July 7, 2018
by Robyn Paterson
When you bring a new kitten home, it will be a traumatic experience for him. To be prepared to make the transition smoother, you'll want to set up a safe room.
The ideal place for a safe room is where you will keep one litter box permanently. An office, spare bedroom, bathroom, or laundry room, if you can hold off on running the washer and dryer for a day or two while kitty adjusts, all work well. You will want to have a cat tree with sisal rope on a portion of it, the litter box - large and uncovered - a water bowl, and toys that are safe to leave in the room.
When you first bring the kitten home, take him out of the carrier and put him directly into the litter box, which is in his safe room. This way, he explores his surrounding from his litter box and always knows how to get back to it.
How your kitten is going to respond at this point will vary. Not every animal is the same, and we can't predict what your kitten's response will be. If your kitten marches around like he owns the place, fantastic. If your kitten wants to hide, don't be discouraged. An instinctive cat will be more cautious in new surroundings, so allow the kitten to be who he is.
How much you engage with your kitten immediately should depend on the kitten's body language. Tensed muscles, dilated pupils, and flattened ears all signal that you should give your kitten some space. Sit down and let your kitten come to you. If you have small children, ask them to sit and have the kitten come to them as well. Reaching, grabbing, or chasing the kitten all have the potential result of scaring it. Give your children an interactive toy, such as feathers on a wand or the Dragonfly Toy, so they are less likely to grab and chase.
Visit your kitten in its safe room several times daily - always sit down and allow him to come to you. If you can read a book or work on a laptop while in the safe room, that is great.
If you have other animals in the house, you want to exchange bedding with your new kitty and the other pets. Allow your kitten to sleep on a fleece blanket and have your other pets do the same. Then, exchange the blankets, so they are learning the scent of your other pets, and your other pets are learning the new kitty's scent too.
Once your kitty consistently greets you with a raised tail when you come to visit, it is time for him to explore the rest of the home. If you have other pets, you may want to let the kitty explore without them around the first time. How soon and how often you allow your kitten to explore outside of the safe room will depend on how many other pets and children you have in your home and your kitten's reaction to all the stimuli in your home. How long your kitten must be kept in the safe room will also vary. How large your home is, whether or not it is on two stories, how many pets and children are in your home, and the kitten's natural comfort level will all be a factor in determining how long you should continue to put your kitten in the safe room while he is not being supervised.
When you are ready for everyone to be out at once, we recommend playing with a feather toy, so the introduction is done with a distraction of something fun as well. Try not to dote on your new kitty in the presence of existing kitties. It is best to do just the opposite, so the existing cats don't get jealous of the newcomer. Returning your kitten to the safe room while she is not being supervised is recommended so that you don't allow him the opportunity for a litter box accident. Always leave the door to the safe room open, so your kitten can return to it whenever he needs a break.
For more specific instructions on how to best use the safe room and how to determine when your cat is ready to leave the Safe Room, please read "How do I know when I can move my kitten out of the Safe Room?"
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