The First Few Days
The best advice we can give about bringing your kitten home is to do everything very gradually. You will have years to enjoy this precious new member of your family and your relationship together is just beginning and will take time to grow. Don’t risk a situation where the kitten may never be fully happy in its new home for sake of a little time and patience in the first few days.
Before bringing your new kitten home for the first time, prepare a room for them which should be a warm, quiet place where they can be confined for the first few days, with familiar foods, water, plenty of toys, a scratching post, and a litter tray within easy reach so that they know where to find these essentials. Typically, this will be your bedroom so that you can keep a close eye on the kitten especially at night. If you have existing cats or other pets, you must isolate the kitten from them for a minimum of 72 hours, to ensure that the kitten is able to be confident in its immediate surroundings before encountering any other animals and to avoid making a stressful time worse for the kitten and your existing pets.
When you bring your kitten home, take it straight to your kitten room and minimise any noise or disruption on the way through the house. If you’ve had any length of car journey, the kitten will almost certainly want to use its litter tray soon, so make sure you show the kitten the litter tray you’ve prepared for it by placing the kitten gently in the tray a few times. You’ll need to use the same litter we’ve told you about, and the same foods – some kitten biscuits available all the time, and other food 3-4 times a day. Do keep an eye open to make sure that the kitten uses the litter tray eventually – many won’t until they feel comfortable, and they may need to be left on their own for this to happen. We can supply you with some soiled litter to mix in your kitten’s new litter trays.
Stay with your kitten for as long as you feel is necessary but don’t smother them too much and make sure they don’t meet any other cats or pets at this stage. If you have other cats they will know something is different and this will be unsettling for them, so remember to make a fuss of them and reassure them as much as possible.
If you have no other cats or dogs, simply extend the area the kitten can access gradually and make sure it is never far from a litter tray. The kitten may wet a bed if given too much space too soon without immediate access to a familiar litter tray. It is important they have a safe place to hide, under a bed or piece of furniture. Even if you can reach them, don’t, unless they are at risk. They will need to feel there is a safe place they can run to if something frightens them, where nobody can reach them. Reaching in and pulling them out will make them more anxious. Remember they have been taken away from their mum, their familiar environment, and the places, sounds and smells they are used to, so don’t be surprised if they run away very easily at first. Coax them out only with your voice or tempt them with a toy out in the open, and they will soon respond. Don’t grab for them – just be patient, and wait until they come right up to you and they will learn to trust you. It is extremely important to reinforce this advice with children of all ages.
They love fleece (vet-bed) to sleep on, but will feel at home on almost anything soft and warm, including the blanket they came with. Kittens also love to sleep in something that encloses them to the sides – a deep cat bed or even a suitably sized cardboard box. Our own Hercules still loves to sleep on a blanket in a “Really Useful Box™” designed for 5 reams of A4 paper, having graduated from the A5 version he enjoyed as a kitten! Tonks often prefer to sleep on top of something like a chair, bed or table, as it keeps them out of draughts; this is how they have been sleeping before coming to your house. As they have been sleeping all together until now, a single kitten might like a box on its side to curl up in with their blanket to keep them warm. Radiator beds can be heaven in the winter.
Don’t touch them when they are eating or using the litter tray until they know you much better. They need to feel safe doing both these things, and if they are touched or stroked they may associate these two important things with being startled, which could lead to litter-tray problems or picky eating.
Next: Other Cats