Dear Ms. Kitty,
We are thinking about adopting a kitten for our daughter for a Christmas present. We’ve heard that the holidays may not be the best time to bring a new pet into the household. But Suzy has been really good this year and is convinced that Santa will grant her wish. What is your advice on the best way to make the transition easiest for us and the kitten?
Merry Christmas from the Westside
Congratulations on making the decision to add a four-footed, bundle of purr baby to your family!
Bringing home a new kitten is an exciting time; especially at the holidays, but it can also a big transition for your family and the kitten. Some kittens will breeze right through coming into a new home – others will take a little more time. Here are five hints in order to make things go as smoothly as possible. You will be able to tell how quickly your kitten will make the adjustment.
- Holidays with children are a time of lots of noise and commotion. The best advice is to keep the kitten safely contained in a small carrier lined with a soft blanket and bed when out in a common area like the family room. If you are planning to ‘present’ the kitten to your daughter on Christmas morning as a gift from Santa, ask a trusted neighbor to keep the kitten overnight and pick them up in the morning. The chances of keeping the kitten quiet on Christmas Eve are slim to none and one little meow might ruin the surprise! Bring the kitten into house in the carrier (please no wrapped, cardboard boxes) and let your daughter gently hold them for a few minutes and then return the kitten to the carrier for some safe/quiet time. It will be important to limit handling for the first few days while the kitten adjusts. Children can be unintentionally rough with kittens and one accidental bite or scratch can have a lasting negative impact.
- Before the rest of the family or guests arrive, place the kitten in a safe, quiet place like a spare bedroom for the remainder of the day and allow supervised, brief visiting periods. Make sure that the bedroom doors stay shut! Too many kittens have accidentally escaped from their new home on Christmas Day and unfortunately some are never found again.
Have all of the things the kitten requires in the room with them – their bed, litter box, food, water bowl, toys and scratcher post. If there is an adjoining bathroom – please make sure to keep the toilet lid down! Kittens feel more comfortable in a new home when they have something near them that smells like their old home. It is especially helpful to take a towel or blanket the kitten has been sleeping on with you when you bring them home and leave in their cat carrier. Don’t wash the blanket unless absolutely necessary for at least a couple of months. Allow the kitten to sleep in the carrier – if they want to for as long as needed.
Note — The spare room should be allowed to be the kitten’s safe haven until they decide to come out and explore the rest of the house. Once that time comes and if it becomes necessary to move the litter box – make sure the kitten knows where to find the box and show them several times a day to make sure they recognize the new location.
- The Christmas tree is going to be a very interesting new thing in your kitten’s world. Be careful of hanging decorations and tinsel! For reasons known only to them, kittens like to eat tinsel, string and yarn and it can get caught up in their systems resulting in a costly trip to the emergency vet’s office. Any dangly decorations (even the cords to your window blinds) are off limits. If you like sparkly decorations on your tree (like I do) – garland seems to work much better, although it will still be fun to jump up and grab with those little kitten feet and teeth! Also be mindful of crafting items with small pieces like sequins, buttons and straight pins and things like ribbon, rubber bands, hair ties and small pieces of jewelry or toy parts.
- Poinsettias, cookies and other yummy treats left out on the tables and kitchen countertops only spell trouble for your new kitten. Everyone’s favorite Christmas flower is deadly toxic to kittens (and adult cats) – even with only one bite of the red blossoms, same with mistletoe decorations. Keep your counters and tables free of food as much as possible. If you leave food out, you’re training the new kitten to jump up to see what is there. If there’s nothing to reward them, they’ll be less likely to counter surf or be up on your table.
If your kitten develops sudden vomiting or diarrhea – they have likely gotten into something that they shouldn’t have. Please call the emergency vet’s office as soon as you notice something is wrong. The sooner the kitten can be examined and put on proper medication, the less chance of them getting sicker or worse.
- ) And last but not least, a good overall safety rule of thumb to keep in mind when adjusting your family’s daily habits to the needs of the new kitten is if something could be potentially harmful for your daughter, it’s the same for your kitten. Kittens love to play, but just like children they should have dedicated play and rest time during the day, especially over the holidays. Don’t allow for extended playtime directly before or following meals or right before bedtime, just like you would do with your human child.
I hope that you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and that Suzy will love her new kitten far into her adult life! And all the best holiday wishes to all of the cat and kitten guardians here in the Colorado Springs area community.
Ms Kitty has been a cat (and dog) guardian for more than 40 years. She co-manages Happy Cats Haven, a limited-admission, no kill cat rescue and adoption center located on the Westside at 1412 S. 21st St. Learn more at www.happycatshaven.org or call (719) 635-5000.