Your life with your new kitten begins on the ride home. First, cats should always be transported in some kind of carrier in the car. By teaching your kitten to ride in a confined location, you are providing safety as well as starting a routine that you can maintain for future car rides.
Upon arriving at home, place the kitten in a small, quiet area with food and a litter box. If the kitten is very tiny, a small litter box with low sides will be necessary at first. If possible, duplicate the type of litter material that was used in the kitten’s previous home.
Kitten Proofing the Home
Set up a safe and secure area where you can leave your kitten when you are not available for supervision. This location should have a food bowl, water bowl, litter box, play toys, a scratching post, and a resting area. Make sure the space is big enough to accommodate all of these things.
Since it is advisable to feed your kitten multiple small meals throughout the day, you may choose to also provide a feeding area in this room. All kittens and cats will need time to investigate their new surroundings, but make sure to inspect the area for nooks and crannies where a kitten might hide or get stuck. For a new kitten this is a more manageable task if you limit the available space initially. Be sure that any area where your kitten is allowed to roam has been effectively cat-proofed, which includes anywhere the kitten can jump or climb.
Potentially dangerous items like electric cords and items that might be chewed or swallowed, such as thread, rubber bands, paper clips, or children’s toys, should be kept out of reach. After your new kitten has had some quiet time in a restricted location, slowly allow access to other areas of the home, under your supervision.
Kittens are natural explorers and will use their claws to climb up onto anything possible. In the first few weeks, slow access to the home will allow for exploration as well as the ability for you to monitor the kitten's behavior.
Introducing the New Kitten to Your Other Pets
Although some kittens may show fear and defensive postures toward other pets in the home, most young kittens are playful and inquisitive around other animals. Therefore, it is often the existing pets that can pose more of a problem. If you know or suspect that your adult dog or cat might be aggressive toward the kitten, then you should seek professional behavior advice before introducing the pets to each other.
The kitten should be given a safe and secure area that provides for all of its needs (as described above) and introductions with the existing family pets should be carefully supervised. At the first introduction there may be no immediate problems, and reinforcement of desirable responses may be all that is required.
Introducing the New Kitten to Your Dog
If there is some mild anxiety on the part of your dog, the introductions will need to be controlled, gradual, supervised, and always positive. Begin by placing your new kitten in a carrier or on a leash and harness so that it will not provoke the dog or make the dog feel defensive. Using a leash to control your dog, use favored rewards and training commands to encourage your dog to sit or stay calmly in the presence of the kitten.
Dogs that are not well trained to settle on command may need their training reviewed and improved upon before introduction to any new pet. Alternatively, a leash and head halter may be used for more immediate control and safety. Calm investigation should then be encouraged and reinforced. Any initial anxiety on the part of the dog or kitten should soon decrease.
If the dog is prevented from rough play and chasing, the kitten should quickly learn its limits with the dog, including how to avoid confrontation by climbing or hiding. Initially it would be best to keep a dog and a kitten separated unless supervised by an adult. If there is still the possibility of aggression or injury after the cautious initial introductions, then a behavior consultation would be advisable.
Introducing the New Kitten to Your Cat
Most adult cats are fairly tolerant of kittens. Keeping the kitten in its own area and then allowing introductions when the cats are eating or playing should help to decrease any initial anxiety. A crate, or a leash and harness, can be used to control one or both of the cats during initial introductions. A synthetic cheek gland scent, either as a spray or diffuser, may also be useful for easing introductions. Most cats and kittens will soon work out a relationship on their own without injury. However, if there is a threat of aggression, a gradual introduction program will need to be followed.
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