Cat Care

Cat Settling In

Cat Care > Acquiring A Cat > Cat Settling In

Cat Settling In

When the kitten arrives in its new home, it is likely to feel unsettled and anxious at first, and may cry for its mother and brothers and sisters. It should be put in its bed or basket, which is placed in a warm and quiet corner that is free from draughts. A child's soft, furry toy or even a well-covered, warm hot-water bottle will help to reassure the kitten and make it feel more a home. The Utter tray needs to be positioned in a suitable secluded place a short distance away from the bed, and it is best co keep the kitten confined to one room at first, which is usually the kitchen. The kitten should be on a floor that is easy to dean and disinfect as, even with a litter tray, there are likely to be 'accidents' at first. Cats are inquisitive and curious animals and the new kitten will be keen to explore its surroundings and Brad out where everything is. It should be shown its feeding and water bowl and offered a small quantity of familiar appropriate food and drink. The golden rule in feeding is 'little and often', and each time food is consumed, the kitten should be placed on its Utter tray.

The kitten will enjoy receiving plenty of attention and being picked up, petted and played with. Something as simple as a twist of paper tied onto a piece of string and pulled across the floor provides hours of entertainment and other objects will be prodded and investigated. Like all young animals, a kitten needs plenty of rest, and bouts of play and activity are interspersed with frequent sleeping and feeding.

Children in a family will usually be very enthusiastic about the kitten and enjoy playing with, and caring for, their new pet. Kittens are quite vulnerable to injury, however, particularly getting under people's feet and being trodden on, and children must be taught to be careful when handling them. A young child especially must learn to respect the kitten's needs and that it cannot be played with like a soft toy. Kittens have sharp teeth and claws, and may use them if they are being restrained or handled too roughly, and this is obviously unpleasant for both the child and the cat. Young children between the ages of about three and six years should always be supervised when picking up or holding a kitten and should be taught the correct way to do so.

The best way to pick up a kitten is to approach it gently and slowly, avoiding any sudden or grabbing movements. After first stroking the kitten, it can be lifted gently with one hand beneath the chest and front legs and the other below the hind end, back legs and tail, so that the weight of the body is fully supported. Neither a kitten nor an adult cat should be lifted around its 'middle' or abdomen (i.e. with both hand; placed underneath between the front and hind legs) as this a uncomfortable and unpleasant for the animal. Younger children should also sit down, preferably on the floor, before being allowed to pick up a kitten. This is to avoid the risk of the kitten being dropped from a height, as invariably happens if it uses its claws or teeth because it does not wish to be handled. Of course, it is also important to teach children to wash their hands after handling pets.

If there are babies or toddlers in the family, it may be best to delay having a kitten or cat until they have grown up a little. Children of this age tend to grab and pull at things, and the animal will resent this and react accordingly. It is also difficult to keep a constant eye on things, and it is not unheard of for a horrified parent to find his or her baby playing with the contents of the litter tray or sampling the cat's food. Children are at risk from two diseases (or zoonoses) that can be passed on from cats; these are toxoplasmosis and visceral larval migrans. The organisms responsible may be present in cat faeces but, with vigilance and scrupulous attention to hygiene, the risks should be slight.

At first a kitten should be kept indoors until it has adjusted to its new surroundings and allowed into the garden only under careful supervision. Someone should accompany the kitten at all times while it is exploring the garden, and the degree of freedom that can be allowed depends upon how safe and secure the area is. A length of string fastened to the collar may provide some reassurance that the kitten will not run away and get lost. Once the kitten is settled and has started to learn to come when its name is called or appear on the doorstep crying to be let in, one may feel more confident about allowing it to come and go when it pleases. There are no hard-and-fast rules about when this time comes, and it is probably best to play safe and supervise the kitten for a longer period of time rather than risk losing a new pet.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to teach a kitten or cat to have any awareness of the dangers presented by road traffic. Many people, especially those living in busy, urban areas, now keep cats permanently indoors to avoid the risk of their pet being run over, injured or killed. Others prefer to take this risk on board and allow the cat to lead a more normal life. One compromise, if suitable space is available in the garden, is to construct an outdoor run and play area for a kitten, enclosed by wire netting. Ideally, there should be height as well as length, with raised platforms and a tree branch on which the kitten can climb and sharpen its claws. There should be a warm, weatherproof box and shade as well as sunshine. This may be a project that would only appeal to a DIY enthusiast but may well be considered worthwhile when it is considered that the lifetime of a cat can be in excess of fifteen years. Of course, it would not be fair to leave a young kitten on its own in a run for long periods of time, but once a cat is older it may be happy to spend a lot of its time in there. Pedigree male stud cats are often kept in similar outdoor accommodation.

If the kitten is coming into a home in which there is already a resident cat or dog (or both), then precautions are needed in introducing the newcomer. An older cat is likely to resent the newcomer at first and to express its anger by growling or merely ignoring the kitten. The situation can be eased by lavishing attention on the resident cat and taking very little notice of the newcomer while it is present. This is to reassure the adult cat that its place has not been usurped in its owners' affections. Occasionally, there may be more extreme reactions from the older cat, such as a breakdown in toilet training. Usually, the resident cat ignores the new kitten and initially rebuffs its friendly overtures with growling or a cuff if it gets too close. Generally, this situation does not persist, and the older cat becomes more tolerant and eventually puts up with a certain amount of playful behavior from the youngster. The new kitten will certainly wish to be accepted by the older cat and will normally be prepared to accept a subordinate position. Rarely, die situation does not improve and aggression continues. If this is the case, it is best to try to find another home for the kitten rather than prolong the conflict.

It is to be hoped that owners of a dog will have assessed its character and will feel confident of success if they decide to introduce a kitten or cat. Most dogs have a tendency to chase any animal that runs away, including cats. This tendency to chase cats should have been checked during the dog's training period. It is obviously essential to take great care when introducing the dog to the kitten, i.e. holding it by the collar and not leaving the two animals alone together while the reaction can be assessed. A dog may often be jealous at first, so, again, it is necessary to give it plenty of affection, attention and reassurance. Generally, after a time, the dog accepts the new arrival quite happily and often the two become good friends. More often than not, it is the cat that eventually becomes the undisputed ruler of the household. Conflicts that might arise at meal times should be avoided by feeding the pair separately and firmly discouraging each from raiding the other's bowl.

Small animals that can be regarded as the natural prey of a cat, particularly cage birds, mice or hamsters and fish, are not likely to be at risk from a young kitten but certainly will be when they grow up. It is not safe to allow a cat any access to smaller animals (including rabbits and guinea pigs) that may, in any event, feel frightened by its presence. A cat can be quite persistent and cunning in its determination to get at smaller pets. Anyone who has observed a cat sitting intently in front of a budgie's cage or a fish tank, watching the occupant's every move, can be left in no doubt as to what its intentions are.