A new kitten arrives: how to welcome them
The arrival of a new kitten at home is a critical moment, so it is very important to welcome him/her in the best possible way. The period of adaptation to the new family and the new environment lasts about 1-2 weeks. We have listed what you need to know in order to prepare your home.
Spatial and sensorial needs and environmental enrichment
The subdivision of spaces is essential for the well-being of the cat. It is very important to provide:
- a meal area, with food and water bowls, located far from the elimination area
- A litter tray area, placed in a quiet place of the house. If there are more cats, place a suitable number of sanitary boxes (one more than the number of cats) in different rooms
- rest areas /shelters: provide shelves at different heights
It is also advisable to provide scratch toys for the cat so that they can sharpen their claws, preventing them to damage shoes or furniture such as sofas and chairs.
Play time is fundamental for the correct behavioural development of the kitten, as it helps to establish social bonds and refines communication skills, and it also contributes to a good physique for hunting. Climbing, jumping and running are activities that enhance the development of the muscles, the senses and the overall dexterity of the cat. Through playful interactions with the mother and siblings, the kitten learns to bite and scratch like a real predator (just a tiny one). Some kittens can recognise human hands and feet as prey and therefore attack people and objects. This is why it is important to ensure the predatory instinct of the cat focusses on games and play time from an early age whilst teaching them that human hands are only a source of caresses and cuddles at the same time.
Litter management (cleaning and position in the house)
The sanitary box should be placed in a quiet spot, avoiding the most crowded and noisy rooms in the house, since they can get scared whilst using the litter tray, which could lead to them not wanting to use it in the future.
It is important to place a number of sanitary boxes that equals the number of cats in the house (one more than the number of cats), placed in different rooms/environments.
You have to choose a filling material that the cat likes and clean the litter daily, replacing it completely at least once a week. The choice between closed and open boxes, depends on the preference of the cat and should be made through trial and error: provide two different box types to find out which one is preferred by the cat. Odourless filling is usually preferred, but the preference of the cat should be honoured at all times. It is also advisable that the sanitary box is large enough for the cat to move around in and allowing easy access.
The need for the cat to have a kennel is relative and subjective. Some individuals prefer other places to rest, possibly high and secure places from where it is possible to control the territory. The job of a good owner is to provide the possibility of using a kennel by placing it in a quiet spot that is easy to access if and when required. The cat will decide whether to use it or not and we will simply have to accept their choice without ever forcing them to try it out. A spacious box with a wide exit hole and a couple of soft blankets inside, can be a very appreciated refuge to rest and sleep.
Nutrition: what, how, when?
The choice between dry or wet food depends mainly on the owner’s organisational needs and the pallet of our cat. In general, the cat requires and prefers food with a high level of protein and a strong smell. Their sense of smell is the primary sense cats use when approaching food, whether it is something they have always known or totally new. You should offer various types of food to the kitten, in order to broaden their preferences. If you singularly provide wet food, you won’t have to think about providing extra water. The moisture in the wet food will suffice. If you only provide dry food however, you will have to encourage the cat to drink frequently. Generally speaking, except in cases of obesity or other diseases, you should allow the cat to meet their need for many small meals during the day, leaving dry food in the bowl and providing an extra portion of wet food 2-3 times a day.
Scratching and other ethological needs …… how to manage them at home
The cat has an instinctive need to scratch objects, leaving scent marks and visual ques for other cats. They prefer visible surfaces and do not discriminate between vertical or horizontal. In addition to marking their territory, cats also do this to get rid of external nail sheaths. By providing suitable objects such as scratch toys and pieces of bark or cork pieces, you can protect your furniture from being attacked. There are plenty of horizontal, vertical and inclined scratch racks available on the market, but make sure these are stable and long enough to allow the cat to stretch during use. It would be advisable to place them near rest or feeding areas, or in places across the house where the cat tends to scratch.
Interspecific relations in the new family – A
When your new cat first arrives at home, you will have to approach him/her in a very gentle way from the very first day. Give them attention and give them gentle caresses in order to ensure that the contact with human hands becomes pleasant and familiar straight away.
It is important not to force the cat into interactions, but let them come to you, even if it means only a few furtive seconds of friendly contact. It is also advisable for the kitten to interact in a gradual and controlled manner with different stimuli and different types of people such as children for instance. This helps them to adapt to various different household situations. Some cats only tolerate caresses for very short time. This can be linked to an incorrect socialisation with the humans, and can also lead to aggressive reactions (preceded by annoyance such as flattened ears or swinging the tail).
Intraspecific relations in the new family – B
The cat’s nature is adaptable and they can easily live alone or in a group. However, when introducing a new cat in an existing household with other cats, it is important to introduce them gradually. Keep the new cat separate at first, in a room with all the ethological and nourishment needs covered. The interaction with other cats should take place in the presence of games and food, ensuring these are pleasant moments. Also ensure that there is an exchange of smells through the exchange of blankets and toys in order to encourage a communal group scent. The first meeting should take place through visual contact only, through a barrier for instance, allowing you to assess the reaction of the cats and helping to avoid clashes and/or assaults.