All in the Family

Ease your new kitten into the household to avert dysfunction.

By Susan Easterly

Page 3 of 4

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Where your kitten's carrier goes so does home, which helps relieve stress in the event of an emergency or natural disaster or when it's time to go to the veterinarian, Milani added. "It's one of the best preventive things owners can do, something you can continue throughout your cat's life," she said.

Kids, Cats and Dogs
Prevention plays an important role when introducing a new kitten to children. "Have the children sit quietly on the floor before bringing the kitten into the room," Milani said. "An adult should meet the kitten first and, once it becomes accustomed to this person, the children can come over one by one."

Don't make the mistake of telling a small child that the kitten belongs to him or her, says Milani. "The kitten isn't little Mary's cat; it's the parents' cat," she said. "It's one thing to teach kids responsibility, but serious decisions regarding this kitten, like medical care or providing food and clean water, lie with the adults."

Commings is of the opinion that kittens should not be brought into households with children younger than 5 years old. "Never use animals as responsibility lessons for children," she said. "Children should be determined to be responsible before adopting a pet. If the lesson fails, then the kitten, the children and perhaps the parents who end up caring for the pet, if they don't give it up to a shelter or another owner, suffer."

Vigilant parental supervision and training are crucial to protect a new kitten and develop a good relationship between child and cat. For example, teach children how to hold the kitten properly and to respect its needs and limits. Give children safe cat toys to use when they play with the kitten.

"Most cats consider dogs to be the best cat toy they've got, but for a new little kitten a dog can be intimidating at first," said Milani, whose cat and dog sleep together. "Generally, dogs and cats are a heck of a lot more tolerant of each other than they are of members of their own species, but they must be introduced under the best of circumstances."

Make sure your dog is cat-friendly before you add a vulnerable kitten to the mix. "If your dog is a known hunter or gets excited when it sees small animals, don't bring home a kitten," Commings said.

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