Preparing For Your Kitten
Now that you know you want a ragdoll kitten, and are prepared to contact a breeder, it’s a good idea to print this article off, and read it carefully. Keep it handy for references.
You and your vet
Before you take your new kitten home, do you have a vet? If not, ask around for referrals from your friends and relatives. Make an appointment with the vet you choose (be prepared to pay for his time), and talk to him about the care of cats and kittens. Ask him what he recommends for food and vaccines etc. Your breeder will have certain ideas of how he/she wants the kitten brought up, so make sure the breeder and the vet have the same ideas about things. Vets are very good in diagnosing illness and treatments, but sometimes breeders know more about raising kittens, especially the breed they work with daily. Ask him/her what he/she does to keep up to date with new discoveries in feline medicine. Ask him/her to give you a tour of the entire hospital. Look for overall cleanliness of the floors, counters, cages, and exam tables. If you have any doubt, don’t use this vet. If you are in the same city as your breeder, do use the vet the breeder does. Most times, a breeder will have a good working relationship with their vet, and that vet will know something about the breed.
What to have before you bring kitty home
Your breeder will have some instructions for your kitten, as far as litter to use and food to feed. Please stick with what the breeder is using. Changing food can upset kitty’s tummy and cause loose stools. You don’t want the kitten to be confused about the litter box, so use the same litter in his/her new home.
Buy a large size box, your ragdoll won’t stay small for long.
Glass, stainless steel, or ceramic bowls are the best. Plastic is not easy to clean, and may cause chin acne.
Medium size cat carrier
It is very important that you never take your cat/kitten out of the house, except in the carrier. A scared cat can get away from anyone. The cat may be perfectly calm as you leave the house, but if a car should backfire, or a dog barks close by, it could startle the cat and the cat will panic. Also, leave the cat in the carrier while driving in the car. A roaming cat can get under the pedals of the driver, and cause an accident. If you should be in an accident with your cat in the car, the cat will be safer in the carrier. Remember to use the carrier for bringing him/her to the Vets office. Please do not let other people in the waiting room touch your kitten. They are probably there with a sick animal. You don't want them to pass the germs on to your kitten. Put the carrier in the room with the kitten, and leave the door open so the kitten can go in and out. If he/she sees the carrier all the time, and is familiar with it, it won’t be such a hassle getting him/her in it to go to the vets office, or other places.
Toys and Playtime
Playtime for a kitten is not only fun, but also necessary for them. Ragdoll are very smart cats. He/she will need things to keep him occupied when you are not there. While you are there, he will probably be happy following you around, and "helping" you with your work. However, if a kitten gets bored, they can find fun in the wrong places. Cats are usually the most active first thing in the morning, and again in the late evening. The favorite toys seem to be small, lightweight toys they can carry in their mouths. Ragdolls learn to fetch easily. Take a small toy or ball, and sit down on the floor with them. Shoot the ball about 3 feet away from you and when he runs to it, encourage him to bring it back. If he doesn't, reach over and bring it back in front of you. Place it on the floor and shoot it 3 feet away again. Soon he should get the idea. Another favorite toy is DA BIRD. This is a stick with a string on the end. Attached to the end of the string are three or so feathers on fishing lure. When you wave it around, it spins, and sounds like a bird flying. Please put this toy out of the reach of the kitten/cat when you are not there to supervise play. Toys on strings can get wrapped around the kitten/cat neck, and they can choke to death.
Bringing kitty home
For the first day or two, confine your new kitten in one room of the house with his/her food and water bowls, as well as a litterbox. Make sure the litterbox is as far away from the food dish as possible. This room should be where you want the kitten to feel most comfortable in, preferably where you would always keep the litterbox. The kitten should feel safe and secure, with lots of attention and re-assurance that he/she is loved. Please do not invite the neighborhood in to see him the first day. It is a big change for the kitten to leave his brothers, sisters, and Mom. He may be a little cautious at first. Talk to him im quietly, and encourage him to explore his surroundings. Put him in the litterbox every 15 minutes or so and let him walk out of it himself. That way he will learn where it is in relation to the room. After this initial period, let you kitten explore the rest of the house, but close doors to spare rooms, and bathrooms. You do not want to overwhelm your kitten with too big a space to explore. Eventually, as and when he/she gains more confidence, you can introduce other rooms for inspection.
Introducing kitty to your other pets
If you have other pets, such as cats and dogs, you can expect some fireworks at first. It is usually not the kitten doing the hissing or growling, but the resident animals. Naturally they are hesitant towards a "newcomer" in their home. After your new kitten has been in its room for a while, take him/her out, and let the other animals in. They can then sniff and get familiar with the smell of the newcomer, without the threat of actually seeing it. This will help somewhat when you are ready to introduce the kitty to them. The time the kitten spends in his/her room, will also help him to pick up the smells of your house, and not be so alien smelling to the other animals. When you are ready to bring the animals together, make sure you are with them. Most adult cats that are not around kittens all the time are actually afraid of the kitten, so most won’t attack the kitten as long as the kitten doesn’t get too close. With dogs, you will have to be careful, especially with the bigger ones, so they don’t overwhelm the new kitten with their sniffing and large friendly tongues.
Feeding the kitten
Most breeders will tell you to leave a bowl of dry food and a bowl of water out all the time. Then, two or three times a day, put out a dish (flat plate or saucer) of canned food if the breeder recommends it. Start with just a few tablespoons at first and increase it if the kitten seems to want more. Do not leave it out for more than a few hours. Kittens will eat more one day than another, so don't worry if he turns his nose up at it sometimes. They seem to eat more just before they go through a growth spurt. It is important that you keep your kitten on a premium cat food. His/her health, coat, and activity level will be much better on a good food. The premium foods cost a bit more, but the kitten actually eats less of it, because it is more nutritious. They also have smaller stools, (and less smelly) because the food is being used, and not just going in one end and out the other. Do not change his food suddenly, or he/she will get diarrhea. If you have to change his/her food for some medical reason, do it gradually, adding a little of the new food at a time. Be sure to clean and refill the water dish at least daily. If you don't wipe it out, it will get slimy on the bottom. It is best to keep the dishes close to the kitchen sink. That way you will see it often, and can refill it as needed. Do not give your cat or kitten milk. It will cause stomach upset and diarrhea in cats. Cats should drink water once they are weaned.
If you want to take you kitten to bed with you at night, you may need another litterbox for in your bedroom, if it is too far away from the regular litterbox (especially if the bedrooms are on the second floor). Kittens are like little children, and they may hold it as long as they can, and then have to run for the box. You don’t want any mistakes because the kitten was frightened to go downstairs alone. It is best to keep it on the main floor of the house instead of down the basement. A half bath or laundry room off the kitchen is best, or even a back hall or den. If the litterbox is down the basement, it is too easy to forget to scoop it out daily, and change it at least once a week. If it is handy, you can go in and scoop it whenever you see the cat using it. Also, by the time the smell of the box gets up to you from the basement, it is pretty much throughout the house. If it is close by, you can smell it when it first happens, and scoop before the smell spreads. It is very important to keep the litter clean. Scoop the solids at least once a day, and change the box at least once a week. Many people choose to leave less litter in the box, and change it more often. Cats are very clean animals, and the most common reason for litter box mistakes is that the litter box is dirty.
Kitten proofing your home
Take the time to go over your house much like if you were going to bring a toddler into your home. Look for pins and needles, very small; sharp objects, and most importantly, string and rubber bands. Any kind of string is very dangerous to cats. Cats have little barbs on their tongues, which point backwards, and help push everything down their throats. If they start to swallow string, they can't spit it out again. If they swallow enough of it, it can get tangled up in the cat’s intestines, and the cat may have to have surgery to remove it.
Houseplants are another thing to watch out for. Most plants are poisonous, or at least an irritant to cats. Please move them to a room the kitten can't get into, or hang them, being careful to watch for fallen leaves.
How to tell if your cat is sick
When kittens are new to a house, they very often will sneeze quite a bit. They were raised in one environment and only exposed to the allergens in the breeder’s home. Kittens may sometimes play very hard one day, and sleep a lot the next. It is the same with food. Some days you will not be able to fill them up, and the next day they won't eat much. This is normal. If your kitten seems very lethargic when he is awake for a while, or won't eat for several meals, or if his nose is running and his eyes puffy or crusty, then something is wrong with the kitten. Take his temperature if you know how, otherwise ask the vet to show you how. Sometimes this is the only clue you have to whether the kitten is sick. At times your kitten may have loose stools. 99% of the time it is something he ate. It could be a food he isn't use to, or it could be part of a plant or a piece of a toy...the tails on the small furry mice you can buy in the pet store are a favorite. I pull them off before I give them the toy. This may also make him throw up a few times. If he does it, watch him for the rest of the day. They can usually get it out of their systems in a few hours. If it continues for 24 hours or more, you should take him in to the Vet. If you have any questions or doubts, don't be afraid to call the breeder before you take him to the vet. Sometimes it is something simple, and I can save you a Vet. Bill.
It is much better and easier on a cat to be left at home when you are on vacation, then to be taken to the Vets, for boarding. It is even better than taking him to grandma's house, or a friend place. Cats don't adjust to new places as easily as dogs do. If you take your cat regularly to grandmas, or your friend’s house, and he is comfortable there, then that is fine. But for the most part, cats are happiest at home. If you don't have someone who can come in and check at least once a day, then ask your Vet if he can recommend someone to you. Or you can look in the yellow pages under Pet Sitter. They are getting easier and easier to find.
Ragdoll Fanciers Club International - www.rfci.org