Settling your kitten into her new home - Tips from Agria's Behaviour and Training Advisor

Written by: Carolyn Menteith, accredited behaviourist and trainer

For a tiny kitten, going to a new home can be a daunting thing. Not only is everything strange and different but they are leaving their mother and siblings for the very first time.

It is important to give your new kitten time to adjust to this change – and to start with when she comes home it is best to choose one room where she can get used to for a couple of weeks to gradually adjust to the new surroundings and to you. This will also help keep her safe and help with toilet training.

Before bringing your kitten home, check the room you are going to use for hazards. These could include poisonous plants (like lilies), fireplaces, chemicals, breakable objects (even quite high up!), open windows, full-length curtains that a curious kitten can climb! Make sure the room is ready and fully prepared, as this will reduce disruptions to your new kitten.

A kitten pen can be useful too. This is a large metal mesh crate with a solid floor that is large enough to have plenty of room for a bed, toys, food, water and a litter tray. For the first few days this can keep your kitten safe (especially at night) – and this can also be moved room to room once you are ready to let her explore other rooms in the house. Bring some bedding from her original home back with the kitten to put in the pen as this will smell familiar and help her feel at home.

For the first day, just let the kitten take her time to explore slowly. This should be a period of calm – and so no matter how excited everybody is, all the family should understand the kitten needs time to settle and find her feet.

When you bring the kitten into the room just place the basket they travelled in on its side on the floor, open the lid – and wait until the kitten feels ready to come out. There is no rush – and while you might think the kitten is just hiding in the basket, they are actually experiencing all the new sights, sounds and smells for the very first time, so be patient.

Offer your kitten food and water, and show them the litter tray so they can begin to work out where everything is. She may well refuse food at this time but at least she know where it is when she needs it.

Then they can start their explorations!

Kittens need plenty of sleep when they are young – so make sure your kitten gets plenty of rest time but also be prepared for energetic bursts of activity. Also be prepared for doing lots of kitten rescues! Kittens are great climbers and explorers – but they often find that climbing up is a lot easier than getting back down again!

In these early weeks, you should be starting to make a bond with your kitten – but don’t force this. No matter how cute a kitten looks she should never be woken for affection or playtime. If the kitten shows interest, play with her but don’t persevere if she seems disinterested or worried - there’s a lot to take in at the start. Play can be anything from chasing rolled-up balls of paper or far more expensive purpose-designed cat toys but any games that simulate hunting, stalking and pouncing are perfect cat games that your kitten will enjoy.

Spend lots of time in the same room but just sit on the floor and read or watch TV, and continue to let the kitten explore you in her own time. If she wants you to stroke her or play with her you will know. Every day she will get more confident, and playtime and handling time can be longer as the bond between you will develop.

After the first few days of calm, make sure you spend time every day with your kitten handling her and playing with her but let her choose how much she wants to interact with you. Cats like to build relationships on their own terms and you can’t rush this.
Encourage everyone in the family to do the same, and before long your kitten will be feeling at home and you will have a very special new family member who will be in your lives for many years to come.