You’ve just fetched your kitten and you are so excited. The very first thing that your kitten needs to learn now is how to interact with her new family. For this everyone should sit on the floor and let the kitten go to each family member in her own time. Don’t force her into a social interaction because if you do you may end up with a cat who is anti-social for life!
When introducing children to your kitten ask the children to sit quietly and offer the kitten tasty treats for coming near them. They must be told not to grab at or hold her, this could result in the child receiving a nasty scratch and the kitten having a lifelong fear of children. Children should never be allowed to chase the kitten, however having said all this, children and kittens generally get on well together and form a strong bond.
Introducing other cats
The introduction to other pets at home must be done slowly. When introducing your kitten to the resident cat, start off keeping the kitten in one room and not allowing your adult cat access. Start feeding both cats each side of the interleading door. If they are both comfortable eating there – great! If not move their food away from the door to a distance where they both can eat, then gradually move the food back to the door.
This builds a positive association of something nice (food) with the smell of the kitten or cat. Once they are both comfortable with this, swap the rooms over so the older cat is in the room and the kitten is in the rest of the house, this way they get used to each other’s smell without actually meeting.
From here put both cats in separate baskets and put them in the same room, while constantly feeding them both treats to build up the association that the smell of the other cat equals good things. If all goes well, let them out in a closed room. A good idea is not to feed them before the meeting so they are both hungry and will be ready to eat the food you give them, from a suitable distance apart. They must be well-supervised and gradually these times together will get longer until they are comfortable together.
Meeting the dog
Meeting your dog is the next thing your kitten needs to learn about. Most dogs chase cats because cats run, however there are some dog breeds who are more intense in their chase, these are most commonly the sighthounds – Greyhounds, Whippets and Afghans. If you have one of these breeds you must be super vigilant when your kitten is small and provide her with lots of safe places where the dog can’t reach her.
When introducing your kitten to your dog it is of utmost importance to keep your kitten safe. Place the kitten in a large crate that she can’t get out of and your dog can’t get into. Inside the crate have a box where your kitten can hide if she feels nervous. You need two people for this introduction. Have your dog on lead and allow a calm meeting of the two. If your dog is over-excited, move him away from the kitten, to a distance where he can still see her but is calm. Give him treats for not reacting at this distance.
At the same time, the second person gives the kitten treats to build up a positive association with the dog. Slowly bring your dog closer to the crate, all the time rewarding for not reacting. You eventually want them to meet nose to nose through the crate.
Once you have done this a few times, have your dog on lead and a pocketful of treats, open the crate to allow the kitten to wander about, keep treating your dog for not reacting. Do these introductions a few times and make sure your dog is calm and comfortable around the kitten before letting him off lead. If you experience any problems with either of these introductions split them up and contact a COAPE behaviourist to help you.
Her second big lesson is to teach her about the litterbox. You need to give your kitten a litterbox in her room. Put the litterbox in a quiet area, but not next to her food, water bowl or bed.
There are many types of litter, however the one that all cats seem to like best is plain old sand.
Most kittens will instinctively scratch in a litterbox, however some of the longhaired breeds may require a little assistance. Gently hold their paw and make a scratching motion in the litter, they will soon catch on.
If your kitten has an accident do not punish her, clean up the place with biological washing powder, rinse it well and leave to thoroughly dry before allowing the kitten back there.