I’m in the process of adopting a three-month old kitten from foster care, so I’m aware of and currently facing the challenges that come with the addition of a new pet to the home. To make the transition easier on you and your furry friend, I’ll share some tips and tricks I’ve found.
Each cat and kitten is different, and some will need more time to adjust to their new environment than others. The most important thing to remember is that cats are more finicky than dogs, and it will often take them some time to trust you. In many cases, it only takes them ten minutes to warm up to you. In others, you might need to give them anywhere from a few days to a week to really feel comfortable.
If you’re a first-time cat owner, I strongly suggest doing some research on the following topics:
• Preventative healthcare for your cat or kitten
• Litter box training (including the different types of litter boxes and litter)
• Types of cat food and which is appropriate for your cat’s age, activity level, and health
• Toys that will keep them entertained
• Collars, harnesses, and how to get your cat accustomed to wearing them
• Pros and cons of getting your cat neutered/spayed (especially if he’s male!)
• Introducing cats to other pets and young children
Beyond research, it’s important to prepare your home for the new addition to your family. Any cat or kitten that is transitioning to a new home can become overwhelmed. To avoid this, choose a room that can be closed off from the rest of the house. Limiting their environment helps them to get accustomed to the change of scenery and caretakers. Additionally, it forces them to interact with you, which is a necessary part of the bonding process. Don’t remove all their potential hiding spots from them—they still need places where they can feel safe—but do try to pick a room where you’ll know where those hiding spots are. This step is especially important if you already have other pets, as your cat or kitten will need to be separated from them until both parties get used to the other’s smell. Rooms with wooden, tile, linoleum, or other easily-cleaned floors are ideal for this step, since the cat’s litter box, food bowls, and toys will all need to be kept in the same room.
Once you’ve chosen your room, you’ll need to prepare it for your pet’s arrival. Cats (kittens especially) are attracted to anything that is shiny, fluffy, and scratch-able (like cloth furniture and carpets), as well as objects that dangle or smell good. Though they generally can’t do as much damage as a dog, it’s better to remove or hide anything you’re worried about. Be especially careful of power cords - in my experience, cats will inevitably try to chew through them. If you have anything that you can’t remove or hide, get a non-toxic cat repellant spray from your local pet center. Cats hate the smell of these sprays and will avoid anything covered with their scent.
After you remove, hide, or spray anything of value in the rooms the cat or kitten will call home, I suggest giving it a thorough cleaning. When I brought my new kitten home, he managed to coat himself in more dust than I was aware my apartment contained. Pay attention to spaces beneath furniture, on top of furniture, or in corners. I guarantee your cat or kitten will get there eventually. The dust won’t make them sick, but they will track it all over the rest of the room.
Once you get your cat or kitten home, make sure you and your family (or roommates) spend a significant amount of time in the room you’ve set up for your pet. The best way to get your cat or kitten to trust you is to be present, quiet, and non-threatening. Offer her or him treats to entice your cat out of hiding spots, and make sure you put the food and water bowls in an exposed location. Eventually, the cat or kitten will get hungry enough to come out. When I was doing this with my kitten, I made sure that he saw me and my boyfriend laying out treats. We then sat on the floor and ignored him (me with a book and my boyfriend with a video game) until Ninja was brave enough to show himself. This step is usually significantly easier with kittens than it is with cats. Kittens tend to trust more easily and crave more attention and play. They’re like children in that they need stimulation and hate being bored. Cats trust less immediately and need less attention. Still, if you are patient they will eventually come to trust and love you.
Finally, make sure that you continue to give your cat or kitten attention and love. Though cats do require less upkeep than dogs, they still need to be petted and played with in order to thrive. It is important for your cat or kitten to get used to being touched by you and your friends and family. If you ignore cats and kittens, they tend to become skittish and mean. However, if you give them affection, you’ll earn yourself a loving companion for years to come.