9 things to do before you bring a new kitten into your home

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Just Kitten Around pin WildflowerandCompany
We’re really excited that we’ve been approved for adopting two rescue kittens from a local shelter. We bought our first home late last year and it needs work: we’re mid-renovation and it’ll all get put on hold when little paws arrive. I’m seeking offbeat advice on what to think about for our new meow-faces.

We’ve both had cats before, but not since living with parents, so we’re preparing for their arrival and making sure our home is ready. We’re having a little work done at home to ensure it’s kitten-safe, (blocking up holes in walls, etc.) with a view to continuing works later when they’re older, and of course, we’ve got litter trays, food bowls and stuff. But I wondered if there’s anything anyone would suggest to prepare for furry arrivals? Especially anything unusual, DIY, or low-cost, as we’re on a budget! Thanks! -Silverprincess

Okay, wait. You are MID renovation? First give SERIOUS thought to when you get cats. Kittens are often more tolerant of change than older cats, but all cats want familiarity. And shelter cats are already lacking a steady home, so they’re already a little (and sometimes a lot) wigged out. Cats being wigged out can lead to all sorts of undesireable behavior, from peeing on stuff to full-on attack mode.

So I’d say, 1. Wait until most renovation is completed. If you just can’t bear to wait, see if you can get cats after the noisiest, dirtiest bits are completed.

2. The accoutrements. Get a variety of cheap toys to try out with them: ground-based toys, lasers, strings, and air-based toys. Some cats are more into jumping, others are more into chasing — just like some will want to play with you and others will be into their own thing.

3. Start growing catnip on a sunny windowsill.

4. Make a litter box plan. Upon examination you might not decide to do anything special, but it’s worth thinking about: what type of litter will you use — clay? non-clay? pine? flushable? How often will you clean? Where will the box(es) go? Do you need to build a cool cabinet for them? (Totally on my Christmas list: a custom double-decker litter box cabinet.)

5. Plan food. What’s your budget? What do you want your cats to eat? This is important (and comes after the litter box question) because quality/type of food majorly affects the raunchiness of cats’ excrement.

6. Make a kitty bug-out pack. Get a cat carrier (or two) and outfit them with a week’s supply of canned food, a towel, veterinary information, and your own contact info in case you are separated. You’ll be ready for emergency vet visits AND alien invasions!

7. Check your houseplants for cat compatibility. And remember: poisonous doesn’t mean a complete no-no, but you will have to make a plan for this, too. I have three (poisonous) diffenbachias in my house, but cats dgaf. There are bitter sprays that work well for dissuading cats from eating things. Speaking of sprays…

8. Plan on disciplining. Personally, I think the best cat-discipline method is using a spray bottle coinciding with a hiss sound. I have a friend who goes “sss!” when she wants her cats to COME and really, those poor cats must have had quite the mindfuck dealing with SSS! meaning a good thing.

Use the spray and the SSS to tell your buddies NO don’t eat that or NO not on the table or NO LICKING THE CARPET GODDAMNIT. It’s a super effective tool that enables you to teach your cat very specifically what is and is not allowed. Eventually (though it may take years) you’ll only have to say SSS! and your kitty will listen. Unless they’re a bitch like my cat.

9. Collars and tags. Suggested wording: CAT’S NAME, ADDRESS and/or PHONE, I AM AN INDOOR CAT (if this is true. If your cat escapes but is chill with it, it might otherwise be hard for someone it meets to know it is lost.)

I think that’s it. You might also consider pet insurance or a vet savings account. And you should also subscribe to The Way of Cats if you want to be a cat wizard, like me.

Comments on 9 things to do before you bring a new kitten into your home

  1. Be prepared, if all you’ve ever had were adult cats, for the absolute insanity of kittens. I mean, bouncing off the walls like little furry pinballs, jumping and climbing everywhere, staying up all night stampeding around the house like elephants. They can get places you think they’d never be able to, and they will gleefully destroy/knock over everything you own. Yes, you can discourage them from going certain places with a squirt bottle, but this only works if you are there to catch them doing whatever it is that you don’t want them to do. You might squirt them 100 times to keep them off the kitchen counter, and if they see you standing there they probably won’t go up there…but if you happen not to be in the room, they will do whatever the hell they want. Because they are cats.

    It takes a good year for kittens to calm down enough not to make you (or me at least) want to cry. I thought we were done with kittens, and then my sweetheart came home last weekend with two who had been abandoned at his work. So now I’m putting double sided tape and poster putty on the bottom of every knick nack I own again. Yesterday I was cooking breakfast, turned my head for a second, and luckily managed to still prevent a kitten from walking across the scalding hot stove burner. I mean just barely.

    Kittens are idiots. They can and will injure themselves doing things you wouldn’t even think are possible. Have a good vet, have an emergency kit, and be ready mentally and financially for the real possibility that you will be heading to the emergency vet in the middle of the night at least once. Good luck, you’ll need it.

    I have to go, because it seems like one of the kittens has gotten stuck somehow inside one of my kitchen drawers and I have to let her out.

    • OMG this is my experience as well. When our cats finally, FINALLY calmed down (once they were over a year old), it was such a relief and we decided to swear off kittens. Well, turns out we just adopted two more, and now life has gone back to the craziness it was. Fortunately, having two helps a lot since they keep each other entertained, but man they get EVERYWHERE and are seriously insane. Adorable, and probably worth it, but man….

      • We had the opposite issue, to kittens being idiots.

        Our cats, both of whom we got as kittens, were smart. TOO SMART. What they were doing was a bad idea, but they came up with brilliant ways to doing them. Dumb sounds so much easier, at least more predictable.

        Granted they are still too smart for their own good. So the battle continues.

    • Also consider adopting an adult cat. So many wonderful adults are waiting at shelters because all adopters want are the cute kittens. That way you bypass all the kitten insanity and make an adult’s life better.

  2. More of a reminder than a tip…..

    Although we can try and often successfully train cats, they are still like people and each has their own personality. When you get a kitten (as opposed to an adult cat), you aren’t going to be guaranteed that they will grow up to be affectionate, friendly, cuddly, etc. I’ve had more than my fair share of cats and I’ve had snuggly lap cats and anti-social bitchy cats. Just keep that in mind if you have a particular “want”.

  3. Be flexible and recognize that not every solution here will work for your specific cat(s). I moved my british shorthair mix from my parents’house in florida to my apartment in ohio. She used to have really rank, stinky poops. My parents kept a lid on the litter box but you could still smell it. When I moved her to my apartment, the bathroom space was so small that i couldn’t keep a lid on it. Miraculously, her poop no longer smells. This might be due to not keeping the smell trapped in with a lid, or might just be due to differences in the water she gets from the tap (florida has really sulfurous water).

  4. It’s so nice to see the first few comments about veterinary care! I work at a vet hospital, and it’s so disappointing to see new pet owners come in with an emergency and cannot afford treatment. Pet Insurance is awesomesauce, although keep in mind that almost all are set up to reimburse you AFTER the care, so you are still shelling out the costs up front and waiting for a check.
    Definitely get them checked at their new doc within a week of arriving at home. Ask to do a complete blood panel, just to make sure there aren’t any long term issues hiding that a less than cool shelter didn’t bother checking (diabetes, kidney/liver issues, etc). It’s expensive, but well worth knowing if there’s a lifelong condition hiding in there that could seriously destroy your cat’s health.

  5. This might sound asinine and honestly i *hope* people think i’m being ridiculous but this unfortunately happens a lot –

    sure…kittehs are hella independent and, if anything, we’re jealous of them. but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to bond with you and love you.

    so don’t adopt kitteh and then go out of town. that happened to a few friends of friends of mine when they adopted.and then they wondered why the cats were stand off-ish. hmmmmmm i wonder!! 😛

  6. 1. please wait till after the reno. many products are toxic to kitties. my mom’s friend was painting her place & the cat got trippy & ran right out the window & died. not to mention, the sounds can cause ptsd & you will have an emotional mess of a cat after. so, hold off. there will be more kittens.

    2. & i can’t stress this enough. you MUST watch this show. http://animal.discovery.com/tv/my-cat-from-hell/ the guy really knows cats. even if you have the sweetest cat in the world, this show will teach you ways to keep them happy.

    3. start reading his blog. this guy couldn’t be more offbeat & is a serious sweetheart. he knows his stuff. http://jacksongalaxy.com/


    cats do not respond to discipline like dogs. spraying will not work other than to make your cat not trust you.

    however, you CAN totally & easily train a cat. my cats do all kinda of tricks for me. clickers are great for cats. i also whistle all rue like & they come. you just have to know how. watch that show & read that blog i mentioned above.

  8. i second waiting until you’re mostly don’t with your renos, if possible.

    a couple things…

    if your cats are like mine and will not wear collars (seriously, i have a houdini cat here who has gotten out of every single collar i’ve ever put her in within 20 minutes AND helps her boyfriend cat get out of his, leaving our princess cat the only one wearing a collar), microchip! even if you keep them indoors all the time, you never know when one might make a break for the door, as two out of three of ours have done at least once. luckily we’ve always been able to nab them before they got far, but you never know.

    your cats will love a plain old box with an old blanket, tshirt, or pillow in it way more than any cat bed you’ll buy.

    scratching posts and two-sided tape for scratching. put the tape on upholstered furniture like couches and stuff. cats don’t like sticky on their paws. please please please don’t declaw. i declawed mine before i knew better and it breaks my heart thinking about what i’ve done to them. our first two were just kittens and seemed to take it in stride but the last one we got two years after the first two…she was about a year old (the oldest a vet will consider declawing) and it was nearly two months before she was walking normally again. i thought i’d damaged her for good. never ever ever ever again. do your research and know what you’re doing before you do it!!!!

    also, not just houseplants, but know ANY plants you bring home (flower bouquets, etc). lilies are so common in grocery store bouquets but can potentially be very toxic to cats. it seems to vary depending on the cat. my resident salad-nommer got ahold of a petal that fell from my birthday bouquet last spring (which i had up high so he couldn’t get it). i never would have known if he hadn’t puked it up, and $800 and 2 days at the vet for fluids/kidney support later he was just fine, but for some cats, even so much as grooming pollen off their fur can be lethal.

    if you can afford it, a wet diet of some kind of food that doesn’t include meat “byproducts” of any kind is healthiest, but some cat prefer dry and can be pretty picky. in that case, a water fountain is a great choice to encourage your cats to drink more water, which they don’t really have the instinct to do since they’re built to get most of their water from food. you can get them as cheap as $22 or so at petco.

    good luck. my cats are my babies. i’m totally a crazy cat lady, and i actually have a human child too.

    (no, they don’t eat at the table. lol)

  9. So my main commentary is that timeouts work just as well for cats as for humans. We obviously wanted to train and discipline our cat when we brought him home, but physical discipline like hitting or even flicking just doesn’t sit well with me and frankly isn’t that effective. We do use the spray bottle occasionally for distraction purposes, but the number one most effective way of getting our cat to stop doing something bad is to give him ten minutes in the bedroom with the door closed. We just park him in there (he has a scratching post and some toys in there) and set the phone’s timer (15 minutes if he’s really bad or if we want to keep him away from some temporary stimulation like activity in the kitchen). By the time we retrieve him, he has almost always completely calmed down and is very friendly. I think primarily he gets agitated when there’s too much going on, and that results in the scratching and biting that we want to avoid. Giving him a safe place to cool down and chill *really* helps him.

    Also, investigate grain-free diets! I know, it can be a little pricier, but if it’s within the budget, I really feel that our cat has been super healthy since we switched him to grain-free and some raw food. His coat is super shiny, he got super high praises from the vet for health, and he just looks happier, more energetic, and healthier. There are some really good brands out there that really aren’t much more expensive or difficult than the standard kibble brands, so check them out.

    Oh, last tip? Chicken broth. We cook with chicken broth a lot to make gravies and stuff like that, so we always have a container in the fridge. I pour just a bit of broth into all of our cat’s wet food to moisten it and encourage him to get a little more water intake. Traditionally cats have dehydration issues with dry food since they evolved to get most of their water through wet meat rather than by drinking separately. Wet food itself is good, but I like to supplement a little extra so I’m sure that his morning kibble isn’t causing dehydration problems before he gets his wet food, since we do a mixed diet.

  10. Also make sure the litter tray isnt too close to your bedroom. We had a 2am pooper and at our last house the tray was in the bathroom right next to our bedroom so we would get woken at night by the butt raspberries from a pooping cat and then seconds later a VERY funky waft of stench! Not very enjoyable every damn night at roughly the same time.

  11. MICROCHIP! Leave the carrier out as their bed/den, give them treats and food in there, carry them around the house in it, and go for short car rides that have nothing to do with the vet. Use a chow-call every time they get food or treats to get them to come to you; in an emergency it saves precious time. Kittens have two modes; turbo and re-charge They also don’t sleep through the night until about half a year old. So have a room that’s THEIRS. carrier, food, litterbox and toys in there. right before you go to bed, have a vigorous play session of at least fifteen solid minutes. I prefer a strip of polarfleece on a dowel-rod or yard stick. Y0u can stand in one place and they get LOTS of exercise. Tire them out, then give them their dinner and shut them in the room. Tired and with full bellies, they will sleep for quite a while. When they wake up in an hour or two and want to play again, they have each other and their bat-about toys. And keep the bedroom a no-cat zone later too. If you have borderline allergies or sinus problems, your body will do better with a cat-free space to recover at night. And it’s MUCH easier than trying to change the rules and keep then out of there later after they’re accustomed to sleeping with you. Besides, “cats take their half of the bed out of the middle”. You’ll get sounder sleep with out them sharing the bed, and they won’t get hurt if you roll over on them.

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