff around the doorway. Give your resident cat extra attention to ease his or her anxiety. Once the kitten feels comfortable, allow the two to meet briefly. Stay in the room while they sniff and explore each other. There may be some hissing and growling. If one cat shows real hostility, separate them and try again a few days later.
Never leave a dog alone with a new kitten. Dogs can become aggressive, or a kitten may claw at a dog’s face. Make sure your dog is properly leashed as you introduce him or her to your kitten following the same procedure you would to introduce a cat to your kitten. This lets the animals learn each other’s scent. The kitten should not be allowed to run away because the dog may think chasing it is a game. Reward both pets for calm behavior. Always supervise their interactions until the kitten is fully grown.
– Home alone: Make sure your kitten is safe and happy when you’re at work. She should be secured in one room with her bed, litter box, scratching post, food, water, and plenty of safe toys to play with. If home alone at night, a small nightlight should be left on, and consider leaving a radio on. Some cats enjoy hearing a human voice when left home for hours at a time. Believe it or not, pet sitters have reported that cats prefer country western and classical music!
For more information on kitten care, visit www.animalplanet.com