Bringing a new kitten home is an exciting time for the whole family. In the weeks that follow, your kitten will settle into their new surroundings and you’ll get to know their unique personality. It is completely normal for your kitten to hide and show nervous behaviour during their first few days. Remember, it’s a stressful time for them as it’s their first time away from the litter and in a completely new environment.
Tips to help understand your kitten:
- Spend plenty of time handling your new kitten as this will help develop a bond between you and your kitten and will encourage them to feel comfortable in their new home.
- Cats meow to communicate with humans. This endearing method of speech is heard in young kittens, to get their mother's attention but is rarely heard between cats. When your new kitten meows to you, it is a special form of cat-to-human conversation. Encourage your kitten's meow by responding to it. Alternatively, if your kitten talks too much, you should ignore the meows and respond when they are quiet.
- Kittens have a lot of energy to burn and as cats are primarily nocturnal animals, you may notice they become more active at night. You can help alter this behaviour by playing with your kitten in the early evening to use up some of their excess energy. Set aside playtime when you would like your kitten to become most active. This is also a great opportunity to help develop the relationship between you and your kitten. Do not feed them or play with them if they wake you during the night as this only rewards unwanted behaviour.
- Cats need to scratch surfaces to sharpen their claws but they also use this behaviour to deposit their scent. Cats have scent glands on their paws and rubbing their paws along objects places their scent there.
- It’s important to provide your new kitten with a scratching post so they don’t use alternatives like your furniture. Place scratching posts in the areas your kitten likes to scratch, and then gradually move them towards your preferred location. Don’t hide posts in corners, as cats need to scratch in prominent areas. They also like to scratch at different angles so provide horizontal and vertical scratching surfaces.
- Cats are predatory animals and growing kittens spend a lot of time learning instinctual behaviours such as stalking chasing and pouncing. This is part of normal behaviour, but kittens have sharp teeth and claws and you don’t want them to grow into adult cats that have been allowed to bite and scratch their owners in play. If your kitten gets too rough, withdraw and transfer their attention onto suitable cat toys instead.
About Dr Joanne Righetti
Dr Joanne Righetti is an animal behaviourist, educating the public and professionals in all aspects of the human–animal relationship. Her background is in zoology, with a PhD in animal behaviour and a counselling diploma – qualifications which enable her to work with all sorts of animals – including the human variety! Joanne likes to help pet owners understand their pet's behaviour and solve any pet behaviour problems. She also consults to a variety of organisations including non-profit organisations, commercial companies and councils and is involved in a variety of media including regular spots on radio. Joanne is an honorary associate of the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, University of Sydney. Find out more about Joanne at www.petproblemsolved.com.au