How To Acclimate Kittens Into Your Home Without Damage, According To An Expert

Walking past a pet store or seeing a post on social media about the too-cute kittens available for adoption can be heart-wrenching. If you decide to welcome one of these furry babies into your home, it's essential not to do so as a spur of the moment decision but to create a plan for ensuring you and your home are ready. Kittens are tiny creatures but they're also curious little explorers who may be fearful of new experiences and big people. If you don't take steps prior to bringing them home, it may set back the all-important need to develop a relationship with a cat early on.

Dr. Sabrina Kong DVM, a cat mom and veterinary consultant at We Love Doodles shares some valuable advice on this process in an exclusive interview with House Digest. "Acclimating kittens into your home can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it's important to do it in a way that minimizes damage and stress," she says. Here's how to get your home ready for a new pet.

Create a safe and comfortable space for your kittens

Take a quick look around your home. How many spaces are there where a kitten can hide, get trapped, or simply get lost? Think about the spaces under the couches, behind the refrigerator, and even inside a cabinet you may mistakenly leave ajar. What about those kitchen counters filled with tempting treats? Are you worried yet? Most homes are like big, open adventures for kittens. That's why you shouldn't give them free rein just yet.

Dr. Kong shares, "Before you bring your kittens home, make sure you have a space set up for them that is safe, quiet, and comfortable. This could be a spare bedroom, a bathroom, or even a large dog crate. Make sure the space has food and water bowls, a litter box, toys, and a cozy bed." Dedicating a separate space for the kitten ensures that for the initial few days, at least, they remain where you can easily find them and continue to meet their needs. This is a great way to start bonding with them, too, with soft petting through the crate or a few minutes of play without other distractions.

Introduce your kittens to their new surroundings gradually

Over time, your kitten will gain confidence. They may become more vocal, more willing to come to you, and even look for ways to start exploring the surrounding area. They are likely paying close attention to who is walking around and no longer hiding when someone gets close. That's a good sign that they're entering the next stage. "Once your kittens are comfortable in their designated space, you can gradually introduce them to the rest of your home," offers Dr. Kong. "Start by letting them explore one room at a time and always supervise them to prevent damage. As they become more comfortable, you can give them access to more areas of the house."

This is also the perfect time to make your home more interesting to the cat's mind. Dr. Kong shares, "Kittens love to play and scratch, so make sure you provide them with plenty of toys and scratching posts. This will help them redirect their energy away from damaging your furniture and belongings." You don't have to spend a lot of money to do this. Consider cardboard boxes or an old piece of carpeting attached to a piece of wood.

Use positive reinforcement training and be patient

Kittens are growing and learning every day, and the environment you create for them should foster the support they need to thrive. How you speak to them, engage with them, and welcome them now will impact the way they fit into your family for years to come. "Use positive reinforcement training to encourage good behavior and discourage bad behavior," recommends Dr. Kong. "Reward your kittens with treats or praise when they use their scratching posts or litter box, and redirect them with toys or treats when they start to scratch or chew on inappropriate items." Like small children, they will try new things, and your positive reaction to those explorations helps to foster long-term good behavior.

Spend as much time with your new family member as you can, heeding this warning from Dr. Kong. "Remember that acclimating kittens takes time, so be patient and don't expect them to adjust overnight. With patience, consistency, and plenty of love, your kittens will soon become comfortable and happy members of your household."