Looking After Your New Kitten

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For people who love animals, the feeling of excitement you experience when you are finally able to bring your new pet home is second to none.  Whether this is your first pet or you already have a menagerie, the chances are that you can’t wait to pick up your new kitten and introduce it to its new home.  It is important to remember, however, that whilst you may be happy and excited about your new addition, the kitten itself is likely to be stressed and scared as it undergoes the most traumatic experience of its life so far; separation from its mother and siblings.  A little thought and advance planning before you pick your kitten up can save you a lot of problems in the long run and ensure the settling in process is as easy as possible for your new furball.

Find a safe way to transport your kitten

Before you go to pick up your kitten, it is necessary to consider how you are going to bring it home with you.  The best option is to visit a pet store, where you should be able to purchase specially-designed cat carriers.  If you can’t afford one of these, a cardboard box with a blanket and air holes may suffice.  The most important thing is to ensure that there is no means for your kitten to escape.  Kittens are by nature very curious creatures, and the last thing you want is for your new darling to escape and run loose in your car whilst you are trying to drive.  A loose kitten is a serious risk, both for you and for other road users, particularly if it decides to sit under your brake pedal.

Prepare a safe room for your kitten

Even a small home will seem overwhelmingly big to a young kitten, and your new pet’s first reaction upon being released from its carrier is likely to be to cower under the nearest piece of furniture.  Having chosen a safe hiding place, it is quite possible that the kitten will refuse to budge from it for several days, and will return to the same spot whenever it feels threaten in its later life.

To minimise the stress to your kitten, it is therefore worth placing it in a small, quiet room, away from the main noise and bustle of the household.  A spare bedroom or box room normally works well for this.  Make sure your kitten has access to all the essentials it needs (see below), including a safe place to hide if it wants to.  Release it from the carrier, close the door and leave it to it’s own devices for a few hours. Come back to check on it at regular intervals, offering treats and toys.  Don’t be upset if your kitten refuses to interact with you for the first few days.  This is perfectly normal, and it will take time to win it’s trust.

Make sure you have the essentials your kitten needs

Your kitten will need access to a constant supply of fresh drinking water, as well as a mixture of both wet and dry food, specifically designed to address the nutritional needs of a kitten.   Cats are often reluctant to drink water, so keep the food and water bowls apart if possible so that your kitten doesn’t learn to associate water with meal times only.  It is best to ask your  breeder about the sort of food your kitten has been used to eating in its previous home. A sudden change in diet combined with the stress of the situation is likely to cause diarrhoea, so any new foods should be introduced gradually.

The other key item you will require is a litter tray.  Even if you intend to let your kitten outside in the long run, in the short term you will need a litter tray in which it can do it’s business.  Cats are very private animals, so the litter tray should be placed in a quiet location where the cat will not feel it is being watched to disturbed.  It is best not to place the litter tray too close to the kitten’s food, as this may discourage it from using it.  Both trays and litter come in all different shapes and sizes and it may take a while to find the combination which suits your cat best. Again, it may be helpful to speak to the breeder and let your cat have what it’s used to for the time being.

Many new cat owners enthusiastically go out and purchase expensive baskets.  Whilst a basket is nice to have, dont be surprised if your kitten refuses to sleep in it.  Cats have an amazing ability to sleep in the strangest of places, and you will probably find it prefers sleeping on the sofa/the kitchen table/your laptop computer to sleeping in its basket. 

Don’t forget to arrange some toys for your kitten.  Mice and other toys can be purchased from all major pet shops, but you don’t need to spend a lot of money on something elaborate.  Most cats will be content to chase a piece of string.

Kitten-proof your home

Once you have won the trust of your kitten, it will be time to introduce it to the rest of your home.  Depending on how timid it is, you will have to decide whether to do this gradually or all at once. Either way, before you give it the run of the house, you need to identify potential hazards and take steps to ensure your kitten will be safe.

The general rule is that if it wouldn’t be safe for a toddler, it isn’t safe for your kitten.  Kittens have been strangled by the cords from window blinds, drowned after having fallen into toilets, and electrocuted by chewing through wires.  Consider bunching up any cords and wires so that they represent a minimal danger, and keep toilet lids down where possible.  Small items such as coins, paper clips and needles are all a choking hazard, so put them away in drawers and cupboards.

It is also worth reading up on a list of items which are poisonous to cats.  Review your house plants and if they fall into this category, consider throwing them away or relocating them in a room to which your cat will not have access.  A cat can die from even the slightest exposure to liliies, so make sure there are none of these in your vases.

Finally…

Just relax!  Your kitten is coming to a good home, and you and he will have years of fun together 🙂

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