Every year at this time Sunny Harbour Cat Rescue and I’m sure hundreds of other rescues throughout the UK will begin to receive the annual calls from Parents who have “promised their child a kitten for Xmas”… <sigh>
Yes, it really does still happen! Despite years of conveying the opposing message people still encourage their children to see pets as objects rather than a responsibility and privilege by giving them as gifts. Unfortunately the ever increasing number of kittens and animals in general sold on the free ad sites don’t help matters either. Like every year come March time we will be inundated by people calling with 6 mth old kittens, this time however the message will be “kids are bored of it” and they need to find the kitten a new home. Same thing, every year at the same time!
Ideally we would like to see people consider as a family decision the responsibility associated with the adoption of a cat or kitten. Not as a festive ‘surprise’. If you really must get a cat or kitten for Xmas then remember cats are living, breathing, sentient animals who feel fear, pain, anxiety and worry. The reason we don’t rehome to families over the Xmas period and wait until the new year is due to the following considerations. We would ask that should you still get a kitten for Xmas you consider the following very carefully;
- Do not buy or adopt a kitten under a minimum of 10 weeks old. It is critical that kittens remain with their siblings until 10 weeks so that they can fully develop their sight, mobility, strength and most importantly their social skills. Without these skills it increases the likelihood of said kitten maturing into a reserved, timid adult cat rather than an integrated member of the family.
- Don’t give the kitten full run of the house. Provide them with a safe space / room where their food, toys & litter box are. The more space they have the more chance there is of increasing their anxiety and creating confusion over the litter box. Restricting access in the house for a couple of weeks will help to reduce this and prevent stress related litter box issues.
- When cats settle into their new homes they explore using sight, sound and scent. The noise, existing animals, past animals, new people, colours, flashing lights and smells generated over the Xmas period can be exceptionally confusing for an adult cat never mind a kitten. Combine this with an equally strange home environment and a kitten just learning to see, hear and interact and you have a very nervous kitten on your hands. This combined with excited children running around makes the home a very stressful and hazardous environment for a kitten.
- To avoid injury and excessive and needless stress for your kitten then keep them in their ‘safe space’ with all their belongings until the house has calmed down again. E.g. when you have visitors round or the children are opening presents or just generally being over excited then place the kitten into a safe, quiet place until the house is calmer.
- Never play with kittens with tinsel as small pieces may be ingested or they may choke on them. Always keep tinsel well out of their reach and away from the bottom of the tree.
- Avoid the use of breakable or glass baubles on the tree as kittens love to climb and play on Xmas trees. Instead go for plastic or tin / aluminium which won’t easily break and cause injury and make sure that at least the bottom 2 branches all round are clear of decorations.
- Preferably opt for a synthetic tree not a real tree if you can to avoid eye injuries to kittens from sharp pine needles
Lastly bear in mind cats love and rely on routine. The festive break is the time of year when your daily routine couldn’t be more out of tune. This can make life doubly confusing for a tiny kitten as your family as you get caught up in the festivities and impromptu social gatherings. Not to mention the huge feeling of loneliness when you go back to work and the kids to school and they are left on their own all day.
This is 1 of they key reasons we specifically wait until the 2nd week of January before we begin rehoming. By then you are back at work and the kids at school and a set family routine is once again being established. This enables your kitten to work out where they fit in the family and routine in a safe, calm atmosphere.
We hope everyone has a very happy, safe Xmas and considers these points before adding to their family this Christmas.
From All at Sunny Harbour Cat Rescue