What Do I Need to Know When I Bring a New Kitten Home?
Bringing a kitten home is a wonderful, life-changing decision. Your cute little bundle of fur is helpless at first and absolutely adorable, and he will depend on you for just about everything. So what can you do to make sure your fur baby feels as safe and happy as possible? All those new smells and experiences can be a little scary, but you can make sure your kitten feels secure by giving him enough time to adjust to it all.
Spend Time with Your Kitten Before Bringing Him Home
Familiarity can help kittens feel safe and happier.1 If you have the opportunity, visit your kitten in his original home and play with him there. When you take your kitten to your home, bring along some items with the familiar scent of your kitten's first home, like a towel or toy. Put them in the carrier with your kitten. These can help your kitten acclimate a little faster.
Introduce Her to Your Home One Room at a Time
A small kitten can get overwhelmed pretty easily, so introduce her to just one room at a time. Start by bringing her carrier to a small, enclosed, quiet room with a litter box, food and water bowls, toys, and a bed. She may hide in her carrier for a while at first, and that's perfectly normal. Give her a little time to calm down before she steps out into the wide, open space.
The litter box should have low sides that are easy for your kitten to step over. As for the bed, the Mother's Heartbeat Heated Kitty Pet Bed with Heart Pillow can be a powerful tool to help your kitten make the transition to her new home.
Keep her in the small room and play with her frequently until she feels more comfortable and confident. Slowly expand her access, one room at a time. Remember to cat-proof your home, keeping anything that could be harmful out of reach.
Calming Diffusers Can Help Him Feel Happier
Your kitten's emotional health (or "e-meow-tional" health) is just as important as his physical health. Set up a Comfort Zone Calming Diffuser in your kitten's room (and any other room where your kitten will spend time). These emit an odorless vapor that mimic a cat's natural pheromones, telling your cat that he's safe and can relax. If you have more than one cat, try the Comfort Zone Multi-Cat Diffuser. Make sure you use one diffuser per room. The diffusers need a new refill about every 30 days.
When kittens (or even adult cats) have too much energy or stress, they tend to express it through destructive actions like spraying or scratching furniture. If your kitten is scratching your furniture or floors or spraying around the house, the Comfort Zone Spray & Scratch Control Spray can help curb destructive scratching and reduce urine marking to help create a calm environment. Just use the spray once a day on those areas your kitten is drawn to leave his mark.
Catering to Her Instincts Can Give Her Confidence
Your kitten needs "territory" to call her own. This can include blankets, beds, toys, window perches, and cat condos. If you have more than one cat, a good rule of thumb is to have one litter box per household cat, plus one extra.
You also want to encourage your kitten to engage in play that taps into her instincts.2 This will help her feel more confident and, as an added bonus, help her stay out of trouble. When kittens (or even adult cats) have too much energy or stress, they tend to express it through destructive actions like spraying or scratching furniture.
Try using a toy feather wand your cat can chase and stalk like prey. Another great way to engage your kitten's hunting instinct is to take bits of kibble and toss them, one piece at a time, across the floor for her to hunt and chase.
Set up scratching posts, so she has appropriate locations to scratch and stretch her claws. Get a cat tree to cater to your kitten's instinct to climb.
Introduce Your Kitten Slowly to Other Pets
If you have another dog or cat, you need to introduce your new kitten to them slowly. No matter which type of pet—cat or dog—you want to start by keeping your kitten in a separate room until they get used to each other's scents. Feed them at the same time, but on opposite sides of a closed door. Swap towels or toys to help them become familiar with each other's scents. You need to be especially cautious about your dog's prey drive and make sure he doesn't chase your cat. For house cats, you need to make sure you have plenty of litter boxes, cat trees, cat beds, and similar items, so no one feels territorial.
Remember, your kitten is a baby and needs extra TLC. Don't introduce your pets to your kitten face-to-face until they react calmly to being on opposite sides of a closed door. Even then, you should introduce them gradually and with supervised visits.
Kittens Need Lots of Food and Sleep
Kittens need food specially designed for their quickly growing little bodies. Don't just plop down some adult cat food and call it a day. Look for food designed specifically for your kitten's age. Ask your veterinarian how often she should be fed.
Remember that kittens (and even adult cats) sleep a lot. If you want her to sleep more on your schedule, play with her just before bedtime to tire her out. Then feed her a nice meal, so she has a full tummy.
Make Socializing a Priority
Play with your cat frequently and handle him gently. Kittens need to be socialized so they won't be scared of humans. Try using an interactive toy to build your bond. You might also consider clicker training to engage him even more.
This is an excellent time to start gently touching your kitten's paws, so he gets used to the sensation. This will help your cat stay calm in the future when you need to trim his nails.
Start some traditions or rituals that your kitten looks forward to, like cracking open an exterior door or window just a little every morning, so he gets "smells" from the outside world.3 Or maybe play a game of "chase the feather wand" when you get home from work. Create little traditions that happen at the same time every day, so your kitten can anticipate them.
After a few weeks, you can start to invite friends over for visits. The more your kitten is around other people who treat him nicely, the less scared he will be of visitors when he's an adult.
When you first bring your kitten home, he will likely feel a little fearful and overwhelmed. Try to be a comforting presence, helping your kitten slowly adjust to his new world. Before long, the two of you will be good friends embarking on a journey full of play, adventure, and snuggles.
1. Horwitz, Debra, Gary Landsberg, and Lynn Buzhardt. "Bringing Home Your New Kitten." VCA Hospitals, https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/bringing-home-your-new-kitten.
3. Petful. "How to Bond with Your Cat (And Get Them to Be More Affectionate)," Petful.com, 1 May 2020, https://www.petful.com/behaviors/getting-cat-more-affectionate/.