Setting up their space
Before you bring your kitten home, it’s really important that your kitten has a space prepared for them. This will include a comfy bed, food and water bowls, a litter tray with suitable litter, a scratching pole, and plenty of toys. The room also has to be safe for your kitten – make sure any chemicals or hazardous objects are removed from the room so your kitten can't harm itself. Think of your kitten like a toddler; if they can get to something, they will.
There are many different beds available for kittens, though ones with rims or high sides are particularly popular as they provide comfort and security for growing felines. Consider buying a bed that will also be suitable for your kitten when they’re an adult cat.
Food and water bowls come in many different types – plastic, stainless steel or ceramic being the most common. Each has their own benefits and can be used safely with kittens. When choosing food and water bowls, we recommend getting two separate bowls rather than those joined together as it allows for easy cleaning of one bowl while the other is filled, and cats tend to prefer their water kept in a different area to their food. Also when choosing an area for the food, don’t place too close to the litter tray as this could cause behavioural issues later in life.
Like beds and bowls, litter trays come in different shapes and sizes. Take the time to consider whether or not your kitten will eventually be an indoor/outdoor cat or only an indoor cat as, if your cat will be spending time mainly indoors, a larger, or covered litter tray may be the way to go. A covered litter tray may also be suitable for a kitten that is moving in with a dog, or young children – providing a safe place to go to the toilet, but also ensuring nosey pups and kids don’t get into anything they shouldn’t.
Now its time to decide one the best type of litter. There are many different types of litter available, clay, clumping, crystals, recycled paper, and wood pellets. We recommend you start off using the litter your kitten is used to – this will ensure the kitten has something they’re used to in their new home and will lessen the risk of any accidents. After a time, discuss different litter types with our friendly in-store teams who will be able to recommend a suitable litter for you.
A scratching pole is a much-needed investment if you wish to protect your furniture from a frisky kitten. Beginning habits at a young age is important, and if you want your kitten to use a cat scratch as a cat, we recommend starting from day one. Cats will instinctively choose a scratching pole that they can stretch onto and sharpen their claws on. There are many different sizes and heights available – choose the tallest you can accommodate in your house, as scratching poles can last a long time so investing in a good one now may mean you don’t need another one for years.
Like scratching poles, toys are an important feature in a growing kittens’ stimulation. Lots of small balls, fur toy mice, and especially interactive toys are great for a kitten and their family. Without toys, a kitten won’t have a suitable outlet for its energy and may become more destructive and less cuddly than you would like.
Things to consider:
- Do you have a safe area ready for your kitten?
- Do you have dedicated food and water bowls for your kitten?
- Do you have a litter tray and litter?
- Do you have a scratching pole and plenty of toys?
Bringing your kitten home
Once your set up, you’re all ready to bring your furry friend home. This can be a very overwhelming time so all family members need to be calm and quiet around the new addition. For the first week, it is best to keep all other pets away from the kitten. Your other pets will hear and smell the kitten, but try not to let them see one another until the kitten is settled.
Excitable, young children will need to learn the importance of being calm and quiet around the kitten, and how to be gentle when petting or handling the kitten. As they are small bundles of fur, they are delicate and can be injured easily, or they may be quick to defend themselves, which could result in scratches.
When your kitten is home and in their room, open the carrier and let your kitten come out by themselves. You can sit in the room and talk quietly to your kitten to encourage them to come out, say hi and to investigate. We recommend leaving your kitten alone for a couple of hours to investigate as they settle and familiarise themselves with the world around them.
As your kitten’s confidence grows you can introduce them to new rooms of the house. Do this slowly and one room at a time – too much could overwhelm your kitten and may result in your confident kitten becoming shy and unsure.
Things to consider:
- Is everyone ready to be calm and quiet around the kitten?
- Have young children been talked to about being gentle with the kitten?
- Introducing your kitten to their new family
Introducing your kitten to their new family
Introducing your kitten to their new family is important. Always remember, when children are around the new kitten, they should be supervised by an adult. Introduce new family members to the kitten one at a time, and have the kitten’s main caretaker in the room at the same time as they will become a comfort for the kitten.
The best way to meet a kitten is at their level, this means when they’re on the ground, make sure everyone is sitting on the floor at their level. Children sitting cross legged with their arms folded is a great way to ensure they don’t grab or startle the kitten with sudden movements. Calmly call the kitten over or let them come say hi on their own terms and give them a calming pat. When the kitten feels safe they will begin to come out of their shell more around new people; just give them time. Some kittens may take longer than others, depending on personalities and previous experiences, but time will help so just be patient.
To help with bonding, interactive toys are a great way to build trust between family members and your kitten. Spend time playing with and petting your kitten and soon your relationship will flourish. Feeding time is also a great way to build a bond between you and your kitten. Kittens love food and will be much friendlier towards someone who regularly feeds them, so consider having different family members get involved with this routine. Treats are another great way to gain your kitten’s confidence – feed a couple each time you go to say hi, and in no time your kitten will be coming to you confidently for a tasty morsel.
When introducing other pets to your new kitten a similar approach is required as when meeting human family members. Ensure anyone watching is calm and that the other pet is quiet around the kitten. If you’re introducing a dog or puppy, take them for a long walk so they’re tired before being introduced to your kitten, or if it’s another cat, spend some quality time playing with the cat to tire them out.
Before introducing your cat and your kitten, feed them on either side of the closed door – with your kitten in their safe room. This will begin to make both felines comfortable around one another as food and feeding will positively reward them being close to one another. When it’s time to introduce your cat or dog to your kitten, always go in with lots of treats for both the other pet and the kitten so they can be rewarded for good behaviour.
Things to consider:
- Always meet the kitten at their level – sitting on the ground is the best way to do this
- Remain calm when interacting with your kitten – ensure young children do the same
- Spend lots of time playing and petting the kitten to build your bond
- Feeding your kitten will grow your bond – try sharing this task around if there are particular family members that the kitten is more apprehensive about
- Take your time when introducing your kitten to other pets
- Patience is key when introducing your kitten to the family - don’t rush it
- Leaving your kitten home alone
Leaving your kitten home alone
When leaving your kitten home alone, it’s important that they are somewhere safe, warm and familiar. Leaving them in their room is the best option, they won’t get lonely and they will be excited to explore their room – ensure there is nothing dangerous that the kitten can get into or places that the kitten can try to escape out of, such as open windows. If your kitten has access to a bathroom, then making sure things like the toilet seat is kept down is essential to keeping your kitten safe.
Leave out plenty of food and water and make sure the litter tray is clean. Some kittens can be fussy about a dirty litter tray, so making sure it’s as clean as possible will reduce any accidents that the kitten may have. Make sure no other pets can get into the same room as the kitten, even if they seem to get along well. While your kitten is young and learning, they can’t protect themselves very well, and sometimes even the best of friends can fight.
If someone arrives home before you, make sure to set out clear rules about whether or not they can let the kitten out, or if they can go and play with them. Making sure your kitten has a routine will help with feeding and toileting, and will help if you decide to let your kitten outside.
Things to consider:
- Is the room safe for your kitten?
- Does your kitten have enough food and water?
- Can other pets get into the room?
- Does your kitten have a routine that needs to be followed, or can someone else say hi before you?
- Letting your kitten explore
Letting your kitten explore
As previously mentioned, once your kitten is comfortable in their room, you can slowly introduce them to more rooms in the house until finally they are fully confident in the entire house (or as much of the house as you want them to have access to). We recommend waiting at least a week before beginning this process, as they need to trust you before this process begins. Remember, as you are introducing your kitten to more rooms, ensure they can always access their safe room, so they can return to a familiar area they are comfortable in.
As your kitten grows and learns that the house is theirs, they will begin to become more and more interested in the world around them. If you do decide to let your kitten go outside, waiting until they are fully vaccinated, desexed and they are big enough to defend themselves is recommended. Even if you have no neighbourhood cats, any wandering dogs, possums or other threats could scare a small kitten or even injure them, so ensuring your kitten is big enough to defend themselves is a good idea – you can begin letting them outside supervised after having them for 6-8 weeks, but use your judgement and keep your kitten inside for longer if you want.
Use the time between when you get your kitten until when they go outside to familiarise them with the idea of wearing a collar. A collar is an integral accessory for any cat or kitten, as it holds both a name tag for the kitten and often a bell. The name tag should have the kitten’s name, and your phone number on the back so if they were to get lost, they can be easily returned to you. A bell is a similarly good idea – if your kitten has a bell, not only is it great for you to find it in the house, but it will also help to scare any birds or prey your kitten may decide to bring home to you. New Zealand is full of native birds, and while we love our cats, it’s important that we do our bit to keep our native wildlife flourishing.
When selecting a collar always choose a cat collar – these have safety releases, or elastic, to free a feline should they ever get trapped in a tree or on a fence. You can also choose from reflective varieties which are great if your kitten is a dark colour, or will be spending time outside at night.
To get your kitten used to wearing their collar, put the collar on the ground and let your kitten sniff it; if they play with it – that’s great – the collar needs to be fun and positive. Give your kitten lots of treats as they investigate the collar, then take it away. Repeat this for ten minutes for a couple of days. After the initial introduction period to the collar is done, you can begin putting it on your kitten for short periods of time. Start with five minutes on day one, 10 minutes on day two and so on, increasing in five minute increments, for a week.
To fit the collar onto your kitten, allow for two fingers to fit between the collar and your kitten’s neck. Leave the collar on for these brief times for around a week, or until your kitten does not seem bothered by the collar. If your kitten becomes concerned or distressed while wearing their collar, remove it and take a step back before trying again. After about three weeks, you should have a happy, well-adjusted, collar-wearing kitten, and don’t forget to regularly adjust the fit of the collar around your kittens neck as they’re growing.
If you choose to let your kitten outside – read on. We recommend taking your kitten on supervised outdoor adventures before letting them outside fully on their own. Supervised visits outside during the day when there is good weather is great when you are first starting to introduce your kitten to the outside - and until they are ready to be outside, we would recommend keeping your kitten inside overnight. If you have a harness then this is a great time to use it (use the method described above for collars to get your kitten used to their harness). Remember to talk and pet your kitten to reassure them as they venture into the big world – keep the area as calm and quiet as you can at this time, as too much stimulation can quickly overwhelm a young kitten. Ensure there is a way for the kitten to get back into the house, should something startle them.
If you are going to use a cat door, then showing them how to use it and encouraging them through with cat treats is the best way – even removing the flap if required until they get used to going through the small hole. Stand on one side of the cat door with some of your kitten’s food or some treats and encourage them through. While it may be tempting to push your kitten through, too much force can scare a young kitten, so it’s better to entice them and encourage them at their own pace. If you don’t have much success the first few times you try this, be patient and persevere. With the use of treats, the removal of the cat flap and the enticing great outdoors, your kitten will soon be using the cat door like a pro.
Things to consider:
- Is your kitten confident enough to begin exploring new rooms of the house?
- Are you going to have a collar for your kitten?
- Is your kitten used to the collar?
- Will you use a cat door?
Always supervise your kitten with any new experience – whether it’s wearing a collar for the first time or going outside – kittens are mischievous and may end up in trouble they can’t get out of.
Bringing home and settling a new kitten in to your household is an exciting time for all involved. Patience is key when introducing your new family member to the existing household, and ensuring your kitten feels safe and loved will help them build the confidence they need to become the family’s new best friend.
Kitten Guide and Checklist
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