Every kitten is different and it is impossible to predict how they will act when on their own for the first time. The most outgoing kitten with his litter mates can become shy and timid around strangers. And the one that was a bit shy may come out of their shell immediately when they are not competing with their more outgoing siblings. However they react at first, it just takes a little patience and time to make them a loving part of your family.
Below are some techniques that have worked for me with kittens and cats of all ages.
Before you pick up your kitten
Get the basics: litter box and cat litter, food and water bowl, kitten formula cat food, and a few toys. Set up the litter box in a quiet area and the food and water bowls away from the litter box to encourage best bathroom habits. If you have dogs or other pets, you might want to consider keeping your new arrival isolated for a few days to get used to everything before introducing them to the rest of the family – they will be nervous enough after their first car ride, being away from their momma and other litter mates. Give them a safe haven they can retreat to if they get startled. There are some kittens that hate being confined so you might need to adjust this idea for the temperament of the individual kitten.
Also be sure to check for anything the kitten could get into. Make sure all chemicals are safely closed and stored away from curious paws Kittens tend to taste everything and many things are poisonous to them, so just as you would child proof your home when bringing home a new baby, you need to kitten proof you home as well. Check any plants to make sure they are not poisonous to cats. Remove anything they could become trapped or entangled in when playing or exploring.
Play and social time
Once your new kitten has some time to acclimate to your home, it is time to work with them to make sure they bond with your family.
When possible, sit or lay on the floor with them – you are far less intimidating when you are not looming over them. Move slowly – don’t grab at them trying to pick them up all the time. Small children especially may want to do that so be certain to supervise your little ones when around the new kitten.
Start slowly – just talk to the kitten soothingly. Call them by any name they have been given. Lay your hand flat on the floor and slowly move your fingers up and down – this is how I start to play with them and they will recognize the motion. You should get their attention fairly quickly. Stop moving for a moment, then repeat the finger wiggle. The kitten will probably come closer and closer every time you do. When they get close to your hand, don’t move – let them sniff your fingers and hand at their own pace. Wiggle your fingers a bit again and you might we rewarded with a tap from their paw. Continue to talk to them and wiggle your fingers. You might hear a bit of a purr even.
Once they seem comfortable and are playing with your fingers, slowly try to pet them with the same hand. Again go slow and talk to them. If they back off, go back to the finger wiggle
At this point you might want to graduate to a toy like a pole with a feather on the end or other toy they can interact with you with.
Most kittens will get comfortable with you very quickly and may check out your legs and lap, roll over and attack your hand with their belly up (a supreme sign of trust), and may start licking your hand as well. You might slowly pick him up by putting your hand under his belly and front legs. Snuggle him against your body supporting his butt with your other hand like you would a baby. He may mew initially, but once he feels secure against your body, he should relax. Continue to talk and pet him slowly, get him to play with your fingers again, etc.
Once they are comfortable with one family member, you can repeat the procedure for other people. You will probably find him running to you for safety at first, but once he gets the feel for everyone and realizes no one is going to hurt him, your new baby should respond quickly.
If you have other pets, you should be able to slowly introduce them now. If you have established a room as the kittens safe haven, do not let your other pets in this room yet. Instead, let the kitten explore other areas of your home and supervise interactions with children or other pets. If he gets startled, he will probably run back to the safe zone – be sure not to let a dog or other cat follow after him in there though.
If you don’t have other pets or small children, simply let the door to the safe haven room open and let your kitten explore at their own pace.
Lap and cuddle time
Go about your normal routine at this point and let the kitten explore and get used to your normal habits. Ragamuffin cats are very people oriented by nature – they want to be with you and you will generally find them wherever you are in the home and following you from room to room.
You will probably find them quickly coming to you on the couch or bed wanting petting and perhaps a snuggle on your lap for a snooze. Encourage that behavior by talking softly and repeating the finger game or any toys you’ve established. If he comes up to you at bedtime, take a few moments to love on him until he settles in to sleep. Play with him or her often.
Again patience is the key. The reward is a wonderful, happy companion cat that will love you forever.