Bringing Your New Kitten Home - Tips and Advice
It's very exciting to take your new kitten home for the first time - like bringing a new baby back from the hospital. Everyone is waiting to see the new arrival and cuddle it. If you have a household with children, it is worth explaining to them that everything will be very strange for the kitten and it will be nervous (even if it is quite a bold kitten). Try to hold everyone back from rushing to cuddle it or play with it.
Everything will be new - the sights, sounds, voices, smells, the behaviors of the strange humans, and even different animals. So anything familiar will help the kitten to settle in - food and litter it knows and, if possible, a scent from its old home. When you leave the breeder or previous owner or shelter, see if you can bring a small bit of its bedding with you, just to tide the kitten over until it gets used to the new smells. It's a bit like a security blanket that many children use to help them get to sleep or to clutch for reassurance when they are a bit nervous. Scent is hugely important to cats - equivalent to humans' excellent sight. Cats rely heavily on smells to understand what is going on around them.
Choose a room for the kitten to settle into initially - it doesn't need access to the whole house, it just needs to gain confidence with the familiarity of one room. If you are using a kitten pen or crate, you have more chance of controlling the kitten's activities. Give the kitten a small portion of food, water, a litter box, and a cozy bed (with its familiar bedding if you have any). Give food sparingly and often if the kitten seems to tolerate it well - stress can cause tummy upsets, so giving the digestive tract time to deal with a little bit at a time is better than having to cope with a huge meal. This is especially important if you are giving the kitten food it is not familiar with. Lift the kitten onto the litter box every so often so that it realizes that the litter is there and what it is for - it may be so intent in watching all the new things around it that it forgets to relieve itself.
Much as it is very tempting to cuddle and coo over the kitten, let it rest from the journey, eat something, and use the litter box. It may have a snooze because kittens, like small children, need a lot of rest. If the kitten seems very relaxed and happy to be with you, you might hold it while it is asleep, sitting quietly so that it can rest. However, it might be quite nervous and want to cuddle down in its bed and watch what is going on while still feeling safe. Even confident, well-socialized kittens used to the goings-on in one particular household may be nervous and retiring for a while. Give them a chance to find their feet. If you have chosen a kitten that seems outgoing and confident, it will adapt quite quickly. Of course, kittens vary in the way they respond to their first night away from their old home. Some may saunter around, take over the dog's bed, and generally boss everyone about; others need some time to acclimatize to unfamiliar surroundings. Then you can start to introduce new people or animals in a controlled manner.
Talk in a quiet, reassuring voice and allow the kitten to investigate new objects and smells at its own pace - the smaller the area to be explored, the braver it is likely to be.
Don't panic if the kitten squeezes under the sofa or coffee-table. The worst thing you can do is to chase it around and drag it out from somewhere it may only be hiding temporarily or just exploring. Lure the kitten out by pulling along a piece of string and calling for food. Provided you have ensured that all escape routes and small, dangerous holes are blocked off, you know the kitten is safe in the room. Give it a little time. If you have taken on a very nervous kitten that decides it is not coming out for anything, you need to choose a room for it that is safe - the best thing to use for this is, again, a kitten pen or crate. The kitten can curl up in a covered bed and feel safe, while still being able to gradually become familiar with the household and its occupants and routines. It is kept safe but can still learn that none of the things happening around it will harm it. You can also check up on the kitten regularly instead of having to hunt around the house for its latest hiding place.
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