Bringing a new kitten home
Bringing a cuddly, appealing bundle of fur (and purr) into your home is exciting, whether the kitten is your first or an addition to your current pet family. Your kitten will be entirely reliant on you to ease the transition from mom cat’s side or animal shelter to this strange new place.
The key to keeping your new kitty safe and happy will take planning and patience for everyone in the household. Kittens are sometimes adopted at 6 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 stressed and confused at being separated from his or her family too soon; your kitten may be fearful of people, and could try to hide or run away from interaction. If a kitten has been gently handled and has gotten used to humans, it will be friendlier and better adjusted. In choosing a kitten, 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, they may miss their siblings and mother. They will meow in confusion or wake up during the night. Ease their stress by picking them up, stroking them while speaking in a soothing tone. You might also wrap a ticking clock in a towel and place it near their bed to remind them of their mother’s heartbeat.
Discourage clawing furniture; try providing a carpet-covered scratching post. Specially formulated kitten foods fitting their nutritional requirements should be given until the kitten is a year old.
Away from his littermates or mother, 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.
Although everyone will want to hold the kitten, limit handling for the first few days while your new pet adjusts.
Set up the kitten’s bed, litter box and food in a quiet room where he can be secured until he gets to know his new home. Introduce one family member at a time, allowing the kitten to come to you and learn your touch. Also introduce one room at a time, and place an open carrier in whichever room you are introducing him to so he has a retreat if he wants.
Show children how to gently pet a cat’s head and back. Remind them always to wash their hands after being around the 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 as you introduce him or her to your kitten, following the same procedure you would follow introducing another cat. This lets the animals learn each other’s scents. 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 of age, but your vet can determine the best time for this surgery.
If you are looking for a lifelong companion, please stop by the Central Aroostook Humane Society at 24 Cross Street in Presque Isle. We are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closing for lunch from 12 to 12:30. You can also check us out on Facebook.
Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the Central Aroostook Humane Society board of directors.