Bringing home a new kitten is an exciting time for a family, but a little time and preparation must be given in making sure his arrival is as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Before you bring him home, set up a room for him to move into. Unless you live in a small flat or apartment, it is a good idea to keep him confined to one or two rooms until he’s a bit more settled. This can be your bedroom, a bathroom or office. I would recommend a room where the floor is either tiled or has floorboards so if he has any accidents, they can be easily cleaned up. It should be warm in winter and cool in summer. Kittens are much less efficient at maintaining body temperature than adult cats.
In my experience, most kittens settle in very quickly, but we have had one kitten who has been somewhat frightened by the move. Bear in mind that this may be the first time your kitten has been separated from his mum and siblings, it is a very big change.
Kitten proofing your home
Before your kitten arrives home, walk around the house and remove any potential dangers.
Kittens, in particular, are curious and are more likely to eat things they shouldn’t so make sure you get rid of all toxic substances such as medications and plants which could poison your cat.
Keep the toilet lid down and washing machine/tumble dryer doors closed.
Move breakables to safe locations such as behind glass doors or very high.
Be careful with candles and oil burners. Keep them out of reach of your kitten.
Reed diffusers should be put away safely, they can cause chemical burns to your cat’s skin.
Ribbons, string, elastic bands, hair ties all have the potential to be swallowed by a curious kitten.
Blind cords can be a choking hazard to kittens and cats. Make sure they are not long enough for your cat to reach. You can attach a special hook half way up the window frame to wrap any excess cord to.
Electrical cords can potentially cause shock if chewed through. Kittens, in particular, like to chew things. Unplug appliances which aren’t in use. To deter your cat from chewing the cord you can wrap aluminium foil around it or apply bitter apple. Some stores sell plastic tubing which you can slip over the cord. I am sure you could make something similar yourself at much less expense. Just buy tubing which is wider than your electrical cords, cut along the length of the tube and then wrap over the cord.
Again, kittens love to chew. Put anything out of reach that you don’t want to be chewed. I had a kitten who chewed my expensive leather handbag. Give them plenty of toys which are suitable for him to chew on, they should have no small parts.
Keep windows closed to stop your kitten escaping or accidentally falling from a height.
Collecting your kitten
When it comes to collecting him, don’t forget to bring a cat carrier so that he can be safely transported home. Make sure you get all your paperwork at the time of collection including desexing certificate, microchip form, vaccination certificates, pedigree papers (if he has them), and any relevant veterinary details, including the name of his former vet and any prior medical records.
Signs of sickness in kittens
Sometimes kittens get sick, they may have an underlying condition which manifests with the stress of the move. Watch for signs of sickness in your kitten. This may include:
Loss of appetite (anorexia)
Eye and/or nasal discharge
Round, scaly lesions on the face and body
Lethargy, yes kittens sleep a lot, but when they are awake, they are generally pretty active and curious to explore their surroundings
Common kitten diseases
Roundworms and cat flu are the most common diseases to affect kittens. They are also more prone to ringworm than adult cats.
Cat litter (I recommend using the same brand he has been using in his previous home)
Food and water bowls
Kitten food (again, I recommend using the same brand he’s been eating, you can slowly switch him over to your preferred brand down the track)
Flea, tick and worming medications
Scratching post or tree
The first day at home
If possible, schedule his arrival for a time when you and/or family members will be around for a few days so that he can have some company as he adjusts to his new surroundings.
Place him in his new room and spend some time settling him in. Give him some food and water as soon as he arrives home. The only milk a kitten needs is from his mother, once he is weaned, water is fine. Most cats are intolerant to milk once they wean and it can cause an upset stomach.
Show him where his litter tray is.
Keep all windows and doors shut so that he can’t escape.
Many kittens are particularly unsettled on a night, missing the comfort of their mother and siblings. If this happens, you can try wrapping a ticking clock in a towel and placing it in his bed. If it is cool, give him a hot water bottle (not too hot), to snuggle into.
Introducing your kitten to children
Children, particularly young ones (under 5) can be pretty boisterous. Let your kitten settle in before introducing him to the children. When they do meet, they will naturally want to hold him. Make sure they are sitting down and calm. Children under five should be very closely supervised with kittens as they don’t know their own strength and can easily hurt him. Make sure they know that they are only allowed to hold the kitten when they are sitting down.
The next few days
Gradually open up more rooms as your cat becomes more confident. I like to keep kittens confined when we’re not around, but when people are home, let them explore their new home. Let your kitten guide you. If he’s still unsure of himself and shy, just keep him in a smaller area until he comes out of himself a bit. I do find almost all kittens are happy to explore within the first day. Keep cupboards, drawers and wardrobes closed, kittens like to get themselves hidden in these places.
Once I am comfortable that a kitten is settled in and getting along with the other cats, I then move him out of his temporary home and let him live in the rest of the house.
Introducing other pets
The introduction of other pets should happen once your kitten has settled in, this usually only takes a day or so. It should be carried out slowly and under careful supervision. I have found cats are generally tolerant of kittens, they make a bit of a fuss, but it seems to settle down after a week or so. Just always stay with the kitten when older cats are about to keep him safe.
It is recommended that when feeding cats, you feed the adults first, and the kitten second, place the food bowls in the same room, but a distance apart.
Don’t introduce pets if any of them are suffering from a contagious disease such as cat flu or ringworm.
When introducing cats and dogs, both animals should be held, if the kitten runs away, it can trigger the dog’s chase response, so both animals should be under control.
How many hours do kittens sleep?
Most kittens will sleep between 18-20 hours per day.
Almost every cat shelter and the majority of cat breeders don’t let kittens go to their new home until they have been spayed or neutered. Kittens are very resilient and bounce back from this operation exceptionally fast. If you have a kitten who hasn’t been spayed or neutered, this should be done as soon as possible. Some cats can come into season as early as 5 months.
A very controversial topic, it is generally not recommended to declaw your cat unless there is a medical reason to do so. If you regularly trim his claws and provide him with a scratching post, you shouldn’t have any problems with him using your furniture.
When should I let my kitten outside?
Ideally all cats should be confined indoors or given access to a cat enclosure. Not only does this keep them safe from the dangers of free roaming, it also protects the local wildlife.
If you do decide to let your kitten out, you should wait until he has had all three of his kitten vaccinations, been desexed and lived in your home for a minimum of two weeks, longer is better.
Putting butter on his paws is not recommended. Let him see his environment from the inside at first, then gradually take him for short trips outside in your arms, to familiarise himself with the area.
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