The Ultimate Guide to Successfully Welcome a Kitten to Your Home
Mom says that according to the rescue groups, it’s a huge kitten season! The shelters and adoption groups are overflowing with kittens up for adoption – so if you are thinking of adding a kitten to your family, NOW is the purrfect time to do it!
Adopting a kitten is always a very exciting event since who doesn’t love kittens…tiny, cuddly, curious, little lions on the prowl! But they can be tiny terrors too if not properly introduced into the family and household.
Kittens require a lot of work from training to socializing especially between the 3 months (the age at which many kittens are put up for adoption) and 1-year age range.
Let’s run down the list of what to do when you adopt a new kitten!
The number #1 thing to remember when it comes to your cat is that you are TOP CAT! Mom tells cat parents this all the time – and she often gets the “glazed eye” expression or a sheepish kinda laugh in response.
But here’s the thing – it is the truth – in our lives you are our “everything” – you provide the food, the warm house, the cuddles, the toys and more, so why wouldn’t we listen to you if you are in fact our top cat! You just have to prove it by being consistent in your training and using just a few words…No – Down – Stay – Come – all in a firm, low voice.
Also, a quick reminder that it is important to consider adopting 2 kittens if this is your first cat in your family. They will help train each other and keep each other company! Cats are not solitary animals!
To start, prepare to keep the new kitten confined to a small area for the first week – a bathroom, a small bedroom or home office area….make it their new home with everything the kitten needs…food, water, litter box, cozy bed, toys, a scratchy post, etc.
This way it will feel secure and start to get used to the “sounds and smells” of the house. Do NOT introduce them to the other household pets and limit the humans who can visit, hold them, etc during this first week.
Also, be sure to keep the new kitten’s carrier out in that room and encourage it to go inside, play or take a nap. Maybe even put some treats in there and a toy – this way the kitten will feel comfortable with the carrier and not always associate it with something bad like a vet visit! I love my carrier – it’s a great place to hide from Beau when I need a time-out!
Remember to go slow with the introductions to humans in the beginning, and as time goes on, you will want to expose them to everyone so that they integrate into the family well and not be skittish around visitors or handymen, etc.
There is no time like the present to start the BARF diet immediately – biologically appropriate raw food – high animal protein and high moisture content. You don’t have to continue the diet that the kitten was on before coming to your home, just gradually start transitioning to a raw food diet. In the case of Beau, who was adopted at 4 months, his first meal here was raw food only.
Litter boxes should be “size-appropriate” and have a low-entry threshold for kittens and I recommend getting a “soft-touch” type of litter for their tiny paws…we like OKOCAT soft clumping wood chips. And then from 6–7 months onward, kittens can graduate to a regular, mid-size litter box.
Create the appropriate INDOOR kitty life by having activity-oriented zones for your new kitten with climbing and scratching posts and a condo (both vertical and horizontal). Encourage their use with a sparkly toy or feather perched nearby. After 6 months, you can introduce cat attractants like catnip and silvervine to entice your kitten to use these home enrichment zones. Also, windows are like TVs for your kitten – give them easy access to a window with a view of birds, insects, squirrels, etc.
As time goes on…train your kitten to not use your furniture or drapes for scratching…double-sided sticky tape and specially formulated citrus sprays can go far in deterring your new kitten from attacking the drapes and furniture.
It Is Important to Socialize Your Kitten From The Beginning
Socializing your kitten can go along ways towards making your pet feel more confident around new people and in new situations long term. Introduce the kitten to people of all age groups and encourage interaction with your friends and family who like cats!
Remember, a part of socializing includes grooming your new kitten so that it is comfortable being “handled “ a variety of ways by a variety of people.
Spend a lot of time with your kitten over the crucial 3 months to 1 year of training – holding it, gently stroking it and petting it…say its name over and over. For example, I still hear mom say these things to me: hello Laszlo, mommy loves you Laszlo, time for dinner Laszlo, come here Laszlo – you can’t use our name too much! Some say we really don’t know our names, we are just reacting to the sound of our name which usually means something good is coming our way! Either way - it works for me!
To mimic brushing your new kitten’s teeth, look inside our mouths and run your fingers over those tiny kitten teeth! You want them to get used to having their teeth brushed!
Softly hold those little kitten paws and massage and expand them as if you were going to cut the nails, so they get used to it!
Gently massage the ear wings/flaps as there will be times when you need to clean the ears!
In conclusion, make sure the new kitten has lots of toys! Good news – us kitties are rather cheap dates by nature – and are very happy with a box, a balled-up piece of paper, tinfoil or knotted up plastic bag!
Beau and I particularly like the ribbons of butcher paper that come in many boxes today…lots of places to run and jump and hide under it!
Taking the time and applying the basics of sensible training will go a long way to ensuring that your new little fur baby integrates well into the family and household!