We are in the middle of kitten season, the time of year when there is an overabundance of little “angels with fur” up for adoption at local animal shelters. If you’ve decided that you’re ready to give a kitten a loving home, there are some important things you need to do before you actually bring the kitten home. It’s essential to plan ahead for the new arrival, both to minimize the stress for the kitten and to ensure that the transition goes smoothly for everyone involved.
If you have children, get them involved in helping you prepare for the new kitten’s arrival. This will not only teach them about responsible pet ownership, but it can be a fun experience too. The first thing on your “new kitten agenda” is to go shopping for all the supplies you’ll need. It’s really best to buy your supplies before you bring a new kitten home, rather than waiting until after they are adopted. Those first few days are critical to helping a new kitten feel comfortable in their new surroundings. Once your kitten is home, if you have everything you need for it, you’ll be able to devote your time to helping the kitten adjust to its new home, rather than chasing all over town for supplies.
Essential supplies for a new kitten include: a sturdy cat carrier, litter box, kitty litter, pooper scooper, food and water dishes, grooming brush, cat bed or blanket, high quality kitten food, scratching posts, and some toys. It’s also a good idea to pick up a few books on cat care and feline behavior. If you’re adopting a young kitten, be sure to get a litter box that is small enough for them to climb into. You’ll need to replace it with a larger one when they get older, but for now a kitten-sized litter box is the way to go.
After you’ve gathered all of your kitten supplies, the next step is to kitten proof your home. Kittens are quite fond of climbing and jumping, and they play boisterously with no regard for the breakables in your home. Kitten proofing your home is an absolute necessity if you want your valuables to remain in one piece. Move your breakables someplace where you’re sure your rambunctious kitten won’t be able to get to them, or suffer the consequences when the inevitable happens.
It’s also advisable to move any houseplants that are sitting at floor level or low enough that the kitten has access to them. To kittens, plants are a delightful toy that they can swat and shred. They may also chew on the leaves, sit on the plant and dig in the soil. Move your plants to higher ground, like on top of a tall bookshelf; you can also keep them outdoors in the summer. Another good reason to move them out of reach of your kitten is that many common houseplants are poisonous to pets. Visit the Cat Fanciers’ Association website to see a complete list of poisonous plants to avoid. Ideally, these plants should be removed from your home entirely.
When you’ve kitten proofed your house and are ready to bring them home, a cat carrier is a must. A loose cat in the car is a danger to you, to your kitten and to other motorists. At best you’ll end up with scratches as the frightened kitten crawls everywhere; at worst, you’ll have an accident trying to control them. A cat carrier also ensures their safety when being transported from the car to your home.
When bringing home a new kitten, don’t just open the cat carrier in the living room and let them have the run of the house. What invariably happens is that they make a beeline for the nearest closet or other enclosed space where they feel safe and protected. Arrange to keep the new kitten someplace where they can be away from the commotion of your home, such as a spare bedroom. Put the food and water bowls, litter box and other essential supplies in the “kitten room” and keep them there for at least a week. This separation and adjustment period is especially critical if you have children or other pets. Limit introductions to family members and other pets for the first few days, to give the kitten time to settle in and minimize the stress of this big change.
If possible, arrange to bring your new kitten home on the weekend or when you can be there with it for a few days. Think how frightened a human baby would be to be taken to some strange new place and left all alone. Essentially, it’s not much different for a baby animal. Being there with the kitten for a few days will help it feel more secure, and more trusting of humans. This will also help you develop a stronger bond with your kitten.
Adopting a new kitten is exciting and fun. Before you bring your kitten home, take the necessary steps to ensure both its physical and emotional health. This will go a long way toward helping your kitten grow up to become a well-adjusted, social cat instead of one who hides under the bed all the time.