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Bringing Home Baby (Cat): 5 Essential Tips for Success

Hello everyone, and welcome to kitten season! You heard us right, kittens have a season! For those folks who work with animals, this time of year is a busy one, as unspayed momma cats start to have their spring and early summer litters. While it’s true that kitten season is a bittersweet time of year for folks in the animal rescue community, it’s also a wonderful time of year to engage with the cat rescue community. If you have the time or resources to help a local rescue by donating supplies, fostering a mom and her kittens, or adopting a new feline friend, you can be sure that your work is much appreciated. Although it’s true that kitten season isn’t all fun, games, and adorable furry snuggles, it's also true that more kittens are adopted out to new homes at this time of year than at any other. For those of you who are considering bringing home one or two of these wonderful balls of furry joy, we’ve got a few tips that we hope will help you along the way.

1. Know your limits:

Choosing a kitten who is one among many at a shelter can be overwhelming, whether you’re looking for your very first cat or for your tenth! While it’s tempting to snag the first adorable creature that walks your way, it’s good to first think about what kind of kitten you’re looking for, and then choose accordingly. Are you a busy family whose kids are getting a kitten (or kittens) for the first time? Consider adopting from a “shelterless” rescue that keeps its kittens in foster care while they wait for adoption. These kittens are often already well socialized because of their interaction with their foster mom or dad, as well as with any kids, cats, or dogs in their foster household. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to talk to the kittens’ foster owner about their personalities and find out who among them would be the best match for your family. That said, foster homes aren’t the only place to seek a good first adoption story for your family. Shelters are full of litters of kittens looking for loving homes, and many of them make great first kittens! In general, look for a kitten who is playful and confident rather than timid, and who is comfortable in your presence, as this will make it easier for them to adjust to life in your home. On the other hand, if you’re a kitten pro, or are willing and able to take on a little more of a challenge, you might be a good candidate to take home one of the many kittens available for adoption who haven’t yet had the benefit of a fair amount of socialization. Whether it’s simply a kitten who shies away from being touched, or it’s the terrified, snot encrusted kitten hiding in the corner, if you have the time and the resources to socialize a kitten and/or nurse it back to health, by all means, go for it! Not in the mood for an undertaking like this, or had kittens before and feel like you’ve had about enough of the hectic kitten years? Appreciate those little balls of joy for what they are and then pass right by them to adopt an adult in need of a home instead. Shelters may be full of adorable babies at this time of year, but they also need loving homes for all of the adult cats in their care!

2. Socialize your kitten:

Whether you bring home a kitten that’s shy or one that’s outgoing, it’s a good idea to get your kitten used to being handled as soon as they come home. Playing with them, picking them up regularly, and cuddling them are the most obvious ways to begin socializing your kitten, but it’s also important to get them used to having their ears, feet, and mouths touched. All of this will help down the road if your kitten ever develops a medical condition such as an ear infection, because he’ll be more accustomed to having his face and ears touched. Don’t hesitate to use treats or canned food as positive reinforcement or as a distraction as you begin to socialize your cat. Small steps like this when your kitten is young can make a huge impact later on in life as he or she becomes a confident adult cat!

3. Kitten-proof your home:

Kittens are notorious for being inquisitive (and mischievous) animals, and will play with almost any inanimate object. For better or for worse, they will explore every nook and cranny in your house, so it’s a good idea to take do some kitten-proofing before you head to the shelter. Remember that kittens aren’t limited to what’s lying around on your floor! They will also climb up on top of your furniture, and even on top of your refrigerator, so keep an eye out for any valuable or fragile objects that could turn into “toys” to be pushed onto the floor. In addition, be aware of any cords or dangling objects, including cords that hang from your blinds or power cords dangling freely behind your furniture. It’s not uncommon for kittens to put things in their mouths as they explore their new terrain, so it’s wise to make sure they have limited access to dangling objects that could turn into “toys” to bat around or rip down to play with. Instead, arm your home with a small variety of toys to provide approved entertainment sources for your new kitten. Look for interactive toys like food puzzles and laser pointers, or toys that engage your kitten’s natural hunter instincts, like cloth mice. As time goes on and you get to know your kitten, you’ll learn what he or she prefers to play with, but in the beginning, just go for some variety!

4. Play games:

Kittens enjoy playing on their own with toys, but they also love it when their humans get involved, so don’t hesitate to join in the fun! Whether you make your own toys by crinkling up paper and rolling it around for your kitten, or just get involved by throwing one of her existing toys for her, your kitten will appreciate the company and the playtime! Kittens love to pretend to “stalk and hunt,” so they also tend to enjoy a “magic wand” or “cat dancer,” which has a handle for the human to hold with feathers or soft material which can be dragged to entice cats to stalk and pounce. In addition, don’t forget that a cat’s sense of smell is just as keen as their eyesight, so providing olfactory stimulation can also be a great source of fun. Try sprinkling catnip on a scratching post or spraying Feliway on a cat tree for added fun!

5. Visit the vet:

It may sound silly for a vet to say “visit the vet,” but it’s true. Don’t wait for your kitten to become sick before you visit the vet for the first time. Kittens need a series of vaccines to protect them from illness, and if you adopt a kitten who is under 16 weeks of age, it’s likely that they haven’t received all of their booster shots yet. Vaccines aside, visiting the vet also ensures that your kitten is developing properly and helps to address any questions you may have so you can be sure that your kitten gets off to a happy and healthy start with your family!

For more information on all things kitten, pop on over and download our full kitten guide, and as always, never hesitate to call us for help!

Wishing you all a purr-fect summer!

The CVH Team