Sunday, April 23, 2017

What to do when your new kitty comes home with you

This is the 2nd part of our series in Adopting a kitten or even a older cat. 

Please remember that BCR is a lifetime Sanctuary and we do not adopt out our babies. Once they come to us they are here for life.  The pictures I am using are from the internet because we do not have any kittens at the moment here at BCR.

Mandy Cooper

Bringing your new kitten home, Kitten proofing, vaccines and Introducing them to another cat or children

Helping your kitten settle in

Experiencing a brand new home is very scary for a new kitten. Every kitten is different where some are shy and others are more confident. Whatever their character, it's important to bear in mind that your kitten is leaving their mother and siblings for the first time. With this in mind, it's best to choose a room where your kitten can be kept for the first few weeks to be able to adjust gradually to their new surroundings. This also aids toilet training and avoids the risk of accidents elsewhere in the house. There are some helpful things to bear in mind when bringing your new baby home, for example:

       Avoid a room with full length curtains because a kitten will run up them and perch at the top.
       Check the room for potential hazards such as fireplaces or poisonous plants and make it as safe as possible. Kittens can get into very small spaces.
       Make sure any hazardous substances are out of harms way and cupboards where they are kept should not be accessible to a curious kitten.
       Remove all breakable objects from shelves and windowsills and secure all cupboard doors.
       Keep windows securely fastened.
       Position the litter tray in a discreet corner of the room out of reach from the food and water bowls.
       Place a cardboard box on its side with a thick blanket inside so the kitten has somewhere to hide if it feels shy or insecure.
       Position a padded, washable cat bed in a quiet area away from the food, water and litter tray areas. Line with a padded fleece blanket.
       Place a kitten scratching post nearby (replace with taller ones as they get older)
       Have a couple of toys ready for play time but don't leave any toys out with string attached. Only use these with supervision as kittens can be easily harmed.

You might want to purchase, borrow or hire a kitten pen. They are quite secure and have plenty of room for a bed, food, toys, water and litter tray. These can be very useful if you want to keep your kitten feeling safe when introducing them to other rooms when they start to settle in. It also gives you somewhere to put the kitten safely at night or when you aren't around to watch them. This is not for just leaving your kitten in it like a cage. This is only for them so they can get used to their new environment. There are many styles and sizes and ones you can put outside if you have a backyard and what to have a type of cat enclosure so your cat can go outside with you but not be loose. They usually are wire with no bottom so you cat can feel the grass beneath its feet. 

Basically it is like baby proofing your house when your child starts to crawl around. Also you will want to buy those wire covers because baby animals will chew on all power cords which could be very hazardous.  There are many sizes, and shapes depending on what you need and where. 

The first few days

It is advisable to bring the kitten home with some bedding. This will act as a familiar object when everything is new. The initial 24 hours should be a calm period of adjustment so it's probably best for any children in the house to understand that the kitten should be left alone for a while. The kitten room should be prepared in advance to enable the new kitten to settle in comfortably with very little disturbance. Place the cat basket on the floor gently and open the lid. Allow the kitten to explore in its own time. Your kitten will want to experience the room's sights, sounds, smells and textures for a the first time so be patient and allow time for investigation.
Offer food, water and a freshly prepared litter tray to the kitten within the room or the pen should you decide to get one. It's safe to leave the room for a while.

It's also fairly common for new kittens to show little interest in food at this stage. The blanket with a familiar smell can be placed inside a cardboard box or cat bed to help your kitten feel safer. It may be helpful to use the same litter that the kitten has been used to during the initial period making any changes gradually once your kitten is completely settled. Kittens need their sleep when they are young but in-between naps, they show massive bursts of energy. Kittens love to climb so be prepared to go to the rescue. Getting to know the kitten is really important to enable a bond to be created so interaction should take place during times when your kitten feels naturally active and appears responsive.

No matter how cute a kitten is, they should never be woken for affection or playtime. If your kitten seems receptive by all means, play with them but don't push it if the kitten seems disinterested or anxious. It's a lot to take in for a new kitten. Don't coax your kitten out of their hiding place. Spend time in the room reading or listening to music with headphones for example, instead of forcing the relationship to develop. If you want to appeal to your new kitten, spend time on the floor at their level and allow family members and friends to visit individually rather than crowding the kitten all at once.

During the first couple of days, any handling should ideally take place when the kitten initiates it. After the first 48 hours, handle the kitten throughout the day for short periods of time rather than providing continuous physical contact. If you have young children, allow them limited, supervised contact initially to avoid the kitten being handled too much. At this age, the kitten needs plenty of rest so always allow the kitten to sleep uninterrupted. The kitten also has a tiny tummy so offering 4-6 small meals at regular intervals throughout the day will avoid any potential tummy upsets. It's important from day 1 to set the routines that you intend to establish in the future.

Cats are naturally active at dawn and dusk but your kitten will soon adjust it's sleeping patterns to fit in with you. Try to avoid keeping the kitten too close to you at night to avoid continuous play and excitement and no sleep for you. There is nothing wrong with putting a kitten to bed in a cosy, warm and secure environment (such as a kitten pen) until you wake up in the morning but the location and type of bed is important to ensure a stress free night. Any bed provided for a kitten should have high sides to keep out drafts and a low front for easy access. 

The lining material should be thick and thermal to keep the kitten warm. When you first take a kitten home, feed them the same food they have been used to. A sudden change in diet combined with the stress of adapting to a new home can cause tummy upsets and diarrhoea. Change the diet gradually by mixing it with the kitten's usual food if you want to change it. Kittens should be fed little and often, like babies. Feed the kitten a special food formulated for kittens. Read and follow the feeding instructions carefully. If a food is marked “complete” it contains everything the kitten needs to stay healthy. If a food is marked “complementary” it does not supply all the kitten needs and should be fed with other food.
We have an excellent article about cat food here:

Kittens aged 8-12 weeks need 4 meals a day, 3-6 months need 3 meals a day and kittens over 6 months should get 2 meals. You may want to provide some dry food too if you are away from home or working. Do not give your kitten cow's milk as it can cause diarrhoea. Use a milk that is specially formulated for kittens. Fresh drinking water should be available at all times. Diarrhoea that persists for more than 24 hours requires immediate vet attention. Kittens will usually have learnt to use a litter tray by copying their mother. You may need to show your kitten where the litter tray is and place it on a tray when the kitten wakes from a sleep or after meals or when the kitten is sniffing or looks as if they are about to go. Make sure the litter tray is nowhere near the food or water bowls.

Place the kitten on the litter tray a short time after they have eaten and generally showing signs of looking for a suitable corner to use. There are may different types of litter boxes, open and closed, big and small. Whatever works best for your space. Its recommended that you have one litter box for each kitten and or cat you have in your home. 

It is important that your kitten can be identified should they become lost or injured away from home. 
Microchipping is the best form of permanent identification and some people like their cat to wear a collar as well. Never put a collar on a cat without having a good reason because some do not like them. Remember to change the collar fit as your cat grows. Also use break away collars just in case they would get caught on something. Kittens are very playful. Give them an assortment of toys to keep them occupied and exercised. Every kitten loves a cardboard box to play in. Play is also a great way for you to get to know and trust each other. Provide a scratching post.

 It is a good idea to get your kitten used to being groomed from an early age particularly if they have a long coat. Grooming removes excess loose hairs which can cause fur balls to build up in the tummy. Grooming also gives you a chance to keep a close eye on your cat and help to develop the bond between you both. Always be gentle and make grooming a rewarding and pleasant experience. A new kitten will need a health check-up shortly after arrival. This will give the vet the opportunity to give any vaccines necessary and advise on flea treatment, worming, neutering, microchip identification and other general care.

Kitten proofing your home

Kitten proofing your home helps ensure your kitten's safely as well as your own. Kittens are lively and curious which can lead to trouble unless you take preventative measures to keep them safe. Remember that a kitten has a lower vantage point than yours (like a baby who has begun to crawl) and may be attracted to things you do not see when standing. Here are a few suggestions to help keep your new baby safe.

       Secure screens on all windows to help prevent falls and keep your kitten off balconies, upper porches and high decks.
       Securely store cleaning supplies, washing powder, bleach, paint and paint thinner, pesticides, fertilizers, disinfectants, moth balls, medication and antifreeze (which is very deadly and very dangerous for cats and kittens because of the sweet taste). Make sure you keep these in tightly closed areas so your kitten cannot gain access. Kittens are clever little creatures and can usually figure out how to open cabinets.
       Remove poisonous house plants or place them in hanging baskets that you are sure are completely out of the kitten's reach.
       Keep toilet lids down. Small kittens may fall in and drown. Bigger kittens or even adult cats may play in the water and the lid could close, injuring or trapping them. Also, toilet bowl cleaners are harmful when swallowed.
       Store plastic bags where your kitten can't get inside them and suffocate or chew and tear them and swallow bits of plastic. If you let your kitten or cat play with any bag, be sure to cut the handles. A kitten can get tangled in the handle of the bag and become frightened. In trying to free themselves, they could be seriously injured.
       Kittens can get tangled in the plastic six pack holders used for packaging beverages. Cut the holders apart to prevent this problem.
       Keep exposed electrical cords as short as possible or tack them against a baseboard so your kitten can't play with them or chew on them. There are also tubular cord covers available at hardware stores to help protect your pets and hide unsightly electrical cords.
       Never give your kitten any medication without first consulting your veterinarian. Drugs dangerous to kittens are aspirin, diet pills, sleeping pills and tranquillisers. Make sure these and any other medications labelled “keep out of reach of children” are kept out of reach of your kitten as well.
       Kittens love to explore and sleep in warm, dark places so keep dresser drawers, trunks and cupboards closed. Check to see where your kitten is before closing the door of the fridge, dishwasher, oven or clothes dryer. Also, before leaving home, always conduct a kitten check to make sure that your kitten has not been accidentally locked in a cupboard or empty room.
       Keep sewing supplies out of your kitten's reach. Buttons, needles, pins and thread can hurt your kitten's mouth or internal organs if swallowed. The same goes for nails, staples, screws, beads and aluminium can tabs.
       Never leave a turned on oven unattended. Also, do not use electric blankets to line your kitten's bed. They could be burned or even electrocuted if they chew on the wires.
       Use only safety collars made specifically for cats on your kitten. They are designed to break if the kitty catches the collar on something. Collars not designed to break can strangle your kitty. Take with your vet about having your pet micro chipped. Even if you are vigilant about keeping your kitten indoors, accidents can happen. A fire, earthquake or a careless visitor could be responsible for your kitten getting outside and lost. If they are micro chipped, they can easily be identified and are far more likely to be returned to their owner.
       To avoid accidents, some cat toys should be used only when you are playing with your kitten. You should not give your kitten balls of string or wool, spools of thread, rubber bands, cellophane, corks or wire twist ties. Also, avoid anything with hard, sharp points that can break off. Be wary of toys that can break (Christmas tree ornaments for example) and be careful not to allow them to play with anything small enough to swallow, like buttons, beads or paper clips.
       Keep them away from children's toys made of soft rubber, fur, wool or sponge. If your kitten swallows a small particle of any of these, it could cause problems with their digestive system. Avoid all toys with squeakers which might be swallowed.
       Keep your kitten inside at all times. Remember the many dangers animals face when outdoors. Make the indoor world interesting with a variety of toys and give them plenty of loving attention.
       Unplug electrical cords when they aren't in use.
       Keep blind cords and curtain cords out of reach. Your kitten could strangle themselves by getting the cord wrapped around their necks.
       Remove tablecloths from tables unless you are about to use them. New kittens jumping up on the table could result in broken china or crystal which could seriously injure your kitten.
       Cover rubbish disposal switches. Special covers are available from hardware stores to avoid disaster.
       Keep the kitten's claws clipped. Untrimmed claws can grow into a kitten's paw pads leading to infection, pain and difficulty walking.

Remember to treat your new kitten as a new baby starting to crawl and getting into things that might be dangerous.

International Cat Care

Our next part will be about vaccinations and how to introduce your kitten to children.

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