Whether you choose to buy your kitten from a reputable breeder or rescue a kitten from a shelter, it’s a personal choice. Once your kitten is ready to come home, it’s time for you to take on a new role – that of responsible kitty parent.
Liaising with the breeder or shelter
If you are getting a purebred cat and are working through a reputable breeder, it could take a number of months before you get your new kitten. The process may take a week or two with a local shelter. Once the collection date is booked, you’ll need to get your home ready for kitty.
“Aside from buying the essentials, it is important to find a ‘safe space’ for your kitten to settle into for the first few days,” explains breeder Aimee Hendriksz, owner of Bell-Aimee Siamese, Oriental & Peterbald Cattery. “This can be a spare bedroom with food, water and a litterbox set up for the new kitten. It can be overwhelming for the kitten adjusting to a new environment away from her mother and siblings, so you do this to minimise the stress levels.”
Aimee also advises kitty parents to check that the house is secure, and if you plan to allow your kitten into the garden, make sure that it too is escape-proof. You can consider a ‘catio’ – an enclosed patio that allows your cat to go ‘outdoors’ safely.
“If you have young children, now is the time to discuss how a kitten is to be handled,” advises Aimee. “Often children can unintentionally be rough with kittens, resulting in them getting scratched or bitten and the kitten ends up being scolded.” See the March 2018 issue of Animaltalk to find out if your child is ready for a cat.
Set up the kitten’s bed and litterbox in the chosen room. Place the litterbox in a quiet spot, away from the feeding area. Decide on which family members will accompany you to pick up the kitten. Keep it to a minimum – the driver, another adult or older child. Consider leaving babies and smaller children at home.
If your new kitten is flying from the breeder’s home in another province, you will need to confirm the flight details. You will need to pick up your pet at the airline’s cargo section. Make sure of these details to avoid delays.
Thirty minutes before you leave
Do a last-minute check. If you have other pets, they should be put somewhere they won’t be a disrupting factor when you arrive home. Pack the cat carrier in the car. If you are picking up the kitten at the airport, call the breeder and make sure the flight left on time.
At the breeder’s home or shelter
Get kitty settled in her cat carrier and collect the vet card from the breeder. This is important and shows which inoculations the kitten has received. “Collect the kitten and go straight home so she can start adjusting to her new home,” says Aimee.
One to two hours at home
Place the cat carrier in the kitty room and open the door. Don’t force her out. Call kitty gently by her chosen name. The sights and sounds are all strange to her, so give her time to gain confidence and come out on her own. Let her explore the room under your watchful eye. Show her where her bed, water bowl and litterbox are. If kitty seems tired, give her space to find her bed and take a nap. Let her meet the human family members only (no other pets yet) and keep things very low key. For more information, read the article on how to introduce your new cat that featured in the April 2018 edition of Animaltalk.
Three to four hours at home
Follow the breeder’s advice as to how many meals the kittens are currently eating. This may be three or four small meals per day. When the time is right, guide kitty to her bowl and let her have her meal. You can also introduce a safe toy for a play session before bedtime.
The first night can be very tough for a kitten – she is used to her mother and littermates and their smells and warmth. Some kittens adapt quickly, but others take time. Let her snuggle up in a space she feels comfortable. Be patient and loving without smothering her.
Second day at home
Plan to spend as much time with your kitten as you can. Aimee says that bonding during this period is important. “It determines your relationship for the rest of your cat’s life,” she says. “The first day is for her to settle and become comfortable in the new environment. It is very important that you don’t feel frustrated if your kitten initially hides away from you. Once she realises you’re not going to hurt her, she will relax and come out. Be patient. Speak in a calm voice. Try luring her out by playing with a toy. Playing with your kitten will help her relax and help with the bonding process. It is important not to force a kitten to do anything she doesn’t feel comfortable doing, as this will hinder bonding.”
Things to do
Consider diet Call the breeder or shelter and ask what food the kittens are currently eating. To prevent unnecessary tummy upsets, it makes sense to keep your kitten on this food – at least initially. You can make a gradual switch later on.
Go shopping Get everything kitty needs. To start, this includes a bed and some blankets, food and water bowls, a few safe toys, a collar (you’ll need the correct size), a cat carrier, a litterbox and litter, a small scratching post and a pet first aid kit.
Set up a litterbox and bed Check with the breeder or shelter as to what type of cat litter the kittens are used to and buy the same type. Again, you can change later on if you so wish, but some cats won’t use a litterbox that contains a litter they are not used to. The change must be gradual.
Find a vet If you don’t have other pets, find a reputable vet in your area. Ask friends and family for a referral. If you do have a vet, book a check-up for three to four days after you bring kitty home.