Getting a New Kitten – Cat
Bringing Home the New Kitten
There are few things more exciting than bringing a new addition into your family. When the new addition is a kitten, there are a few things to be considered before the big day. These things include introducing them to any current pets, understanding a kitten’s basic needs, health concerns and safety.
Owning a cat means providing at least 10 to 15 years of tender loving care, and the expenses of owning a cat must be considered as well. This includes veterinary bills, a pet license, food, toys, litter, and other miscellaneous expenses. It helps to put some serious thought and planning into this so you are prepared for the needs of this new addition to your home. Your kitten will need some time and patience to adjust to its new home, just as you (and your family) will need to adjust to the new kitten and the responsibilities that come with it.
If you have other pets, it will be important to introduce them gradually. Choose a ‘neutral’ location where the current pet will not feel territorial. You can place the new kitten in one room and allow the resident animal(s) to sniff the kitten through closed doors. This will encourage curiosity in both animals and familiarize them with each other’s scent. It is often easier to bring a new kitten into a household with a resident dog than one with a resident cat. This may be because cats are more territorial creatures. The resident dog will likely be excited when the new kitten first arrives, but the novelty will quickly wear off and the kitten usually settles in quite nicely. In fact, some kittens may try to boss the dog around, and some dogs will actually be scared of the tiny kitten! Introducing the new kitten to a resident cat may be slightly more complex and it depends on the personality of the two cats. With time and patience, the new addition will learn his/her place in the household and hopefully live in harmony. If the two animals are not getting along at all, and you have given them at least a few weeks to adjust and work out their differences, you may need to talk to an animal behaviour consultant to help pinpoint the problem.
It is important to realize that the resident dog or cat may feel jealousy towards the new addition and may feel stressed. It is your responsibility to ensure that the resident animal does not feel neglected or replaced. It may be helpful to feed the ‘original’ animal first, or greet it first when you walk in the door. Be aware that the original animal may start new behaviours in an attempt to gain your attention, such as vocalizing, pawing, stealing items, or pushing the new addition out of the way to reach you first. These behaviours are normal and should subside in a couple weeks as the original animal learns that he/she is not being replaced and the animals become accustomed to one another. Remember, it is important to assure the original animal that he/she is still your ‘number one’.
Young children should be taught how to handle a kitten with care and respect. They should be supervised while playing with kittens to avoid injury to both the children and the kitten.
Before bringing the kitten home or within the first week, you should take him/her to the veterinarian for a check up. At that time, the veterinarian will make recommendations on vaccinations and have the kitten dewormed. The veterinarian will also be able to answer any behavioural questions you may have about your unique kitten.
All kittens have a few basic needs, such as food, water and a litter box. Your new kitten should have its own food and water dish, placed in a quiet area away from loud noises or distractions. It should not be accessible to other animals in the house (like dogs or older cats) as the kitten’s diet is specially formulated for young, growing animals and contain higher fat and energy content than adult formulas. Your veterinarian can recommend a good kitten diet. Dry kitten food can be left out at all times because kittens will eat several times a day and will stop when they feel full. Uneaten portions of canned food should be thrown away because they spoil when left out at room temperature. As the cat ages and becomes less active, you may need to feed in meals so he/she does not become overweight. Fresh water should be available at all times. Be sure to thoroughly clean all food and water bowls regularly to prevent bacteria build up.
Litter boxes should be low enough for your kitten to get into and should be placed in a quiet but accessible location. Most kittens do not have litter preference (older cats may develop preference as they grow accustomed to a particular litter), but some prefer unscented litter due to their excellent sense of smell. Waste will have to be scooped out daily and the litter box completely emptied, cleaned and disinfected on a weekly basis. Most kittens will know how to use a litter box because they were taught by their mother, but if they are still unfamiliar with their new environment, they may forget where the box is. For at least the first couple of weeks, confine the kitten to one room when you are not around to supervise it to prevent any accidents.
Another essential need is a sleeping area. Often, cats will choose their own favourite napping area, but it should always have its own bed to serve as a refuge when it wants some peace and quiet. The cat’s bed will also come in handy when you wish to temporarily isolate the cat in a bare room. Cats prefer to sleep in high, warm areas (such as on the back of couch by the window sill) because they enjoy a good view of their surroundings. A cat’s bed should also be placed in a quiet, secure spot, so put some thought into its location. There are many different types of cat beds available on the market, but you should choose one that your cat can fit snugly in and that is washable.
Many cats feel the need to stretch and scratch to mark their territory or exercise their paws after waking up from a nap. This is a normal, natural behaviour. You can deal with this behaviour by providing a designated cat scratching post for the cat to use instead of your furniture. The cat’s post should be tall enough for the cat to stretch to its full body length and sturdy enough to support the cat’s weight. Your cat will not use a wobbly post. Many different posts are available – vertical, slanted, carpet-covered, rope-covered, or cardboard. You may need to experiment to find out what your cat’s preference is. The post should be placed in a location where the cat will use it, like beside its favourite napping spot or right beside the couch that he/she loves to scratch. When introducing your new kitten to the post, you can dangle a toy around it and praise the kitten lavishly when it uses the post. Some suggest rubbing catnip onto the post to further entice it. When you catch the kitten scratching something inappropriate, be sure to say “no” in a loud, booming voice. The goal is to startle the animal. Be consistent, and most will get the idea pretty quickly. With a bit of patience, your kitten can be taught to use their scratching post instead of your furniture.
Like many other animals, cats thrive in a stimulating environment. Play is very important activity for cats and is good for exercise, learning, and bonding with their human companions. Kittens should not be encouraged to bite while playing. If a kitten bites you (even if it was a gentle bite), pull away from the kitten and yelp as if it hurt. In a litter, if one kitten is playing too rough, his/her littermates will ignore the kitten for some time. If play becomes too aggressive, you can step out of the room and leave the kitten alone for some ‘down time’. Use toys attached to a string (not held directly with your hands) because you do not want to encourage the kitten to bite your hands. Other simple and safe toys that can entertain your kitten include empty cardboard boxes, ping-pong balls, and large paper bags. If you wish to bring your kitten outdoors but want to supervise him/her, many kittens can learn to walk on a leash if introduced to it at an early age.
Kittens are very curious and inquisitive creatures that love to explore. Therefore, it is important to kitten-proof your home before the kitten arrives. Keep wires and other strings such as curtain cords out of reach to prevent electrocution or choking hazards. Also be aware of toxic plants and household chemicals and keep them out of reach as well.
Finally, the most important thing in your new kitten’s life is you. There are lots of resources to turn to if you need advice or training tips, including your veterinarian. After educating yourself on what your kitten needs, you can concentrate on watching your kitten grow up and enjoy every single moment. Once the new kitten comes home, you can begin to build that long-lasting, rewarding relationship. Remember to take lots of pictures, because you will be surprise how fast you will say, “wow, it seemed like just yesterday that you were a kitten”.
By Amy Cheung – Pets.ca writer