Tips for Bringing a New Kitten Home
Bringing a cuddly, appealing bundle of purr home is exciting, whether the kitten is your first or an addition to your current pet family. Your kitten will be entirely reliant on you to ease his transition from mom cat's side or animal shelter to this strange new place. Keeping him safe and happy takes planning and patience for everyone in the household. The efforts will pay off, as your new little friend grows into a confident, affectionate kitty who knows there's no place like home. Here are 10 tips for making your new friend's arrival easier.
Kittens are sometimes adopted at six weeks of age, but 10 to 12 weeks is better. Those extra weeks spent with his mother and siblings help a kitten learn acceptable behavior, from getting along with siblings to getting used to human contact. A six- or seven-week-old kitten may be stressed and confused at being separated from his or her family too soon; your kitten may be fearful of people, and could try to hide or run away from interaction. If a kitten has been gently handled and has gotten used to humans, he will be friendlier and better adjusted. In choosing a kitten, look for one that is inquisitive, doesn't shy away from your touch, and is ready to play.
Kittens are growth machines for their first year and need different nutrition than adult cats. Extra protein for muscle and tissue development, fat for fatty acids and plenty of calories are key to kittens' health. Specially formulated kitten foods fitting their nutritional requirements should be given until the kitten is a year old.
Away from his littermates or mother, the kitten needs to feel secure as well as warm. Whether you provide a cardboard box lined with a blanket or a fancier bed from a pet supply store, keep your kitten's bed in a quiet place, away from household traffic.
Litter training is easy -- cats instinctively bury their waste -- but takes patience. Put the litter box in a corner or other secluded spot. After your kitten has awakened from a nap, or shortly after she's finished eating, place her in the box. If she doesn't dig or scratch, gently take one of her front paws and simulate digging with it. Praise her if she uses the box, but never punish her if he doesn't. Just place her in it at hourly intervals until she gets the idea.
To discourage clawing furniture, provide a carpet-covered scratching post.
Although everyone will want to hold the kitten, limit handling for the first few days while your new pet adjusts. Set up his bed, litter box and food in a quiet room where he can be secured until he gets to know his new home. Introduce one family member at a time, allowing the kitten to come to you and learn your touch.
Children under five should not interact with kittens; many shelters and rescue groups will not allow families with very young children to adopt kittens because children can be rough, sometimes tragically, with kittens. Older children can be shown how to hold a cat -- with one hand just behind the front legs, the other supporting his hindquarters. They should be taught never to grab a kitten's tail or ears, or pick it up by its scruff. Show children how to gently pet a cat's head and back. Remind them to always wash their hands after being around kitty. Always supervise children's interaction with kittens, especially if they have friends visiting.
Kittens can get tangled or choked by anything swinging or hanging. Therefore, keep your new pet safe by securely anchoring drape or blind cords out of reach.
To prevent chewing on electric and phone cords, bundle them with a cord manager and fasten away from kittens' reach.
Rubber bands, jewelry, Christmas decorations, balloons and other small items are dangerous to kittens that may swallow them. Remove poisonous plants, and roach or ant traps and make sure the toilet lid is down. Keep kitchen and bathroom cabinets closed so your kitten doesn't encounter bleach, detergent, dental floss and other household items when exploring.
In the laundry area, keep washer and dryer doors closed: A kitten may climb into a warm dryer for a nap. Remember, if something would be harmful for a toddler, it's the same for your kitten.
After you've kitten-proofed, introduce your kitten to your home one room at a time. Place his open carrier in whichever room you are introducing him to so he has a retreat if he wants it, and let him walk around while you sit quietly. Talk to him softly as he explores. He may hide under a bed or scoot behind a refrigerator, so you need to be vigilant. If you don't want him in the habit of climbing on your bed, gently remove him and place him on the floor. Bring him back to his own space, and repeat this introduction process in each room of your home until he has explored everyplace.
Before bringing in a new kitten, be sure your resident pets have recently been checked by your vet, and are disease-free. When the kitten is in his or her secured room, your other cat will sniff around the doorway. Give your resident cat extra attention to ease his or her anxiety. Once the kitten feels comfortable, allow the two to meet briefly. Stay in the room while they sniff and explore each other. There may be some hissing and growling. If one cat shows real hostility, separate them and try again a few days later.
Never leave a dog alone with a new kitten. Dogs can become aggressive, or a kitten may claw at a dog's face. Make sure your dog is properly leashed as you introduce him or her to your kitten following the same procedure you would to introduce a cat to your kitten. This lets the animals learn each other's scent. The kitten should not be allowed to run away because the dog may think chasing it is a game. Reward both pets for calm behavior. Always supervise their interactions until the kitten is fully grown.
A kitten's high energy level makes her eager to play at any time. To keep her safe, choose toys carefully, just as you would for a child. Avoid those with buttons, bells or other small parts that can come off and be swallowed. Watch for sharp edges, and beware of string, yarn or ribbon, as these are dangerous if ingested.
If a toy has any of these, always supervise the kitten when she plays with it. Small stuffed animals to attack and a ball too large to fit into her mouth will provide hours of kitten fun. You can hold a plastic fishing pole, anchored by a secure line to a fuzzy mouse or other small toy, in front of the kitten who will delight in chasing this prey.Your vet should see your kitten within a day or two of his arrival. She'll check for ear mites and fleas, and examine a fecal sample, because most kittens have some form of worms. Many vets routinely deworm all kittens with an oral medication. At six to seven weeks, your kitten should receive a "three-way" vaccine that protects against the respiratory diseases FVR (feline viral rhinotracheitis) and FCV (feline calicivirus), as well as distemper (feline panleukopenia), with a booster shot given 12 to 14 weeks later. If your kitten is at least nine to 10 weeks old, he'll be tested for FeLV (feline leukemia) and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus). He can get a rabies shot, usually required by law, at 12 weeks of age.
A kitten left home alone should be secured in one room with his bed, litter box, scratching post, food and water. If you'll be gone until evening, add a nightlight. Give him enough safe toys to keep him busy, such as a trackball toy. Place a radio just outside his door, turned to a classical music or country western station. Many pet sitters have found cats seem to prefer these two genres. Other cats like listening to talk shows, perhaps soothed by the human voice. If your kitten will always be alone during the day, spend extra time petting and playing with him when you return.
When you first bring your kitten home, he may miss his siblings and mother. He'll meow in confusion or wake up during the night. Ease his stress by picking him up, stroking him while speaking in a soothing tone. Wrapping a ticking clock in a towel and placing it near his bed to remind him of his mother's heartbeat.
Kittens have so much energy, they need to stay active to be happy. If you bring home two kittens together rather than one, they'll focus their play-fighting, scratching and wrestling on each other, and are less likely to feel lonely. They are also a lot more fun to watch.
Schedule a wellness exam with your vet every 6 to 12 months. Reducing the time between exams increases your vets ability to detect, diagnose, and propose treatment options in a timely fashion thus increasing your cats life.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE EXAM???
Your vet will get your cat's history from you. They will ask questions such as what does your cat eat, how much and how often? How active is your cat? Does you cat demonstrate signs of stiffness after exercise? If your vet detects something out of the ordinary, specific questions asked regarding a symptom include: When did this symptom or sign first appear? Is it getting better or worse? Is the sign or symptom always present, or is it intermittent? Be prepared to assist your vet. Monitor your cat and keep records of signs or atypical behavior. This information is valuable in making a proper diagnosis early in the event of a problem. At the wellness checkup your vet will also perform a basic physical exam, including weight and general body condition, heart and respiratory rates, intestinal parasites (fecal exam), and dental care needs.
ENGAGE IN DIALOG - QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR VET
DON'T HESITATE TO ASK QUESTIONS. The wellness checkup is the opportunity to develop and strengthen relations with your vet and staff. Take an active roll in providing and maintaining the best care for your cat. Ask your vet which tests are appropriate for your cat. If you are not sure whether a certain behavior or observation is indicative of a disease, ask your vet. Open communication offers your vet important clues to properly assess potential risks your pet may have been exposed to. Work closely with your vet and empower yourself with knowledge and confidence. Schedule regular wellness exams and resolve to provide the best care possible for your cat.
Do not let your cat roam loose outside. The average cat lifespan is 16years. The average lifespan of a cat that goes outside is THREE YEARS. Your kitten can and will get stolen, hit by a car or come in contact with diseased cats. If they stay in the house all the time, they will not ask to go outside. If you do want to let them out, do so only under supervision. This means train them to use a halter and leash. Contrary to popular opinion, they do not need to go outside to play and hunt. Just play with them indoors. I like to say, It's better to be inside and fat than outside and flat.
Bengals are also very curious. Please be very careful when getting something out of the refrigerator, or when opening a dryer, dish-washer, drawers, closets, etc. Your kitten will most likely try to go into whatever you have open. Be very careful not to lock them inside the refrigerator, or the dryer, or catch their paw in a drawer.
Plants can be poisonous, be careful which ones your kittens/cats are exposed to.
You may find that they will climb up your leg to your shoulder when young, especially at feeding time. If their nails are kept trimmed, they will not be able to do that.
Be cautious of your toes. Toes can be fun to attack under blankets and fun to bite. Be careful.
Watch out for rubber bands, toys with tinsel, or small objects that could be ingested. Bengals are curious and get "into things". You will learn how much "child-proofing" you might need to do with your drawers and cupboards.
The feline is one of the most graceful, well-designed creatures on this Earth. A cat spends about one third of its time when it is awake grooming itself. The claws are a very important part of this function, and used extensively to help keep the cat's fur smooth and clean. This is not just for "good looks" -- grooming is the way a cat controls body temperature and the affects of outside temperatures; grooming also controls the scent signals used by the feline body; grooming is important for cleanliness, health, and for waterproofing the cat's body. The licking and scratching that a cat does while grooming itself or in social grooming combs out tangles in the fur, and removes skin irritations and dead skin and hair. There is no way a cat can use its teeth effectively to reach the important areas of the neck, head and mouth for grooming, and teeth are not nearly as efficient in keeping the other parts of the body in perfect condition.
Claws also help the feline to climb, which is part of the instinctive nature in almost all cats. While some cats can learn to climb without their claws, they will never experience the same joy and confidence in that exercise without the exactness and pinpoint contact of the tips of their claws on climbing surfaces. The act of scratching itself is often a form of greeting by felines, and provides a source of psychological comfort through its rhythmic action. In addition, scratching is a source of reassurance to the cat of its ability to defend itself or to choose not to defend itself, which can be witnessed by watching the cat contract its claws and "knead" its owner with contentment and trust.
Without claws, a cat will not be able to defend itself, nor will it be able to hunt. Without claws, should a cat ever get out from the safety of its home, or the owner suddenly be unable to take care of the cat for whatever reason, the cat will no doubt perish from starvation, as it will no longer be able to take care of itself and provide itself with foo
THE DECLAW SURGERY PROCEDURE
"Onychectomy", which is considered the most common method of declaw surgery, is the actual amputation of the claw AND THE COMPLETE END TOE BONE JOINT. In most cases, the cat will be in pain for a week or even more, and this surgery can indeed cause postoperative complications. These complications can include hemorrhage, infection, and even nail re-growth after a period of time - often this re-growth is extremely painful, and can be extremely difficult to correct. Unfortunately, the majority of American veterinarians will often perform this surgery simply at the request of the cat's owners, without finding out the underlying reasons for the request. Also, many cat owners subject their felines to this surgery mistakenly thinking it is a much simpler, less painful procedure that it truly is. Declawing is not permitted in some countries, such as Great Britain, except for serious medical reasons.
While laser surgery has been used for some years now in human medicine, it is just starting to catch on in veterinary medicine. There are some veterinary clinics that currently use a laser for all their declaw surgeries and they are reporting very positive advancements in the procedure itself and the lessening of adverse post-procedure side effects. The cats go home in significantly less pain than they would have after having had traditional surgery, they heal faster, and are up and walking 90% of the time without bandages in 3-4 hours, or as soon as their anesthesia wears off. This is certainly an important point to consider if there are absolutely no other viable alternatives to having the declaw surgery itself performed.
THE TENDONECTOMY SURGERY PROCEDURE
As an alternative to the traditional declaw surgery, there is another surgical procedure known as "Deep Digital Flexor Tendonectomy", which was first described in 1986 by John Rife, DVM (Journal AAHA, Nov. 1986). This procedure involves the severing of the tendon attached to the end toe digit, but maintaining the claw in its sheath. After the surgery, the cat will still have its claws, but will not be able to extend them. The technique is not detectable visually, and does limit the cat's ability to damage surfaces when scratching. (Of course, since the cats still have their claws, the claws need to be trimmed.) This surgery is less painful than the traditional method, and the recovery is quicker - 2 days or less, vs. 7 days or more - and the post-operative risks are minimal. This surgery has not been as favored by many veterinarians because they are concerned about their client satisfaction. In reality, most clients would really appreciate knowing about an alternative that was less painful for their cat, less traumatic and less risky, and would not mind the claw trimming time and efforts needed on their parts to make this alternative a success. There is a risk of in-growth of claws into the paw pads (if they are not kept trimmed), and some veterinarians who have performed this surgery have reported joint fusion and arthritis in some of their patients.
POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF DECLAWING
Changes in behavior are not uncommon in declawed cats; however, some cats seem to do fairly well when they have completely recovered from their surgery. It is impossible to predict what will happen physically and emotionally to cats after they undergo this procedure. Some declawed cats will resort to biting behavior when confronted with even very minor perceived stress or threats. This behavior is the overcompensation for the cat's insecurity about not having any claws. Sometimes, a cat's sense of balance is affected by not being able to grasp and measure objects with their claws. Chronic physical problems such as cystitis and skin disorders can all be the results of a declawed cat's sense of frustration and high degree of stress. Remember, too, that it IS possible for serious infections to occur, and for the claws to even grow back, often in a deformed and difficult-to-tre
ALTERNATIVES TO DECLAW SURGERY
You do not have to share your home with a kitty who continuously scratches and destroys your home, furnishings and belongings. Most felines can be trained quite easily to use a tall, sturdy and heavy piece of cat furniture for their scratching needs. Placement of this furniture is critical, and best success is achieved by understanding why the cat scratches in the first place, and making sure the cat furniture is placed correctly to meet those needs. For additional information, we have an article about Teaching Your Cat To Use A Scratching Post. We also offer a complete Feline Furniture section, with Secure Server and on-line ordering system, to showcase all the various types of cat furniture that is available, and customizable for your own unique home decor needs.
We have found that by using leather, vinyl or combination leather/vinyl furnishings in our main living areas, our cats have little or no desire at all to scratch our furniture. The type of fabric to avoid is the loosely woven fabrics for living room couches and chairs, as cats love to get their claws under the fabric loops.
It may seem rather simplistic, but taking the time to TRAIN your kitty is also usually quite effective - whether you use "NO" in a firm warning voice, followed by a squirt from a water mister, or whether you choose to discourage his undesirable scratching behavior by leaving the room. BE PATIENT...and BE CONSISTENT.
Keep the front claws neatly trimmed, being careful not to cut in to the "quick" area where the blood flows to the nail. If you have any doubts, have your vet show you how to trim your kitty's nails properly.
There are products out now such as SOFTPAWS©, that can be used (sort of like Lee Press-on nails) to discourage a chronic furniture scratcher. Take the time to try these products before even considering the permanent, irreversible, expensive and mutilating declaw surgery, as they have worked for millions of happy cats and their owners.
Until your cat learns that his scratching needs to be on his post (or posts - you can never have too many, and it's best to have at least one in each room where your cat spends significant time), you may want to try covering his favorite human furniture with double-sided sticky tape, a separate throw, blown up balloons taped to the furniture, aluminum foil, or some similar distraction.
When you have the opportunity, remember to NEVER use your hands and arms in play with your kitten or cat. Responsible breeders start working with their kittens at a very young age, teaching them the difference between toys (meant for play) and human body parts (meant for giving and receiving love). This all plays a big role in the proper development of cat behaviors such as appropriate ways to handle teething, and not turning in to cats that bite or scratch people and/or furniture. With the development of proper cat behaviors such as these, there never becomes a need to even consider the idea of declawing.
Remember this basic fact about cat allergens. They need to be airborne and you need to breathe them in for you to have an allergic reaction to them. Cat allergen is very small so it remains suspended in the air longer. There is also a high rate of recontamination (because the cats are running around the house). Here are some recommended steps to decrease your (or your partner's) cat allergies.
1. No more cats sleeping on the bed.
2. Keep the cats out of the bedroom altogether.
3. Wash all bedding in 140-degree hot water at least twice monthly.
4. Use HEPA air filters in rooms where your cats frequent.
5. Vacuum with a HEPA vacuum cleaner twice weekly.
6. Vapor steam cleaners will kill the proteins/dander which are embedded in your carpets and upholstery. Steam cleaners are a chemical-free way of cleaning and killing dust mites, bacteria, mold spores and cat allergens.
7. Wash you hands immediately after petting your cats and do not rub your eyes.
8. Clean your cat. You can give your cat a bath. Allerpet, a well-known brand of liquid that reduces cat allergens in the air, can be applied to your cats coat and is available from your local veterinarian. Alternatively, you can use a damp micro fiber cloth to rub off the visible dander. Most cats would prefer this to the dreaded bath.
9. Confine your cats to one area of the house. This may be difficult, but you can concentrate your air purifying and cleaning efforts to one area.
10. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GET RID OF YOUR CAT! If you follow steps 1-9 you will significantly decrease your allergies.