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Kitten love! I can’t think of much on this earth that is more fun than a new kitten. He’s soft and funny and acrobatic — make that “acrocatic.” With the right start in life, he’s likely to be your best furry friend for a good 10 to 15 years, or more. The first 30 days with him are critical to developing a great relationship, and I want to share some tips with you on how to make the most of them.
Whether you’re driving a short distance from the local shelter or carrying your kitten home on a plane after picking him up from a breeder, it will be a big day for him. Prepare his carrier beforehand by scenting it with a pheromone spray that can help your kitten feel comfortable and secure. Stash some treats inside it, and keep handing them out throughout the trip. These tactics will help him learn to love his carrier, an important step that will benefit him throughout life.
Continue the carrier love at home. Keep it out so he can nap in it, continue making it smell good with pheromone spray and toss in some treats whenever you see him in it. You can also leave treats inside it for him to find. Your kitten should think his carrier is the best place in the world — next to your lap, of course.
Your kitten will be curious, confused and excited — all at once — when he reaches his new home. It’s tempting to set him down and let him roam, but he’ll adjust better if you limit his access at first. This is also important if you have other pets in the household — separating them initially helps prevent the potential of sharing parasites or diseases, and it lets them get accustomed to each other gradually, by sniffing each others' scent from under a door.
Keep him in a small area, such as a guest room, which you can close off with a door or very tall baby gate. Stock his area with a litterbox, bed, toys, scratching post and food and water dishes. (Keep the litterbox well away from the other items; cats like their privacy when it comes to bathroom functions.) A box, paper bag or other space in which he can hide out is important, too.
Open his carrier and let him come out on his own terms — no matter how desperate the kids are to see and play with him. Only gradually give him access to the entire house, once he has become accustomed to you and you’re sure that he has the hang of using the litterbox (most kittens already have that down, fortunately). He may need as little as 24 hours in his new, safe space or as much as a week or two, depending on his age and personality.
Before you give him free run of his new home, make sure it is thoroughly kittenproofed. Put away or cover up anything that could possibly hurt him: dangling cords on blinds, electrical cords, yarn, thread, string, medications, toxic plants, dental floss, wand toys, bottle caps, potpourri — I could go on. You never know where a kitten’s curiosity will lead him, so when in doubt, don’t leave it out.
Love on him and talk to him, so he gets to know the sound of your voice and feel of your hands. This is a great time to start teaching him that it’s OK for you to handle his paws, check his teeth, look inside or sniff his ears, touch his tail and groom him with a soft brush.
You’ll want to get your kitten to the veterinarian within 48 hours of bringing him home. That will ensure he’s in sparkling good health and doesn’t have any parasites, respiratory diseases or other medical problems.
The first visit can be strictly for a physical exam and weigh-in. It’s a good opportunity for your kitten to meet some nice, new people, get handled by them and eat some yummy treats. Take in a fecal sample as well, so it can be tested for internal parasites. Many kittens need to be treated for them.
Depending on when his first vaccinations took place, you can then schedule the next visit for his second or third round of vaccinations, plus testing for the feline leukemia virus and feline infectious peritonitis. You’ll also want to make an appointment for spay or neuter surgery and microchipping before your cat is 6 months old.
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