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WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW TO START OF RIGHT WITH MY NEW CAT?

This is a fun and exciting time as you get to know this adorable little new-comer. This is also a time when a great amount of learning takes place. Here are some general guidelines to get you going in the right direction:

Your First Stop: The Veterinary Clinic

Your kitten will need lifelong veterinary care, and the time to start is right now. Depending upon where you got your kitten and her current age, she may need to begin or continue her initial vaccinations and deworming. Even if she has had her vaccinations before you got her, an initial visit to the veterinarian for a checkup is important within the first few weeks after you bring her home.

Your veterinarian can also give you guidance on nutrition, show you how to do things such as nail trimming, and provide answers to your questions about being a first-time cat parent. It’s also important to establish a client/ veterinarian relationship now, while your new family member is just starting out, so the doctor will know your cat’s normal behavior and be able to diagnose more easily if something is going wrong.

The Kitten Needs Safety

Even though you’re probably very excited to begin your life with the new kitten, keep in mind that your home environment is unfamiliar and big, even if it seems like a small apartment to you. It’s a lot for a little kitten to adjust to initially, so it’s best to confine her to one room. I have always referred to this as the sanctuary room. It can be an extra bedroom or any room you can close off. This way the kitten can get her bearings without being overwhelmed.

Your kitten is also just in the learning stages of activities such as using the litter box, scratching, climbing, and exploring. It’s much easier for her to have everything conveniently located right now. Depending upon how young your kitten is, have her litter box very close by, because youngsters don’t have great bladder control.

Equip the sanctuary room with your kitten’s litter box, a vertical scratching post, a horizontal scratch pad, a few hiding places (paper bags or boxes on their sides), and a cozy napping area, as well as food and water. Be sure to locate the feeding station as far away from the litter box as the room will allow.

Your kitten will also need toys. Leave out some safe toys for solo play-time, including soft toys she can chew and rubbery ones she can roll or bat. For interactive playtime, you will bring in toys so they can be used with your supervision. You don’t want to leave any toys out that have strings or anything else that could pose a danger to your kitten.

Leave the carrier in the sanctuary room for your kitten to use as a hiding place if she wants. Line the carrier with a towel and your kitten will have a comfy spot for naps.

The amount of time your new kitten will have to stay in the sanctuary room depends on her age, personality, the size of your home or apartment, and whether you currently have other pets at home. If she’s the only pet and she seems comfortable and confident after twenty-four hours or so, you can begin to let her explore the house a little at a time. Always make sure she knows where her litter box is and can return to the safety of the sanctuary room. If you have other pets at home, then keep her in the sanctuary room as you do a gradual, positive introduction.

Your Kitten Will Need a Carrier

Even after your kitten is out of her sanctuary room, keep the cat carrier set up and ready all the time. This will help her become comfortable with its presence, and you’ll eventually be able to do some carrier training to help desensitize her to the experience of being in a carrier and also travel itself. It’s never too early to start training her to accept being in a carrier.

Your Kitten Needs Her Own Litter Box

Because your kitten is still in the early learning stages, the litter box setup needs to be conveniently located and easy to navigate. The box should be low-sided or at least have one low cutout so the kitten can easily get in and out. As your kitten grows, you’ll be able to change out the box for a larger one and gradually move it into a place where it can live permanently.

Keep in mind:

Family Matters. If possible, kittens should remain with their mother and litter-mates until twelve weeks of age in order to benefit from valuable social lessons.

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