Adopting a kitten seems so easy. Once you make your choice, you bring your little loofa-sized ball of cuddles home and the snuggles begin, right?
Well, yes. But there’s more to taking care of a kitten than just providing a comfy lap on which to bake bread. In fact, those first few days of kitten care are somewhat similar to bringing home a rambunctious puppy. Here’s what you need to be prepared for.
The Homecoming: Safety First
Even though that two-pound (give or take) ball of fluff seems like it would be content to just ride around in your shirt pocket forever, you need to make sure your home is prepared to handle a kitten. It needs to be safe for the kitten, but also, in some ways, safe from the kitten.
First, do a thorough sweep of your entire home, or at least the areas the kitten will have access to. Make sure that anything that can fit inside a kitten’s mouth is out of the kitten’s reach. You’ve heard the old saying about cats and curiosity, so consider everything. Even yarn or string, which is traditionally seen as a great cat toy, can be ingested. Loose cables. Tasty-looking houseplants. Rubber bands. Tacks. Candy. Medications. Consider your entire house from your kitten’s point of view, and make sure there’s nothing they can eat or get tangled in.
It’s important to remember that, though a little kitten isn’t nearly as athletic as a full-grown cat, they do not stay ground-bound for long. So plan now for your kitten reaching great heights tomorrow. Keep your counters clear. Don’t forget the top of the refrigerator, cabinets, dressers, etc. Before you know it, your kitten will have access to everything, so kitten-proof everything now.
But kitten-proofing works both ways. Assuming that your kitten still has its claws, always remember that cats … scratch. They instinctively scratch vertical services (the rougher the better for them) as a way to mark their territory. Scent glands between their toes are expressed when they drag their claws across these surfaces, letting other cats know that this is “theirs.” They also use scratching as a form of exercise, or to express excitement. Whatever the reason, your door jambs, furniture and even textured walls can be at risk of being shredded, unless you provide alternatives. Give your kitten a scratching post (you can buy them anywhere you can buy pet toys) and a scratching “pad” that can easily be made with a carpet remnant and some Velcro or double-sided tape. Make sure that your kitten knows what is for scratching and what isn’t, but have patience. They’re learning the lay of the land!
The Adjustment Period
No matter how well-prepared your home is for your new kitten, your new kitten might not be prepared for your home. After all, there is a great chance that this is the little puff’s first trip away from mom. So it might come as a surprise if your kitten doesn’t immediately crawl into your lap to take a snooze. He or she might need some space to process this new adventure.
Make sure your kitten has its own “room.” If your house doesn’t have enough space to dedicate an entire room to a kitten, don’t fret. All we mean is to make sure he or she has somewhere private to go hide for a little while. Make sure the area has all the things that would make your kitten comfortable: the cat carrier, a blanket, some toys, food and water, a litter box. Most importantly, give your kitten space. Don’t force the snuggles. After they have had time to get settled in their area, you can sit quietly outside the area and see if they’ll come to you. Patience is key, because it might not happen quickly. Some kittens feel more comfortable at night and might not emerge from their quiet space until then. There’s a chance that they don’t eat much during this cautious time, and that’s ok. Make sure that they’re drinking water, but it’s perfectly normal for food to go untouched for an extended period. If that period stretches to 24 hours, be sure to call your vet.
Again, patience is key. Rest assured that it won’t be long before your kitten is zooming around the house at 2am before “kneading dough” on your back while you’re trying to sleep.
Set up some kitten care
Remember that, though they seem self-sufficient, every cat needs routine veterinary visits, including dental care, so set up your first appointment within a week of your kitten’s arrival.
Make sure you have your kitten’s nutrition squared away. Your veterinarian can also help you choose a kitten food. Nutrition is vital during these early developmental stages, so don’t hesitate to ask your vet.
Remember that kittens need mental care as well as physical care. Mental stimulation is important even when you’re not at home with your kitten, so be sure to have plenty of toys and other things for your kitten to do. But most importantly, be ready to play!
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