A good start to your kitten’s new home life will not only help him blossom into a confident young adult, it’ll do wonders for your relationship too.
Having already planned ahead, you will ideally be at home for several days after you collect your kitten to help him settle in, and have a warm room ready where he can feel secure for the first few days, rather than giving him the run of the house initially.
Make sure he has a comfy, safe hideaway, food and water, positioned away from a litter tray (providing one per kitten, plus one extra), and a scattering of toys for him to play with. It may take a while before he is confident in the same room as you, so be patient. His natural curiosity will soon have him exploring, so just allow him time to adjust.
Creating a safe environment for your kitten
When your kitten is ready to explore further, usually after about four weeks, check around your house, seeing it from a kitten’s eye view. Tidy away small things that might be chewed or could get your little one into trouble and follow these tips:
- Tidy cables and cover them with conduit in case he is tempted to chew
- Keep windows free from Venetian blinds or net curtains that your kitten could get caught up in
- Keep potentially harmful cleaning fluids out of a kitten’s reach
- Chocolate is toxic to cats, so don’t leave any half-eaten bars lying around
- Feather toys and toys on string/elastic are great for interactive play but should not be left out when your kitten is on his own in case he chokes on the feathers or gets tangled in the string/elastic
- Keep the bathroom door shut when you run a bath and make sure the toilet lid is kept down to stop your inquisitive kitten falling in
- Keep windows shut to stop your kitten escaping outside before he’s ready
- Keep the doors of all your household appliances shut or you could find your kitten curled up in your tumble dryer — or worse, being inside when it’s turned on
- Keep small, easily swallowed items away from your kitten’s reach
- Make sure your kitchen bin has a cat-proof lid
- Have a fireguard permanently in place to prevent him venturing up the chimney
- Certain cut flowers and houseplants can be poisonous to cats, particularly lilies. Vases are also easily pulled over and broken. Click here for a list of poisonous plants put together by the Feline Advisory Bureau.
Meeting other cats
First impressions count and taking care over your pets’ initial introductions is important. Some cats will welcome another feline companion, while others will express their disgust at every possible opportunity, so any mistakes in this process are very hard to rectify. It’s also important to ensure they don’t have to compete for anything, including food, sleeping places, water, litter tray and attention from you. The good news is that kittens are often easier to mix because they are sexually immature and often pose less threat.
For all introductions choose a quiet time, so your cats are reassured by the calm environment. Although you might think the easiest thing would be to let your new kitten mix with your existing cat straight away, this rarely works. Juliette says: “One of the best options is to keep your kitten in a separate room, allowing the existing cat access to the rest of the house. You can then let both cats establish themselves in the environment and feel comfortable. Spend equal time with your kitten and your existing cat until they both feel content. They will be aware of one another’s presence through scent.
“Once both cats are settled, their scents can be mixed. This involves swapping items of bedding or stroking each cat without washing your hands in between. Never rub one cat with an item of bedding and then rub it on the other as this may overwhelm the cats.
“You could also let the new cat explore the rest of the house while the existing cat is outside, so he is used to the area before being mixed.”
When both cats are settled and you have scent swapped, you can start to open the door slightly and let them meet. When the cats are in the same room, try to distract them as much as possible with toys and food. Your cats will assess each other through eye contact and body posture, if one becomes agressive then place a pillow or a sheet between them. Never break up a fight yourself, as you may be seen as the bad person and you might be scratched.
It will take a little while for both cats to get used to one another, but they will usually settle. If they seem to be getting on well, you can let them meet for short periods, slowly giving them longer together. Separate them during the night as you will not be able to supervise them closely. It is important never to let the cats chase each other, as once this process has started, it will be almost impossible to stop. Make sure you have plenty of hiding places around the house and give both cats lots of reassurance. In time, most will come to accept the new arrival.
Once your kitten has settled in and accepted you, it’s time to introduce him to your children. Involving them in everyday care such as feeding and grooming will help your kitten associate the children with positive events. Show them how to pick up and hold the kitten properly, supporting him under the bottom, and encourage them to wait until he approaches them for attention. Never leave children under the age of five alone with your kitten and always supervise.
It will take time for your kitten to get used to children and for them to learn that he can easily be frightened by loud noises and sudden movements. Ensure your children know that the kitten is not a toy — they must also learn to leave him in peace while he is eating or using his litter tray.
Dogs and cats can, despite popular belief, live quite happily together. Juliette Jones, manager of cat welfare at Wood Green, says: “Introducing a new kitten to your dog at home must be done slowly and with great care to help prevent any disasters. Some dogs have very strong predatory instincts and may never be able to live safely with cats.
“It is paramount that you do not force the animals together. Never force them to meet by carrying the kitten towards the dog. Not only will this terrify the kitten, but you could be bitten or scratched by him as he struggles to get away. Instead we suggest that you let them investigate one another in their own time. Your dog should also have the ability to get away if the kitten does decide to pester him, and your kitten should have a retreat or ‘safe area’ where the dog cannot go.”
Dog and kitten introductions are best done indoors; the dog should always be on a secure lead whenever the cat is present until you are sure that they are comfortable together and there is no danger for the cat Reward your dog for not chasing or barking at the kitten. Walking your dog before the initial introduction will help by tiring him out!
Supervise all meetings between the dog and kitten. Never leave them alone in a room together. Place a barrier, such as a baby gate, between the area the dog will occupy and the cat’s safe area, so that the cat can come and go at will without the dog being able to follow
Eating is a pleasurable experience use it to help with relationship problems. Place a bowl of food in reach of the kitten but out of the dog’s reach. At the same time, give the dog a treat or a chew Gradually, as the kitten becomes more used to the dog, you can allow more interaction. Let the dog approach the kitten for a sniff and then call him away. Do this on a lead to prevent any sudden disasters and ensure that you can call the dog away from the kitten by giving him a tasty treat every time he looks away and towards you. Your aim is to reward the dog for ignoring or turning away from the kitten
After a couple of weeks you will have a good idea of whether you feel it is safe to let the dog off the lead when the kitten is present. If the kitten is very shy or timid, it may take longer.