Most kittens are well suited to go to their forever home at 13 to 16 weeks. If you adopt your precious pet sooner, she may miss important developmental and social lessons from her mother and siblings. Here is what you can expect from your feline friend over the next few weeks.
Physical and Mental Development
During this time, you will notice your little one investigating her new home. She is curious by nature, so it is a good idea to practice a little pet proofing before she comes home. For example, you will want to get in the habit of keeping windows and doors closed to prevent escapes. Hide or remove power cords that your curious kitty may mistake for chew toys. And properly store common toxins, including antifreeze, insecticides, household cleaners, prescription drugs, fertilizer, and rat poison.
Some plants are also poisonous, so check with your veterinarian before you let your kitty nibble on the foliage. Toxic plants include daffodils, azaleas, ivy, lilies, mistletoe, poinsettias, and philodendrons.
Your frisky friend has more energy than ever, and her prime directives are to eat, play, sleep, eliminate, and start all over again. So offer her appropriate places to carry out her cat behavior, including a litter box, a scratching post, her own food and water bowls, and a place to nap.
If there are children or other pets in the house, introduce them slowly. Kittens may not work well in households with very small children. Older children can learn to handle your new friend gently with your supervision and direction.
With other pets, remember your kitten is fragile. A slow introduction is best. You might start by keeping your new kitten in a separate room, behind a door that closes, for a few days. Other pets will be able to smell your new addition and become used to her scent.
If you’re introducing two cats, you can crate your new kitty and let your older cat sniff the carrier first. After a few introductions this way, you can do brief, supervised interactions if both parties seem ready. Stage the introduction in a large, open area that provides space for both to retreat if they need to.
If you’re introducing a new kitten and a dog, be very cautious. When the time comes for a face-to-face introduction, make sure your dog is calm and on a leash. And watch your cat, too. You don’t want your pup to suffer a nasty scratch on her nose or eye. Also remember, some animals just don’t pair well with others. Your dog may not be the cat type, and you certainly should never introduce your cat to any small pets like hamsters or rabbits. The temptation for your little hunter is just too great.
Health and Nutrition
When you take your new little friend home, she may have already received her first set of vaccinations, and you will need to continue this care by taking her to the veterinarian for her follow-up series of kitten shots. Make sure you ask your kitten’s breeder for these important records and pass the information on to your veterinarian. If she has not received her first set of vaccinations, she will receive them at your first veterinary visit. Remember, vaccinations are powerful protection against dangerous diseases that pose a serious health risk for your furry friend.
Ask your veterinarian for advice about the best diet for your little carnivore. If the food your veterinarian recommends is different from what you’ve been feeding, you’ll want to transition her slowly to the new diet. Feed her the original food for two to three days, then, gradually mix in the new food, over the next week, increasing the amount of new food every few days about a quarter of the meal at a time.
As a cat owner, you have a tough decision to make: Will you let your little one roam the great outdoors? Before you decide, know that indoor cats are exposed to fewer threats and may live longer because they enjoy a more secure environment. The outdoors carries a wealth of health risks—from diseases and fights with other animals to poison risks and cars. There are lots of opportunities for your cat to run through her nine lives. And if your cat is declawed, don’t let her outdoors. With fewer claws, she can’t protect herself as well.
When you first meet your kitten, offer up a treat or two. You want to make your new friend comfortable with you and her new home. It’s best to bring your cat home at a quiet time of day in a cat carrier. When you open the carrier, don’t be surprised if your kitten lingers inside. She will emerge when she feels comfortable.
After she’s had a chance to explore, give her a short tour of places that will interest her most — her food and water dishes, the scratching post, the litter box, and the place you prefer she sleeps. (She will probably pick her own nap places, but it doesn’t hurt to point her to kitty-friendly spaces.)
You can also ease your cat’s transition with a little play. A laser pointer or feather toy offers the chance for you to engage your kitten and start bonding.
Bringing your kitten home is an exciting time. Take it slow, be patient, and don’t overwhelm her. In no time at all, she’ll be confidently enjoying her new accommodations.
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