Every fall and spring, kittens become widely available, due to typical queen heat cycles in January and October and the feline 60-day gestation. Kittens are cute, for sure, and you may be tempted to adopt one (yay for you and the kitten!). But it’s important to ensure that you make an objective choice and properly prepare your home. We offer these tips to help with the transition:
1. Age Matters. A kitten should be at least 8 weeks old before you adopt, which is when they can be weaned. If you can wait till the kitten is 10 to 12 weeks old, you’ll be ahead of the game. It gives mom more time to teach the kitten and for the littermates to play and learn together.
2. A Healthy Start Is Paramount. Don’t dismiss the warning signs of poor health. Be wary if the kitten seems too thin, has visible parasites like fleas, a dirty/matted coat, runny eyes, nostril drainage, diarrhea, or seems lethargic. If you do adopt a kitten in this shape, your first stop should be the veterinarian’s office.
3. Temperament Check. Spend time with the kittens. They should be curious, sociable, and playful. They should approach you and want to interact. If you pick one up, he or she should stay relaxed, maybe purring or snuggling (no claws or yowling). If you’re at a shelter, ask the staff about the kittens, but be aware that they may be overwhelmed by the influx of feline babies, too.
4. Home Check. Before the kitten comes home, go through your house with an eagle eye looking for spots where kittens might get into trouble. Inspect each room. Look for tiny spaces a kitten could get stuck in, electric or computer cords that may be tempting chew spots, strings on window blinds that could become entangled around the kitten’s neck or limb. Plan a small room like a spare bathroom where the kitten can stay for a few days while you get to know one another. Place food and water bowls, a litterbox, a bed, and a few safe toys in the room. Interact with the kitten there as much as possible to begin to establish a bond.
5. Proper Introductions. If you already have a cat, allow the cat to sniff the kitten under the door. Rub a damp cloth on your resident pet, then rub that cloth on your kitten, then rub again on the resident pet. The exchange of scents will make the introduction easier. Eventually, try feeding them at the same time in the same room. Do not leave them alone together without supervision until you’re certain they’re “ignoring” one another.
You can introduce your dog similarly, but have the dog on a leash when they meet without the door between them. Let the kitten loose, and see if it approaches the dog. Give them time. Pet the dog and the kitten. You may have to repeat this introduction several times. Do not force the meeting, and do not allow aggression.