Congratulations – you just brought a new kitten home! Now the fun can really begin!
Of course there will be fun times, and lots of them, but first it’ll be important to bond with your new kitten so that you build up a trusting relationship to last for years to come. “Sharing your home with a kitten can be quiet different than living with an adult cat,” says Katie Watts, Senior Feline Behavior Counselor at the ASPCA Adoption Center. “All cats and kittens are individuals, but it’s important to consider if you’re ready for the higher activity level and mischief that most kittens are all about.”
For starters, your kitten will need a great deal of interactive playtime with appropriate toys – like cat dancers and feather wands – so be prepared to devote at least 15 minutes, three times a day to those activities. “They also like to explore and get into everything, so make sure to kitten proof well, securing any valuables or anything that could pose a hazard to the kitten if knocked over. If you work full-time or you’re away for most of the day, consider getting a pair of kittens so they have a playmate when you’re away.”
After you know you’ve prepared your home for a new kitten, it’s actually quite easy (and fun!) to go about bonding with him yourself. “Interactive playtime is a great way to form a bond with your new kitten,” says Watts. “Be sure to use appropriate toys like feather wands or cat dancers, and not hands. Most find these toys irresistible. If your kitten is a little nervous or unsure of people, hand-feeding them treats or a bit of their food is a great way to build trust.”
If your kitten is actually well socialized, then doting on him with a lot of cuddles and pats is a great way to build a bond. “Once they’re comfortable in their new home, invite a friend over to interact with your kitten as well,” suggests Watts. “Exposure to multiple people is a great way to ensure they grow up to become social adults.”
Keep in mind a couple of no nos when it comes to bonding with your kitten. “It’s cute when they’re young, but encouraging your kitten to play with hands or feet is a huge no no,” says Watts. “This shows them that biting and scratching is an appropriate form of play, and they will grow up with this as a habit. Once they have adult-sized teeth and claws, this can become dangerous, and can become a habit that’s hard to change.”
You’ll also need to pay attention to your kitten’s reactions, and learn to recognize when she is uncomfortable. “If she’s clearly uncomfortable, don’t force her into that situation,” says Watts. “Work on getting her used to certain things gradually. For instance, if your kitten is very scared of visitors, don’t have a party and force your kitten to be the center of attention. Gradually expose her to one person at first, and work up from there. Treats and toys are great for coaxing nervous kittens into new experiences, too.”
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