Introducing a New Kitten to Your Home
Understanding normal behavior helps us:
- Interact with our cats
- Create an enriching life for them.
- Prevent behavior problems
Cats are social animals
- Learn how to teach your kitten to interact positively with other cats and people.
How cats communicate
- The importance of smell
- Reading cat’s body language
- Attention to the tail, ears, pupils, raised hackles.
Rules for playing with people
- The queen and siblings teach the kitten to temper their play. Cats that do not experience this will be aggressive with people.
- People should play with kitten gently. Do not allow kitten to bite or scratch hands or feet. Use interactive toys instead.
- Adult supervision is advised when kids are playing with kitten.
- Safe, interactive toys
- Creative use of boxes, paper bags, tunnels
- Food treasure hunts and food puzzles
Scratching posts and proper use of claws
- Scratching is normal
- Choose scratching posts that are sturdy and made of materials cats prefer (wood, sisal, rough fabric)
- Teaching kittens to use scratching post
- Locate the post next to window, sleeping area, or areas favored by cat
- Many cats prefer vertical scratching posts, whereas some will prefer horizontal surfaces
- Keep nails trimmed. Consider Soft Paws to prevent damage from scratching.
Home maintenance helps keep cats healthy and less fearful at the veterinarian
- Tooth brushing
- Nail clipping and handling of feet
- Use of a thermometer
- How to administer medication—this will make it easier when the cat is ill
Normal elimination behavior and promoting good litter box use
- Litter box should be in low-traffic area
- Does cat prefer box covered or uncovered?
- Litter must be kept clean for cat to use
- Elimination outside the box is not normal; call your veterinarian
Normal feeding behavior and how to feed cats
- Cats are obligate carnivores; carbs should be less than 5% of cat’s diet
- Canned food should be emphasized.
- Kittens can be free-fed until 6 months of age; then switch to portion feeding. Each cat has their own feeding station.
- Hide food around house to allow cat to hunt.
- Predatory behavior is well-developed. Owners may confuse predatory behavior with hunger.
Enriched environments, including play and mental stimulation, are key to a low-stress life
- There is value to routine, including specific allotted quality time.
- Climbing, perching, and bedding areas
- Vertical spaces
- Hiding spaces, retreats
- Interactive toys; rotation of toys
- Give cats the feeling of outdoors without the risks (bird feeders on outside of window, window perch, outdoor enclosure)
Pleasant veterinary visits
- Carrier training
- Adjusting to car rides
- Veterinary care to protect physical health: annual physical exams, dental care, vaccinations
Cats can be trained
- Reward w/treats or positive attention to encourage desired behavior
- Redirect undesired behavior
- Much of what people consider “bad behavior” is actually perfectly normal cat behavior.
- Never punish, swat, slap, or yell
- Cats can be trained to scratch in appropriate areas
Special situations, if appropriate
- Getting along with other dogs and cats.
- Getting along with children.
- Getting along with visitors
- Exposure to novel social and physical environments
How to prevent common adult cat problems
- Inappropriate elimination
- Various expressions of anxiety and fear are among the most common behavior problems
When to call your veterinary clinic
- Get help early. Don’t believe that symptoms “will just go away”. Don’t believe that aggressive behavior will go away or that the cat will grow out of it.
Excerpted from “Feline Behavior Guidelines from the American Association of Feline Practitioners.” AAFP, 2004