Whether your new kitten is your very first pet or an addition to your cat family, you likely have questions about how to keep everyone safe and happy right from the start. Pet Lifestyle Advisor Wendy Nan Rees offers some advice about what you should do when bringing a new kitten home.
How Can I Prepare for My New Kitten?
It is always very exciting to get a new kitten. "These tiny creatures are quite vulnerable, so it's important to understand their immediate needs and the supplies you should have on hand," Wendy says. She recommends doing these important things before you actually bring your new little feline home.
Make a Vet Appointment
Wendy advises every kitten should be examined by a vet within the first 48 hours of bringing her home. The vet will perform a basic health check to make sure the kitten has no obvious illnesses, parasites or defects. Your kitten will also receive any vaccinations due at that time, and you'll make an appointment for the next set while you're there.
Have These Supplies on Hand
It may be easier to acclimate your kitten to her new environment by providing her with a quiet space for the first few days. Wendy suggests making a space for her in a spare bedroom or guest bathroom. She also recommends picking up these items in advance:
- High-quality kitten food
- Food and water bowls
- A litter box, scooper and non-clumping litter
- A bed for kitty to snuggle in
- One or two small toys
"Kitten-proof" Your House
Wendy strongly recommends "kitten-proofing" your home:
- Insert childproof electric plug protectors in all unused outlets.
- Remove breakable items from shelves and tables. You'd be surprised by how fast and how high kittens can jump and climb.
- Cover exposed wires to prevent chewing.
- Be sure the windows have screens on them at all times.
- Tie all blind and curtain cords out of reach.
- Pick up rubber bands, tacks, paper clips, string and any other small items that could be ingested.
- Remove any plants from your home that might be toxic to your kitten.
How Do I Get My New Kitten Home?
Once you have the vet appointment scheduled and your home prepared, it's time to collect your new kitten.
The Car Ride
Although it may be tempting to hold your kitten during the drive, Wendy cautions that it is far safer to buy a small pet carrier and line it with a blanket to keep her more comfortable and secure. If possible, she recommends having someone come with you to either drive or keep an eye on the kitten while you drive. "If you're not going straight to your vet appointment, it's usually best to go directly home so you don't overwhelm your kitten," Wendy says.
Additional Supplies Needed
Wendy advises gathering a few other supplies:
- Buy a brush for grooming your kitten. If she has long fur, you'll also want a comb to help remove mats.
- Have a small collar ready to which you can add an identification tag in case your pet becomes lost.
- A scratching post, or combination scratching post and cat tree, will help save your furniture from abuse as well as offer your cat some exercise and entertainment.
How Do I Introduce My New Kitten to My Older Cat?
It is very normal for adult cats to be upset about the addition of a new pet into the household. The Humane Society of the United States offers these tips to help your current cat and the newcomer.
Get a Head Start
One of the best ways to ease the transition of bringing a new cat into your home is to familiarize each cat with the other's scent beforehand. Ask the breeder or kitten owner for a blanket the kitten has been sleeping on, and give the breeder a blanket your cat has been sleeping on. Let each cat sleep on the new blanket with the other cat's scent for about a week.
A Room of Her Own
Keep the cats completely separated from one another for the first week after the new kitten arrives. Spend time playing with the kitten in his room, but be sure your resident cat still gets the attention she's used to.
After the initial week of separation, confine your resident cat to the kitten's room while the kitten explores the rest of the house. You can do this several times a day, but only when you're there to supervise. This further exposes each cat to the other's scent. Repeat the process over several days.
Now You See Me
Feline welfare organization International Cat Care suggests the following steps to help the cat and new kitten move from initial visual contact to interacting freely:
- Get out the cat carrier or a small cage and place the kitten inside. Allow your resident cat into the room to sniff around and see the kitten through the bars of the cage. Let her explore the cage without intervention.
- Once this process can take place with both felines remaining calm, start bringing the cage into the other rooms of your home. You may have to repeat this step for several weeks before moving on.
- The next step is to open the cage door and allow the kitten to venture out. Watch your other cat's reaction closely. If she shows any sign of aggression, immediately put the kitten back in the cage. You may have to be very patient. It could take days or even weeks before you can allow the kitten out of the crate without a fight breaking out.
- It may be best to keep the kitten and adult cat separated when you can't be there to supervise them until their relationship is firmly established.
Your goal in the beginning is simply to have the cats be in the same room without one attacking the other or too much hissing and yowling going on. They don't have to be best friends at first. You simply want them to cohabitate without any major problems. Once you get through this initial phase, the cats will likely learn to love one another and reside in harmony.
Give Your New Pet Some Time
Bringing a new kitten home can be quite fun, but Wendy notes that it will take time for the newcomer to get used to her new family. Introduce the kitten slowly to other members of your household. "Try to resist overwhelming her with attention, although it's alright to pet her and show her that you're friendly," Wendy says. "She'll settle in after a few weeks, and you'll find it difficult to remember what life was like without her."