All in the Family

Ease your new kitten into the household to avert dysfunction.

By Susan Easterly

Page 2 of 4

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Look for a kitten that has the confidence to pause and study you briefly before approaching as you encourage it to come to you, she said. "This is a kitten that is going to think before acting a desirable quality."

Take It Slow
A kitten may feel overwhelmed by its new environment at first, so consider things from a cat's point of view. "It's important for people to realize that cats are cats, not little dogs or fur-covered people," Milani said. "Cats have their own needs. The more people understand normal cat behavior, the more they can appreciate them."

Patience lots of it is key. Introduce your kitten to new pets slowly, said Karen Commings, author of "The Cat Lover's Survival Guide," a professional pet sitter and owner of Pet Care Extraordinaire in Harrisburg, Pa. "Throwing pets together too soon may result in the development of bad relationships, and then you have to start over."

Commings described a unique way to introduce kittens, a process that worked well when she recently brought two kittens into her multi-cat household: "My advice is to talk to them talk to the resident animals about the newcomers, using their names often, and talk to the newcomers about the residents. When talking, visually picture the residents and the newcomers. When they meet, use their names again. Allow them to sniff, hiss or spit as long as no one is hurt. Pick set times when the newcomers are allowed to intermix, then separate them again. Gradually increase their time together."

A safe zone away from other pets and children is essential for a new kitten during this adjustment period, such as a well-ventilated room stocked with a litterbox, a comfy place to sleep, clean water and food. In addition, Milani recommends free-access crate training, which means the kitten accepts a carrier as its own, always-available haven. "From day one, they have their little house, big enough for a small litterbox, the kitten, a blanket and a little toy." An easy-to-clean, small plastic or fiberglass carrier works well.

"I recommend free-access crate-training for kittens for several reasons," Milani said. "First, as with any animal, establishing and protecting territory is the No. 1 priority. Giving kittens access to their own personal space eliminates many problems that occur when new cats are introduced. Second, when children are in the household I find it's easier to say to kids, "Don't bother Fluffy when she goes in her house," than to say, "Don't bother the cat when she's got that look."

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