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Helping your kitten in its new home

The secret of having a happy cat, is to help your kitten adapt as soon as possible. For instance, if you have a town flat and a weekend country cottage or if you want to take your cat to cat shows – you will want a cat that is not frightened by car travel. In this case the best plan would be to get a kitten as near the age of eight weeks as possible and accustom it to being driven by car from the beginning. But many pedigree breeders will not let a kitten go to its new home until it is 14 weeks old. You might therefore ask the breeder if she will drive it around in the first few weeks of its life. If she refuses, you will just have to accustom it to car travel, as soon as possible. And, to make sure that it becomes accustomed, it would be worth driving it around in the car several times a day for the first two or three weeks.

The experience should be made as pleasant as possible. Small items of particularly delicious food should be offered when the kitten is first put in its travelling box. The box can also be sprayed with Feliway, the artificial scent that is used to promote relaxation in cats.

The same procedure is necessary for a cat that is being taught to wear a leash. In this case, the harness should first be put on before meals and only when the cat is completely used to being in the harness, should the cat be taken out with it – first into safe places and only slowly into more challenging places. It must also be remembered that harnesses (unlike collars for dogs) are not entirely safe. A truly terrified cat can almost always wriggle out of one.

Nail clipping, teeth cleaning, and intensive grooming for long-haired cats, should be started as early as possible and performed frequently. The younger your kitten, the quicker it will become accustomed to these. Each experience should be made pleasant with good food treats. When grooming, be careful always to be gentle. A cat that has been hurt by tugging at its hair will dislike being groomed.

You can also teach your kitten good manners. One mistake is to encourage a kitten to play rough games with humans. It is so sweet to see it pouncing with its claws out or even inflicting a tiny bite on your hand. The wound is so small that it hardly seems to matter at all.

But when your cat is an adult and it continues the same rough games, the pain can be quite intense. If you mistakenly punish the cat and find that punishment increases its aggression. So it is important that from the earliest days, that games using claws or teeth are not allowed. The game stops immediately at the first sign of these. Ambush games should also be discouraged. It is amusing to see a tiny bundle of fluff hurl itself against a large human being.

When a full-grown cat dashes from the bushes and rakes your legs with its claws, it is no fun at all. Ambushing games are particularly delightful for cats since they are based on the hunting sequence, a basic instinct that ensures that performance is always rewarding for the cat, however painful for you.

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