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Bringing Your Bengal Kitten Home!

Bringing your new kitten home can be a VERY exciting time!  However, rushing your kitten to have access to your home before it is ready can be a very costly and frustrating mistake. 

Most of the time, we forget just what we are asking these young ones to do.  They leave the only home they have ever known.  They leave their mother and littermates.  All of those things that give them security and peace, we remove in a matter of moments.  Sure you love them and will care for them.  But THEY don't know that.  All they know is that they are alone and have no idea where their family has gone.

This is one reason that removing a kitten any earlier than 10-12 weeks of age is just asking for a kitten with behavior issues.  Mothers and littermates teach young kittens how hard is too hard to bite.  How much play is too much and that no matter how much they want to play and run around, when mother says it is time to stop for a bath, IT IS BATH TIME!  These are lessons best taught my mom, in a way that the kittens best understand them.

This extra time also allows kittens and moms to wean naturally and slowly.  They learn how and what to eat and where to eliminate all from carefully observing their mother.  My moms will actually pick up a kitten by the scruff and bring it to a litter box or food bowl if they don't get the idea right away. 

Before its arrival    So, now that you have agreed to leave the kitten with mom until the proper time, we will discuss bringing your little one home.  Before its arrival, make sure you have the exact food its breeder was feeding.  A total change in its life, is not the time to introduce a new food as well.  Choose a small place for the kitten to call home.  A bathroom works well for the first week or so.  Put in a litter box with the same litter the breeder used.  Put in a food and water bowl which can't be easily tipped over.  Do not put the food next to the litter box.  Opposite sides of the room work best.  Also, put in a fleece bed for the kitten to lay in.  Getting a towel from the breeder with the scent of the littermates can be helpful for those first difficult nights away from home.

Make sure before you bring your kitten home to make an appointment with a vet so that you can swing by on the way home and get a fecal test, any shots that are due and a Leukemia and Aids test.  This will allow you to feel better about the health of your new arrival.  And if any problem should be detected, you can let the breeder know immediately so steps can be taken to correct the situation.

Coming Home -- Plan to spend some time every hour or two with your new arrival.  Arranging to pick it up on a Friday or just before a long weekend works out great.  Don't be surprised if your kitten wants nothing to do with you.  It has no idea that you have just chosen it to join your family.  For all it knows, you just kidnapped it..:-)  You need to teach your kitten to allow being held and to allow touching.  I do this by gently scooping up the kitten holding two hands to support its tummy and bringing it to your chest.  If it fights to get down, get it gently by the scruff and say, "no" gently and calmly.  Then bring it back to your chest and stroke it gently.  If it is particularly frightened, only hold it briefly and then praise it gently as you let it back down.  Don't let it jump from your arms.  Doing this frequently for short periods will teach it to allow touching, but will not ask it to hold the position for long enough for it to become panicked.

Plan for it to take a minimum of two weeks to get your new kitten accustomed to its new surroundings and your family.  Make sure that each family member spends time with the kitten while in its "safe" place.  That way it will get used to everyone in the household.  As the kitten becomes more calm and comfortable with your family and its new home, you can introduce it for VERY short periods of time to a slightly larger area.  However, take it frequently back to its "safe area" to eliminate.  Otherwise, you will find your loving kitten leaving you "presents" in the worst places.  Avoiding any marking is SO much better than trying to correct a bad habit.

When you introduce your kitten to its larger area, they like to play with wand type toys and fuzzy mice.  "Wiffle" golf practice balls are also a favorite because they roll so well.  Again, remember to take the kitten frequently to its "safe" area to eliminate.  You can also place extra litter boxes if your home is large.  This will help the little one get to the box in case it suddenly decides it needs to go. 

You will find that before you know it, your new arrival will be comfortable with its new surroundings and your family.  Allow a minimum of one month adjustment time for the kitten and your family.  Going into Bengal "parenthood" knowing what to expect makes everything so much easier to deal with.   When I have had a call about a new kitten, it is usually because they have allowed it run of the house before it was ready and problems ensued.  

As your kitten grows, it will become VERY active.  This is a definite part of the breed.  You need to plan regular interaction with your cat or it will get bored and find some of your "things" to play with.  It is not unusual for Bengals to "go" on comforters and pillows (so keep the bedroom doors closed).  It is not unusual for them to knock all of your "knik-knaks" all over the floor and play with them.  Toilet paper rolls are fair game as is drinking out of the toilet (so keep the lid down).  I have seen Bengals in that "teen" period climb the blinds and hang from the curtains.  All of this behavior will diminish as it gets older.  However, it underscores the need for a "safe" room where the kitten/cat can be while you are away.  Any room that can be "Bengal-proofed" will work.  It should have a cat tree next to a window if possible.  That will allow it to look outside for stimulation while you are away at work.  I keep a round fleece cuddle bed on the top of my computer desk.  That is where my cats will lay instead of standing in front of the monitor where I can't see :-)

I have never had to de-claw any of my Bengals.  I do regularly (every 3 weeks) trim their nails.  If you start this when they are young, they will grow to accept it.  They do not claw the furniture when their nails are kept short.  It also keeps them from clawing you or your children accidentally when they are playing or trying to run away.  When they are small, regular nail clippers work well.  As they get older, toenail clippers or regular cat nail clippers work well.  I use a harness and leash to hold them and so that they can't run away.  If you have two people, this can be easier.  One can hold the kitten by the scruff and the other trim the nails.  I usually have to do it by myself and the harness and leash method works for me.  Be sure to praise your kitty for allowing you to handle its feet!

I use flea control regularly.  My cats don't go outside, but do go to cat shows.  Also, fleas can jump on clothing and you can bring them inside.  Frontline works great and is long lasting.  Revolution can also be used, and is effective for worms and ear mites.  I don't believe it is as effective for fleas as Frontline though...  So I use Frontline and treat separately for worms or mites if I ever get them.

Giving your kitten / cat a bath can be challenging if you don't have a few tips to make it easier.  Make a relatively warm sink of water and place some pet shampoo in the water so it is slightly sudsy.  Then grab your cat by the scruff and gently lower its rear into the water.  Take a cup and pour the warm water gently over the cat being sure to avoid its head.  When you have soaked it, rinse it off with the same temperature water avoiding its head again.  Wrap it while still holding the scruff in a large towel.  Hold it securely while drying it.  Place it in a warm room to finish drying. 

Giving medication is relatively easy if you stay calm.  Speak softly to the cat to calm it.  Hold it by the scruff and put the medication into the side of the mouth so it doesn't go down an airway.  Try to shoot it in the back of the mouth toward the side.  Praise it a LOT for being such a good kitty!

Spaying and neutering can be done at any time.  I suggest waiting until the kitten is settled and it is no longer stressed from the relocation.  Make the appointment NOT to coincide with shots or other things that may stress it.  Spay and neuter is usually best done early.  They seem to recover more quickly and have less side effects.  So have the appointment made for about 3 weeks after arrival.

If your kitten has a "lapse" in proper behavior, such as inappropriate elimination, put it back in its "safe" area and slowly reintroduce it to the larger areas as it proves it can handle it.  You may need extra litter boxes if your home is large.  NEVER let your kitten play rough or bite or scratch during play.  This will be something you will REALLY regret later on!

Above all, enjoy your new addition!  Even though kitten-hood can be trying, it can also be a lot of fun!  Enjoy it, it is all too brief.



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