Welcoming a Kitten (by Lisa Miller)

27th August 2013

Deciding to get a Kitten



I recently had the pleasure of not only looking after the most adorable little kitten, but also help to introduce him (over a period of 2 weeks) to a household with an older cat. Lisa Miller, Earl Grey's new mom; understood exactly what a big undertaking and 14+ year commitment this would be. And I take my hat off to her for the amount of research & preparation she did!
Whilst I could have easily written an informative "do this/don't do that with your new kitten" article; coming from a 1st time kitten owner, packs much more of a punch - and I would love to urge any prospective kitten owner, to read her informative & funny blog.

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For a few years I've wanted a second cat as a companion for my 8 year old cat Pearl. She is a rescue who had a difficult start in life and I've made it a priority to pamper her – hoping to make up for all the wrongs done to her by others. As she adjusted to her pampered lifestyle I began to suspect she would benefit from having a feline friend.

I chatted with a vet nurse and was advised that a kitten would be the best as Pearl would not feel too threatened and would be able to boss the little one around. I weighed the pros and cons for another year:

•Could I afford the added expense?
•What if the two cats clawed each other's faces off?
•A kitten is a lot of work. Do I have capacity to look after a kitten properly?

After letting the idea marinate I began to see how a kitten would fit into our lives and I started to really want one. It was a no-brainer that I would adopt from a shelter but my kitten quest was thwarted at the outset.

I don't have a garden but the plan is to move in the next 1-2 years to a place with a garden. The shelters would not allow me to adopt a kitten unless I had a garden but by then Pearl might be a little too old to go through this process. The shelters would happily let me adopt older cats with special needs and I would have loved to adopt them all but I don't think they or Pearl would have been happy together.

Through a mutual friend I met Lana who had 4 beautiful boy kittens that she could not keep. A few days later I was at Lana's home getting to know her, seeing how the kittens were being cared for, and letting Lana interview me to ensure I was suitable. I passed the interview and was allowed to meet the kittens. I sat on the floor and three of them, curled up inside a child's doll house, eyed me from a distance but the little grey boy shot over to me in an instant, crawled into my lap and demanded I play with him. I was chosen and that was that. I named him Earl Grey.

Bringing Kitten Home

Initially, kittens need to eat 3-4 times per day and need a lot of attention. I was concerned about being at work all day and the logistics of introducing the little man to Pearl. I researched my dilemma online and spoke to my vet who provided a free kitten preparation consultation. Armed with loads of helpful information I turned my bedroom into a den with kitten friendly toys, a crate, a sort of snuggle pod, food, water, and a litter tray. I unplugged all the electricals in anticipation of him chewing the wires and opened the windows just a hair for a bit of fresh air. But, I still felt uneasy. Getting the introductions wrong could be disastrous. I needed hands-on help.

My pet sitters have always been friends and nice people in the neighbourhood. I felt the weight of responsibility to ensure my cats had the best possible transition and had to be honest that my regular sitters couldn’t meet our current needs. We needed a pro. Antonet’s website stood out from the rest. It's just so professional, sensible, and easy to navigate. Her previous experience as a vet nurse was a confidence booster as well. She started work within a day of Earl Grey's arrival and worked with us for two weeks. I was the "night time mum" and Antonet was the "daytime mum".
The day I brought Earl Grey home Pearl was asleep and had no idea I was harbouring an interloper in the bedroom. I was a double agent in my own home. Earl Grey spent most of the first day hiding under the bed. Every 30 minutes I crawled under the bed with a torch to check on him. Eventually we played and he ate a bit. 11pm rolled around and Pearl still had no idea and I was struggling to stay awake. I placed him in the crate, took her to the closed bedroom door and let her hear and smell him, and then opened the door so she could see him. She was nervous and became aggressive towards Earl Grey and sometimes towards me. I felt terribly guilty about upsetting Pearl and scaring Earl Grey but Antonet assured me the two cats would become friends.

Mistake #1

My first mistake was attempting to sleep in the bedroom with Earl Grey the first night and locking Pearl out. The poor girl yowled non-stop. I felt awful and cruel. So, for the first two nights I slept part of the night on the sofa bed with Pearl and partly in the bedroom with Earl Grey who used my face as a launching pad for his nightly acrobatics. Pearl was devastated by my behaviour so I moved to the sofa bed for the duration. When I was home I spent time in Earl Grey's room every 30 minutes but at bedtime I belonged to Pearl. With Pearl feeling a little more confident about my loyalty and the pattern of Antonet’s supervised introductions beginning to gel things started to improve meaning Pearl glared and hissed but didn’t lunge at him instantly. This was progress.

Mistake #2

My second mistake was on day 6 when I over estimated our progress (and yearned for my bed) and moved Pearl and I back into the bedroom too soon. When Earl Grey jumped onto the bed, Pearl had an epic melt down. I grabbed him and ran out of the room afraid for us both. She wouldn't let me near the bed and I nearly lost my arm trying to coax her out of the bedroom. I had no choice but to gather the sheets up around her and carry her out in a make shift sack. With her still in the sack, I got Earl Grey settled into the bedroom and then released my enraged girl. This was a low point.

Peace and Harmony - Nearly

But I needn’t have worried because day time mum was on the case. By the 8th day we were all sleeping in the bedroom and the cats were being left together unsupervised during the day. They wrestled and chased and there was an occasional hiss but no major brawls. Just 3 ½ weeks since bringing Earl Grey home I found them napping together. A few days later they snuggled close and Pearl even groomed him. They are still working out how to share and I'm still working to make sure Pearl feels like number one but we are doing great.

It has been wonderful watching Earl Grey grow and change. He runs and plays non-stop which provides Pearl with a good fitness regime. I have a million tiny scratches on my legs and hands from him climbing on me. I have to supervise their meal times to keep them from eating the other's food. Pearl is on a prescription diet and he of course eats kitten food. I am woken promptly at 5am for their breakfast. It sounds like work but it doesn't feel like work. I'm enjoying all of it. Having to supervise their meals forces me to stop everything else I'm doing and see him splashing around in his water dish which I would otherwise miss. I even like the tiny scratches because they remind me of him when I'm away from home.

Quick Tips
  • Do your research and talk to your vet before getting a kitten.
  • Make sure your kitten initially has a safe room of his or her own and lots of kitten-friendly toys.
  • Invest in quality kitten food recommended by your vet.
  • Be patient. Your kitten might have an upset tummy and might be nervous at first.
  • Cats and kittens don't respond to discipline. If your kitten is doing something that doesn't please you, then distract him or her with a toy or a game. They will abandon whatever it is for some of your attention.
  • Invest in getting the help of a professional pet sitter to ensure your kitten gets settled into your home safely and with the least amount of stress as possible.
  • Get insurance.
  • Make a plan with your vet for vaccinations, micro-chipping, spaying or neutering.
  • If you have an adult cat then be prepared for drama but it will pass. Help your adult cat adjust by assisting in maintaining their spot in the pecking order. For example, if your kitten shows interest in your adult cat's usual perch, kindly remove kitten and give him or her something to play with and place the adult cat on the perch. Give the adult cat lots of extra cuddles. Your kitten will come to understand the pecking order.
  • Take lots of photos and enjoy every minute while they are tiny because the time goes really fast.

Comments

Photo comment By MJ: Great story. Randy and I both laughed at all the drama. Thanks for sharing.

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