As with puppies, setting your new kitten up for a happy co-existence with its new family is largely dependent on the initial welcome and introduction to its new home. Be well prepared by following these 10 suggestions to bringing a new kitten into its new home:
Before your kitten comes home:
- A kitten taken from its litter too early may become fearful of humans, so don’t be tempted to bring a kitten home that is any younger than 8-9 weeks (12 weeks is the optimal age). Investigating the breeder or shelter from where you intend to adopt, to ensure they’ve ticked the boxes for an optimal developmental environment, will go a long way to limiting behavioural problems later on in life. The developmental environment should be with their litter and mother, not be a sterile environment, have ample stimulation and expose them to things that they’ll encounter in their adult lives, like a vacuum cleaner and being handled by humans.
- Get your family’s commitment, so that you can share in the responsibility of raising your new pet and agree ahead of time to any boundaries that you’d like to put in place.
- Have all the supplies that you need ready. Things like a bed, collar, water & food bowls, food, toys, scratch posts and a litterbox with litter (you should have 1 litterbox per cat + 1 extra if you have a multi-cat household).
- Kitten proof your home as best you can and make sure that it is a safe space for your new addition, proving ample opportunity for it to do “cat things” like scratch and play (which, for kittens, should resemble stalking and hunting prey, but with safe, kitten-appropriate toys).
- Provide a safe, warm spot for your kitten to retreat to when things become overwhelming, away from the commotion of everyday life, in a spot that the kitten can access easily.
When your kitten arrives:
- Because kittens and cats can move much more freely than dogs it is a lot easier for them to wander and get lost. For this reason, it is best to keep a new kitten in 1 closed room for a week or 2, then slowly open up more of the house, until finally letting them explore outside, initially supervised. This allows them time to become familiar with their new surroundings, making it easier for them to find their way back home should they go exploring. For your cat’s own safety, it is best to train them to stay indoors overnight at least. You can do this my instilling a routine from early on, of calling your cat (and rewarding it with a treat when it comes) indoors in the evening and closing all windows to keep it contained during the night hours.
- Kittens have very specific nutritional needs that differ from those of an adult cat. It is imperative that the food formulation meets the demands of their rapid development, so feed a kitten-specific, commercially prepared pet food from a Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI) member brand. But keep the kitten on the same food that they’re accustomed to, at least until they’ve settled into their new home. Then, when doing a switch over, gradually start introducing the new food over a 1 to 2 week period, allowing the kitten’s digestive system to become accustomed to the new formulation.
- Most kittens will instinctively use a litterbox, but if some training is needed, the best thing to do it put your kitten in the litterbox as soon as they wake from a nap and take them back often while awake until they get the hang of it.
- Play with your new kitten often, showing it loads of love, to make the transition easier.
- Keep up vet visits to ensure the best start to life (there are many in the early stages). Help curb the number of unwanted cats by spaying or neutering at the appropriate age. And it’s advisable to sign up for pet medical insurance, to be prepared for any unexpected medical expenses.