The Star-Herald

Is it kitten time?

Bringing a new kitten into your home is exciting, whether this is your first or another addition. Your kitten will be entirely reliant on you to ease his/her transition to a new home.

Kittens are sometimes adopted at six weeks of age, but 10 to 12 weeks is better. Those extra weeks spent with its mother and siblings help a kitten learn acceptable behavior, from getting along with siblings to getting used to human contact. A 6- or 7-week-old kitten may be confused at being separated from his or her family, may be fearful of people and could try to hide or run away from interaction. 

A kitten that has been gently handled and has gotten used to humans will be friendlier and better adjusted. Look for one that is inquisitive, doesn’t shy away from your touch, and is ready to play. 

When you first bring your kitten home, it may miss its siblings and mother and may meow in confusion or wake up during the night. Ease stress by picking it up, stroking and speaking in a soothing tone. Wrapping a ticking clock in a towel and placing it near its bed helps as a reminder of its mother’s heartbeat.

Try providing a carpet-covered scratching post to discourage scratching furniture.   

Specially formulated kitten foods fitting their nutritional requirements should be given until the kitten is a year old.  

The kitten needs to feel secure as well as warm. Whether you provide a cardboard box lined with a blanket or a fancier bed from a pet supply store, keep your kitten’s bed in a quiet place, away from household traffic.

To help it adjust, limit handling for the first few days. Set up a litter box and food in a quiet room. Introduce one family member at a time, allowing the kitten to come to them and learn their touch.  Also introduce one room at a time. Place an open carrier in whichever room you are introducing to create a welcomed retreat if he/she wants.

Show children how to gently pet a cat’s head and back. Remind them to always wash their hands after being around kitty. Always supervise children’s interaction with kittens, especially if they have friends visiting. 

In the laundry area, keep washer and dryer doors closed — a kitten may climb into a warm dryer for a nap. Remember, if something would be harmful for a toddler, it’s the same for your kitten. 

Before bringing in a new kitten, be sure your resident pets have recently been checked by your vet and are disease-free. 

When the kitten is in his or her secured room, your other cat will sniff around the doorway. Give your resident cat extra attention to ease his or her anxiety. Once the kitten feels comfortable, allow the two to meet briefly. Stay in the room while they sniff and explore each other. There may be some hissing and growling. If one cat shows real hostility, separate them and try again a few days later. 

Never leave a dog alone with a new kitten. Dogs can become aggressive, or a kitten may claw at a dog’s face. Make sure your dog is properly leashed when being introduced to your kitten, following the same procedure as with a cat. This lets the animals learn each other’s scent. The kitten should not be allowed to run away because the dog may think chasing it is a game. Reward both pets for calm behavior. Always supervise their interactions until the kitten is fully grown. 

Kittens can be spayed or neutered as early as 8 weeks, but your vet can determine the right time. Spaying protects your female kitten from the risk of certain cancers, and spares her the stresses of pregnancy. Neutering a male reduces his risk of prostate cancer, and he won’t “spray” to mark his territory — and litter box cleanup will be less of a chore. The surgery also helps reduce the problem of cat overpopulation.

For more tips check out Animal.discovery.com

If you are looking for a companion, stop by the Central Aroostook Humane Society.  We are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Visit us on Facebook.   

Gloria Towle is the secretary of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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