Bringing a Kitten Home

The day you bring your new cat home is an exciting one for both of you –though exciting for different reasons. While you know that everything is going to be wonderful and he’s eventually going to love his new home, he is utterly confused –everything smells weird, he doesn’t know where he’s going and *gulp* he has to ride in a car (or, in cat terms, “the big scary bumpy rumbly thing”). You can make the big day and introduction to his new family easier for your new furry friend with the following tips.

Buy your supplies ahead of time. You will need the essentials, including food and water dishes, cat food, litter boxes and litter, as well as toys, a snuggly bed and a scratching post. If you intend to spoil your new pet rotten, consider a cat tree or kitty condo as well. To maximize usage of the litter box, buy the same litter the cat has been using. Ditto for food; purchase the same brand and variety to minimize the possibility of tummy troubles.

Set up a safe place. If you have other pets (or even children) at home, it’s essential to introduce your new kitty gradually to minimize the potential for fighting and reduce the stress on all parties. Even if this is your first pet, it’s still advisable to set up a “base camp” so he can gradually adjust to his new home. A spare bedroom or little-used den or office is ideal. Set it up with a litter box, food and water, toys and whatever else you may have purchased.

Make it a quick trip home. Most cats hate riding in the car, so try to minimize the stress of the trip home. Put your new pet in a sturdy cat carrier and drive home directly (no running errands). Some cat owners swear that placing a towel or blanket over the carrier calms their pets, at least to some degree. Keep the car at a comfortable temperature, running the heater or the air conditioning as necessary.

Release kitty in his base camp. If he’s your only pet and seems relaxed and eager to explore, you may decide to open the door within an hour or two. If he seems nervous or shy, he may prefer to stay in the safe room for a few days. Spend plenty of time in there, getting to know him, playing and giving him treats. If you have children, allow them to introduce themselves to their new friend in his safe space one at a time.

Introduce other pets gradually. Experts recommend introducing cats by scent before they meet in person. You can do this by rubbing a towel on your new cat and then rubbing it on your resident cat, or by brushing all of your cats with the same brush. After a few days, you may progress to removing your new cat to a different room while your resident cat explores the base camp. Eventually, you can try feeding them on opposite sides of a door that is cracked open to allow a glimpse of each other. The introduction process may take a week or more depending on the personalities of the cats involved. When they seem relaxed while eating and looking at each other, you’ll know it’s time for a face-to-face meet and greet.

Cat proof your home. If this is your first pet, take time to cat proof your home before releasing him from the safe room. Put away anything unsafe he might decide to chew on or accidently swallow, such as yarn and rubber bands. Consider putting caps on open outlets and taping wires to baseboards. Remove any potentially toxic houseplants and ensure all exterior doors are closed. Kittens tend to get into more mischief than adult cats. If your new pet is a kitten, you may wish to return him to his safe room whenever you’re away from home. 

Cats are like people; each one is different. Give your new pet the space and time he needs to adjust to his new home as well as his new family. Whatever you do, don’t become impatient if it takes him longer than you expected to settle in. What’s a week or two, really, when you have a lifetime to look forward to together?

Did you ever bring a new cat home? Shapre your experience and tips with us in the comment section!

Julie Perkins

About Julie Perkins

A self-professed "crazy cat lady" and slave to three furry masters, Julie loves all things fuzzy. Throughout her life, she has been owned by cats, dogs, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, fish and even a hermit crab. A freelance writer who has perfected the fine art of typing with one hand (because there is a cat on top of the other one), she lives in Colorado with her husband and a menagerie of critters.

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