The Gideon Chronicles: Lessons Learned in Taking in a Wild Kitten

By Kaitlin Falatovich

A few months back a co-worker of mine said that there were kittens living under her porch.

It was the same unfortunate story… One of the neighborhood cats had gotten pregnant and now it was my neighbor’s responsibility to take care of them.

She begged and pleaded with me to take one of her precious little kittens so that she wouldn’t have to bring them to the nearest (no-kill) animal shelter. I reluctantly refused the kittens for a few weeks, but when the time came for them to be separated from their mother, I couldn’t resist.

One in particular was just TOO CUTE to leave at a shelter. With his huge blue eyes and soft mew, I was in love with the new addition to our family, Gideon.  Little did I know that unlike my other cat (who is a 2 year old rescue) our new little bundle of joy was going to be a bundle of work.

I learned a few things in those first couple weeks. Facts and lessons that I think everyone should know before taking in a kitten.

1. First thing that everyone should take into consideration before adopting/keeping a kitten is that cats, as well as every other pet, are not toys. I have seen it way too much were the fun of having a new pet wears off and the young animal is once again, alone.

If I had not been so serious about taking the cat in I would have probably given little Gideon away after the first week.  He was a little terror. Every few minutes he would be hiding in the most unlikely hiding spots or using my bedroom as a litter box.  I spent many precious hours cleaning up kitty messes and trying to find our new friend. One time he managed to slip under my entertainment center with less than 3 inches of breathing room! (See picture to right)

Gideon under the entertainment center

2. This brings me to the next important tip to remember before bringing home a new kitten: cat proofing.  A kitten that has just been separated from their mother is not only lost, but terrified. Most times, when bringing a kitten into new home, new parents could experience some undesired home decorating. Everything for from tiny little claw marks, to more serious, sometimes life threatening, hazards.

3. Make sure before bringing your new friend into your home that all electric wires and other hazards such as toxic cleaning products are out of reach. Like human babies, kittens are new to the world, and don’t understand that a few minutes of playtime could kill them.

4. Also like a human child, kittens require a lot of attention. New parents should be prepared to spend many hours playing with the kitten and making him feel comfortable. Gideon kept my fiancée and I up many nights, crying out and clawing at our feet.  I remember sitting and playing with him until he fell asleep, which sometimes wouldn’t be for several hours.

5. But possibly the biggest challenge that a new parent can face is making all your little ones feel comfortable.  I am the now the parent of two of the best cats in the world. They love frolicking and rough housing around my apartment, but it wasn’t always so friendly.

It is very important to make sure that from the beginning all of your best friends are getting along. The best way to do this is to let them interact with each other.  Becoming a multiple cat owner for the first time was definitely a learning experience.

*** My words of advice, if your new kitten has been vaccinated and thoroughly inspected for fleas and parasites, integrate them immediately!  No matter how tempting it is to separate your pets, if they are healthy, don’t!

When I first brought Gideon home, my other cat, Minaj hated him. She hissed violently, and would try to slash my little baby. It looked like a gruesome cage match. So naturally I separated the two of them immediately. It seemed like the best option considering that I didn’t want to find a beat up little kitten when I came home from work.

But the best way to get all of your cats to become friends is to let nature take its course. After much hesitation, I gave both Gideon and Minaj full reign of the house, together.  I found out to never underestimate your little one. As soon as I let both of them play, little Gideon was taking complete control of the situation.

One time I even came home to find him riding Minaj down the hallway like a horse! (Literal LOL added by the blog’s Administrator here…)

Now after a few months both of my best friends are getting along perfectly.  The process was a slow but eventually rewarding journey.  This is what worked for me.

All in all, cats have many different personalities and may have a more difficult time adjusting.

*** Also, keep these tips in mind and remember to consult a vet if any unexpected health problems come about. It is always better for your vet to tell you that nothing is wrong then to find out something is wrong when it is too late.

Kaitlin Falatovich is a content writer for dog.com. She enjoys her two cats Gideon and Minaj as well as the company of her fiancée. Kaitlin was the recipient of the Pennsylvania 2010 Associated Press Broadcasting award for Best Feature Story. For more articles please click here.

4 Responses to “The Gideon Chronicles: Lessons Learned in Taking in a Wild Kitten”

  1. It was a challenge for me to bring two kittens 11 weeks apart into my house after having a 15 year old adult Persian. However, the are wonderful companions to both each other and me.

  2. I don’t agree…I think integrating a new cat into the household should be slow and gradual. Maybe as a writer for dog.com, Kaitlin was thinking ‘dog park’ introduction techniques. I have been a vet tech for 40 years and have worked the past 10 years at an all feline practice and we have a completely different style for introducing new pets. What we recommend and what has helped me introduce fosters into the house is gradual, confining the new cat to a bedroom or den (or in the case of a kitten, a large bathroom as they are small and a house is large. There are many sites out there with advice on introducing new cats to cats and dogs, but none of them say ‘Let nature take it’s course…’, besides the disease factors involving way isolating a new arrival is wise. and one needs to realize that the introduction is the beginning of a 10-20 year relationship and why not give it the best start you can…

  3. Rescie says:

    I’ve have cats and never had a problem integrating them. The hardest thing I ever had to do was integrate 3 Chihuahuas that were set to be euthenized for being “unadoptable” since they were over 5 years old and in a shelter. The first 4 months were pure hell. They all had been mistreated and in bad phyical shape and were distrusting after what they had been through. I walked them before work, at lunch and after work. If they bumped into each other there was a fight. My neighbors thought they should all be euthanized. However, 9 years later the two girls are still with me. Unfortunately, my sweet Sugur’s heart gave out. Everyone who ever meets my girls think they are the best dogs ever and now want Chihuahuas.

  4. Hi Kaitlin,

    Thanx for the fun story and for the insight and tips.

    Young kittens are hilarious but you’re right, they aren’t a toy to be discarded after a year’s “use”.

    Baby mammals invoke that motherly instinct in all of us but we can’t just get a kitten because it’s cute. We have to love him/her (her from now on) once she reaches adulthood every bit as much and more – for the life of the cat – and cherish her as a valuable family member.

    I too have seen it way too many times where a person discards a pet after it’s around a year old or two simply because it’s not a cute little baby any more. Very sad.

    And you’re right – they do need a lot of attention when they are young. They get scared at night and they get into things that could harm or even kill them. They need protection and supervision.

    About introducing a new cat to a current cat family member – what has worked best for me time and again is to put the new cat in a spare room with food, water, litter, and toys and keep the door closed for about three days (visiting her of course).

    Then put her in a kennel, open the room door and let the resident in to investigate up close for a day (or two if needed). The new cat is safe in the kennel.

    This allows for a safe period of adjustment.

    After that, we let the new cat out and supervise as much as possible but being sure not to interfere too much unless a fight gets serious.

    It has always worked well for us.

    “…riding Minaj down the hallway like a horse…” :D too funny!

    Thanx for the story and the insight,

    =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

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