Your kitten's world as they know it is all about to change. It is a very scary time for them leaving behind their mum, siblings, and all they have known for their first three or so months of their life. Your actions and preparations prior to bringing them home, and what happens during their first few weeks with you can make all the difference to their health and well being, and if done correctly will result in a happy healthy kitten that will grow into a great companion.
Preparations Before Collection Day
So you've reserved a kitten, and the whole family are excited and eager for the day when the little one will join you. I'm sure the first thing you would want to do is to go shopping in preparation for their arrival. I love receiving messages and pictures from excited families showing me what they have bought or ordered online. I am often asked what products I recommend or what my kittens are already used to, that's why I created a page on my website especially for that subject. It does help when there are items in their new home which they are already familiar with. Make sure to have the essentials ready and in place before they arrive. At the very least these must include a litter tray, shovel, and litter they are used to ideally, food and water bowls (made from pot or stainless steel to avoid allergies from plastics), and the food they have been weaned onto. Kitty proof your home! Older cats may be less mischievous but be prepared for cheeky, inquisitive kittens. Kittens are just like babies and explore their world with their paws and mouths. Get down low to their level and check your floors for items that could cause problems for them. Check for small items such as children's toy accessories. I remember when my daughter was younger and finding her Barbies shoes or Lego Friends pieces all over the floor. String, ribbon, cotton, board game pieces, rubber bands, plastic bags, erasers and human foods are some examples to look out for. Tape down, secure, or hide any electrical wires that they could potentially chew or pull on, resulting in electrocuting themselves or items falling on them from a height such as irons and lamps. (Make sure your kitten is safe away when you are ironing, and be sure to put the iron away straight after you've finished making sure the cable is not dangling over counter-tops.) Make sure any houseplants you may have are not harmful to cats. Some examples that are poisonous to cats are (by no means is this an exhaustive list so please research all plants you have):
* Lilies (many varieties) * Aloe Vera * Branching Ivy * Begonia * Carnation * Chrysanthemum * Daffodils * Dahlia * Hyacinth * Tulips * Yucca
Other household items can be extremely harmful to cats also, such as essential oils, vapour liquids, and reed-diffusers. Check small spaces where your kitten will most likely hide. Keep washing machine, and dryer doors closed at all times and check inside before turning them on. Be sure to keep the toilet lids closed too. Young kittens may fall in and find it difficult to get out again. Medicines and cleaning supplies should be kept in a secure place and consider using child locks. Check all doors and windows are secure and consider installing window locks or coverings as mentioned on my Recommendations page to avoid escapees.
Kitty proofing your home should not be rushed the night before collecting your kitten. Take your time and try to think like a kitten. New hazards may be brought to your attention from time to time, even years after your kitten joined you; therefore risk assessments are something you need to check and re-evaluate regularly.
The day has finally arrived. Make sure you turn up with a secure cat carrier. A cardboard box is not a suitable form of transportation and no kitten of mine will be allowed to leave in anything other than a purposely made secure cat carrier. The breeder should provide you with a blanket, scented with mum and siblings smell, that will help comfort the kitten. When you reserve a kitten ask the breeder if this is something they offer. If not ask that you leave one with them so it will be scented in time for collection. This should be placed in the carrier before popping and securing the kitten inside. Handle the carrier carefully and try not to bang or swing it about.
Secure the carrier in your car, with the seat belt ideally, before setting off, and try to keep noise to a minimum whilst travelling. Loud music or shouting/screaming will only scare the kitten.
Once home, take the kitten to one room of the house. Inside that room should already be a litter tray set up with litter in it, and their bowls with food and fresh water. Do not place the litter tray close to the food and water. A warm cosy bed, tunnel like, would be nice so they can feel safe and secure in otherwise they may search for an alternative hiding spot that's not easily accessible to you, and plenty of toys to keep them entertained. Make sure they can clearly see where everything is, don't just assume they will know and then be surprised later to see mess on the floor. Don't forget their usual routines have now all changed and they have to learn all over again.
For kittens that seem more nervous perhaps only allow them to get used to this one room at first as allowing them full run of the house all at once could be overwhelming and may scare them. Once they are comfortable you can go ahead and introduce the next room. This could be the same day if you have a very confident kitten, the next day, or a few days later. Don't rush your kitten. Patience is key. Every cat is different and some take to their new surroundings quicker than others. Many people expect them to be like puppies and will get home and start being friendly and playing straight away. Cats need time to get to know their new environment and you need to earn their trust. This can be frustrating for new owners, especially children, as many have waited a long time to welcome a kitten into their home, and now they've arrived they are hiding away. Talk with any children in the household and help them understand how the little kitten may be feeling.
Give the kitten plenty of love and reassurance especially in their first few days with you. Try to postpone visitors for a few days, or at least keep visitors to a minimum. I know everyone will be eager to meet him/her. How long each stage lasts really depends on your kitten's individual personality. Not one of my cats have been the same as the other. Renesmee took the longest to settle in, and Bear was like he had always lived with us. He sat on the sofa looking around as if to say 'okay, so this is my new place then, great where's the food?'
The feedback I get from many of my customers is that after a good night's sleep and a belly full of breakfast they seem more confident and are happier to explore their new homes.
Finally, never punish a cat or kitten for misbehaving. Often they are unaware that they are doing anything wrong. They are still learning what is acceptable in your home. Punishing them will make the situation worse, they can become stressed, aggressive or reclusive. Reward good behaviour and take the time to train your kitten. They are looking to you for direction. Your time and hard work will pay off and your bond will only grow stronger with each day.