Bringing home your cat

Imagine that you’ve just been taken away from your mother and your siblings, with whom you’ve spent your entire life. You got tossed in a cage, bounced up and down inside that cage while hearing loud sounds you’ve never heard before, and now you’ve landed in a whole new place all by yourself. The place smells strange, it looks strange, and you don’t even know where the bathroom is!

To make your cat’s arrival easier, make the right preparations ahead of time and take baby steps with your introductions:

  • Before you bring your kitten home, make sure you have all the equipment you need: A litter box and scooper, ceramic or steel food and water dishes, a scratch pad or post, a few toys, and a bed. The bed doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive; even a fleece blanket in a cardboard box will be fine.
  • Ask the shelter or breeder what kind of cat litter and food your kitten is currently using, and purchase those products. You can change to another brand later, but right now you want to keep the upheaval in her life to a minimum.
  • To make the transition into your home as easy as possible, start small. Bring your kitten into a quiet room that contains her litter box, bed, toys, scratching post, and food and water dishes. Open the door of her carrier and let her start exploring when she’s ready.
  • Most likely, the first thing your kitten will want to do is use the toilet, so be sure to show it to her as soon as she steps out of the carrier. Scratch your fingers in the clean litter to get her attention, and her curiosity will probably bring her right to your hand. Some people suggest picking the kitten up and putting her in the litter box, but I wouldn’t do that unless she’s obviously just about to pee where she’s standing.
  • Sit in the room with your kitten for a while and speak to her in a soft voice, welcoming her to her new home and letting her know she’s safe. Once she’s begun looking around a bit more, introduce her to her water and food dishes. The smell of the food will probably arouse her curiosity, but if she needs a little help to find her way there, try splashing your fingers gently in the water.
  • After your kitten seems comfortable with “her” room, allow her to explore the rest of your home. If your kitten is confident, she may be ready to take the plunge in an hour or less, but if she’s on the shy side you may want to leave this step until the next day. If you have children, remind them that they need to be gentle and calm with her since she’s still learning her way around. If your house has more than one level, make sure to have at least one litter box on each floor, and make sure your kitten knows where each box is located.