There are few things that inject more joy and excitement into a home, particularly if it has children, than the introduction of a kitten. If you want to keep her happy and healthy, it’s preferable to keep her in the house, especially in the beginning. Here are some of the most important things to consider when raising a kitten.
We also want to take this opportunity to please ask you to consider obtaining a kitten from a shelter or rescue organization rather than a breeder.
Carrying precious cargo
You are going to need something to carry your new kitten in. She’ll have to go to the vet on occasion, and if you’ve ever seen a cat freak out inside a car, you will understand why you need a cat carrier, preferably constructed as sturdily as your budget will allow. Some cats react to car rides with blind, violent panic. Leave the carrier somewhere logical and easy to retrieve in case you have to transport her in an emergency (next to where you park your car or even in the trunk itself is a good place).
The sweet slumber of a content kitten
Your kitten will also need somewhere to sleep, preferably somewhere that is covered, like a cat condo or cat cave. These make kittens (and cats) feel more secure. She may or may not prefer to sleep somewhere off the ground, such as on a counter. Some cats feel more secure at altitude. But beware the counter is not too high as kittens still have fragile bones.
Business as usual
You will need a litterbox. If your kitten is 12 weeks or more in age, her mother will have already trained her to use one. Cats are very fastidious and very little encouragement is needed for them to start using a litterbox.
All cats scratch. Their claws grow throughout their lives and will require wearing down. Some will find a tree in the backyard to be a perfect scratching post. If they don’t, however, you need to provide your new kitten with a scratching post of some kind, or she will start to use your furniture as one. Some cat owners rub catnip into the scratching post to encourage use. Once she’s used the scratching post a few times, she will generally return to it whenever she feels the urge.
Collars and ID tags: Get a collar that fits her now, and at least one for her to grow into. Her ID tag should incorporate her name and your phone number.
Toys are important, too. If you have children, they have to understand that the rough-and-tumble style of play they enjoy with dogs is inappropriate for cats, who like a gentler touch. Most games and toys for cats involve recruiting the hunting instinct in some way. Buy a few types of toys and let her tell you which ones she’s interested in. The wand-based toys that cats can chase are a great way for your children to interact with the kitten.
Odds and ends
Other things you’ll need to care for your new kitten include: cat brush and toothbrush, cat toothpaste, and food bowls (preferably metal or ceramic). You’ll need food, of course, preferably the brand she’s been eating already. If you wish to change her food later on, do so slowly by gradually increasing the ratio of new to old food. Cats are very sensitive to changes in diet.
Your new kitten’s first few days
Take her to your vet with a list of the shots she’s already had and schedule the next shots she’ll need. Mark them on a calendar and stick to it. Consider booking an appointment to have your kitten spayed or neutered. Shelters are overflowing with unwanted kittens and cats breed like rabbits. Apart from anything else, spaying or neutering will increase their lifespans.
Introduce her to children and other pets gradually. If necessary, set aside one room for the kitten to help her feel secure. Introduce other pets slowly, starting with scent (a blanket or toy in the room) and feeding on opposite sides of a closed door. Put pther pets outside and let kitty explore the other rooms in the house. Gradually increase exposure by opening the door wider and wider while you feed, until they are eating on the opposite sides of a baby gate or something similar.
When they are comfortable with each other, you can introduce them in person, but keep dogs on leash and ensure your kitten has easy avenues of escape. This can include some high places or the open door. Keep the intro short and carry out several more short sessions, gradually extending the time. For the first few months, all interactions should be supervised and you should put kitty in her safe room if you need to leave the house.
Building a bond
Groom, pet and stroke her often. Gently. She’s not a dog. Grooming is a bonding activity among felines and will greatly improve her relationship with her humans. If she begins to gently bite you or the grooming implement, this is a sign that she’s had enough. Move on to another activity or leave her alone for a while.
The above will cover most of what you need to know about bringing home a new kitten. It is highly recommended that you do as much research as possible before you even visit a shelter or a breeder. Check a book out of the library or even buy one. A great deal of animal/human interaction is not just common sense, and relying on folk wisdom and old sayings is seldom the best option.
Before you do anything, however, please check out the ASPCA for great adoption tips.
We wish you many happy years with your newest feline family member.