Dogs & Cats

Preparing for a New Kitten

From the first exciting adjustments to training to health care, we help you to get your home-and you...

A new kitten brings immediate joy and excitement to almost any household. But before you bring one home, get down on your hands and knees and think like a kitten. “Kittens are so active, playful and curious that they easily find things that are not safe to play with”, says cat owner Kerry-Ann Crawford, who enjoys life with two cats, aged 2 and 18 years. “At this level, you will be able to see certain items in a different light, such as hanging drapery cords that your kitten can easily get tangled in and coins that sometimes fall out of pockets.”

Your Kitten Checklist

There are a number of other steps you can take. We asked vets, cat care experts and long-time cat owners for their best advice when it comes to bringing home an adorable little furball.

  • Kitten-proof your home. Kittens, like toddlers, can find trouble in an instant. Be wary of dangling cords, toxic plants and open toilet seats. A curious kitten might be able to crawl into a toilet, but not back out. Your kitten’s little razor-sharp teeth can bite into an electric cord. Understand that kittens can find their way into impossibly small spaces. “It’s surprising what tight hiding spaces a kitten can get into, so make sure there aren’t holes in walls”, says Shari Shiffer-Krieger, who has fostered hundreds of kittens as executive director of the Cat Care Society in Lakewood, Colo.

  • Make your kitten at home. If possible, bring a towel, blanket or cat bed you’re going to use at home, and get your kitten’s mother or siblings to play on it or rub against it, advises Debra Decker, head of marketing for The International Cat Association. This will provide familiar scents when your kitten settles into your home. You can do this with your carrier too.

  • Think cuddly. Pick up a few baby swaddle blankets for your new kitten. They’re inexpensive, easy to throw in the wash if messy and your kitten will love them, says Shiffer-Krieger. “Flannel blankets feel like ‘Mummy’, so kittens love to snuggle in them.”
  • Make your kitten a home. For now, it’s best to make your kitten a temporary home in one room, with toys, bedding, a scratching post, a litter tray, food and water. Make sure the litter and food and water are in separate areas. This helps you manage your kitten, provides a sanctuary from other household pets, allows for adjustment time and gives your kitten a safe place to retreat to once you allow it to roam your home, says Shiffer-Krieger. Use extreme caution when introducing your kitten to adult dogs in the household, advises Dr Bruce Silverman of Village West Veterinary in Chicago. It’s difficult to predict whether an adult dog will feel nurturing towards a kitten or see it as prey.
  • Prepare for accidents. Invest in several litter trays. “Kittens are just like children and wait until the last minute to use the litter tray”, says Shiffer-Krieger. “As the kitten gets older, you can do away with some of the litter trays. Also, it isn’t a bad idea to occasionally take the kitten physically to the litter tray in case it forgot to go.”
  • Protect your property. When it comes to thinking like your kitten, don’t assume anything is off limits, says Kim White, who adopted two Egyptian Mau kittens a few years ago. “Kittens are like Velcro and stick to everything”, she says. “Make no assumptions about what you think they won’t be able to get into.”
  • Visit your vet. Your cat’s long, happy life depends on its good health. It’s best to schedule a vet visit that first week, say experts.

The very good news is that the most important thing you can do will come naturally. “Give a kitten lots of love and attention, and they will return it”, says Shiffer-Krieger.



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