Whether you have been a cat owner for years or this is your first time brining a kitten into your home, below are some good reminders and tips when adding a new kitten to your family.
1. Spay/Neuter – Almost every cat rescue or animal shelter will make sure that the kitten is sterilized before adoption. If you are bringing a kitten into your home that has not yet been spayed/neutered, I recommend getting the kitten in to be sterilized no later than 4 months old. Kittens as young as 4 months old can reach sexual maturity and get pregnant. Also, to avoid a kitten spraying in your home, you want to have them sterilized at a young age. Early sterilization not only prevents unwanted pregnancies, but also curbs unwanted behavioral patterns associated with sexual maturity and reduces the risk of certain diseases.
2. Establish a “Home Base”. A very important step! So many people make the mistake of bringing a new kitten in their home and setting him/her right in the middle of their house to explore. They then wonder why the kitten is fearful and hides or pees in the corner. Make sure to set up an area for your kitten that will serve as their home base. Preferably a place with fewer places to hide (under the bed, behind the washer/dryer, under a dresser just to name a few). A spare bathroom works perfect. Add a litter box, food and water and a den-like cozy hideout. A kennel with the door open or cardboard box on its side works perfect! This will help your kitten to feel safe and secure. How long will it take your new kitten to be comfortable in his new environment? It depends on the kitten, his individual personality and how much socialization he received prior to coming to you. Think about this…imagine someone takes you from the only home you’ve ever known and drops you in a foreign country, into a stranger’s home with all new smells, sounds and foods. How long will it take you to adjust? Since you don’t understand the language, how long would it take you to pick it up? Similarly, this new kitten has just come into a brand new environment. He doesn’t know you or your home. Give him time to slowly adjust. Just as each person is different, each kitten is different as well. Help him to feel comfortable by spending as much time in this new “home base” which will become his safe zone. Help him to associate happy things with being in your presence. Toys, treats and playtime will help him to adjust. Once the kitten is comfortable in that area, then you can slowly introduced him to the other rooms of the house. A good way to start is to bring him into the main living area for short amounts of supervised time. Lots of playtime to tire him out then it’s back to his “home base”.
If you are bringing a kitten into your home that has not already been neutered, it is important to do so before age 4-months-old.
3. Scratching Zones are essential. Cats use their claws to stretch their paws, legs and back. It’s important to give your new kitty a variety of appropriate scratchers. Some prefer to scratch on flat, horizontal items, some prefer vertical upright scratchers. Put the item near where your cat likes to scratch. My cat started to scratch the corner of my sofa, so I got a sturdy upright scratcher, put it where she likes to scratch and voilà, she leaves my sofa alone. With each of my fosters I let them have access to a variety of different appropriate cat scratchers. Use cat nip or play with a “fishing pole” type toy near the scratcher to attract your cat to the scratching item you want them to use. Important: cats like sturdy items to scratch on. If it tips over when they use it, they won’t use it again. I also place double sided tape on the area of the carpet/furniture I don’t want my cat to scratch. Frequent nail trimming will help your cat’s claws from getting stuck on the furniture or carpet. For more information on all things cat’s claws, visit pawproject.org
4. Playtime! It cannot be underestimated how important playtime is. A bored kitty is a naughty kitty and cats of all ages need mental and physical stimulation daily. It’s part of owning a cat. My two suggestions are
get interactive cat toys and play daily. Preferably in the evening before your bedtime so your kitty will be more likely to sleep at night.
ROTATE THEIR TOYS! This is really important. Human children don’t like playing with the same toy every day and either does your kitty. Put a toy away for a few weeks then bring it out again. Your kitty will be excited to play with it again. Remember to never use your hands as toys. Substitute your hands for a plush play toy or get them up and distracted with that fishing pole toy.
5. Switching food. Cats and kittens are sensitive to diet changes so you want to transition your kitty to a new food slowly. Kitten food is specifically formulated for the needs of growing kittens and kittens will eat kitten food for the first year of their life.
6. Lookout for Dangers!
Strings (toys with stings should be supervised only)
Rubber (hair) bands
Washer/Dryer (do double check before you press start)
Open doors (watch that kitties don’t dash out the door)
Toxic plants & flowers (ASPCA has a list online of toxic plants)