Acclimating Kitten in Bedroom
June 4, 2016 5:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm bringing a kitten home next week. I was told he should be separated and placed in a quiet area away from my dog, then slowly introduced. My apartment is VERY SMALL. My bedroom is carpeted and I don't want him peeing there, or on my bed while he's in there with a litter box. He may learn that's where the box will ALWAYS be and it's ok to go there. If I lock him in the bathroom, it has no window and he'll be in tight quarters for AT LEAST a week to acclimate to smells/sounds. However, THAT IS the location I prefer one of his litter boxes to be. Also, how could I teach him he'll have his own bed to sleep on at bedtime and it WON'T be mine.
posted by scarbo to Pets & Animals (39 answers total)
The bathroom is probably fine, especially if that's where the box will go.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:06 PM on June 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

I agree with blnkfrnk that the bathroom will probably be fine. I wouldn't worry about the box if I were you. Cats are really good about finding the litter box once they have become accustomed to using one. If you are getting the kitty from a shelter, it will already know what to do, and moving the box might be a bit disconcerting to it, but it will most likely be just fine.

As for how to teach him to not sleep with you -- no idea. I'm not sure that's possible.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:15 PM on June 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

If he's very small, he may not even be able to get onto your bed (assuming it is on a frame).

When I brought my kitten home, I had her in a carpeted room and had no problems with her peeing on anything. Cats come potty trained out of the box so as long as there's a litter box that's easily accessible for his lil leggies, he should be fine in the bedroom. The only difference between our situations is that I don't have a dog. Is that why you're worried about him peeing?
posted by meemzi at 6:17 PM on June 4, 2016

The bathroom is actually perfect! You can spend a lot of quality time in there with him and he will be fine. A small room is actually better - he will feel more secure than he would in a large room. It also works well to start him out in the room where his litter box will be. I have raised a lot of foster kittens, and as far as I'm concerned, you can't beat a bathroom for kitten quarters.
posted by fussbudget at 6:23 PM on June 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Add some music. Hurts nothing, encourages purring = good thing.
posted by Freedomboy at 6:23 PM on June 4, 2016

I have never known a cat to recognize "its own bed" and go there to sleep. You may be thinking of dogs.
posted by zadcat at 6:24 PM on June 4, 2016 [29 favorites]

Your dog would probably also be less unsettled by being denied access to the bathroom than your bedroom. Less-stressed dog = a better introduction for both of them.
posted by fussbudget at 6:27 PM on June 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Thanks, everyone! My kitty will be 3 months old when I bring him home. He's litter trained, however a new environment may confuse him. Not sure what makes cats and kittens pee and poo where they're not supposed to. Just trying to cut it off at the pass BEFORE it happens. I don't want a litter pan in my bedroom. I'd rather see him climb the shower curtain and balance on the rod - as long as he's using his litter pan in the right place. Is a week long enough to keep the dog and kitty separated before closely monitoring them together?
posted by scarbo at 6:44 PM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

You should consider that the kitten may have some strong opinions about all this. When I brought home my first cat I tried the bathroom and she pretty much tried to tunnel out her first night. Moved her and the box into the bedroom and she curled up next to my pillow and was totally content.
posted by wotsac at 6:44 PM on June 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

What makes cats pee and poo outside of the box is mostly health problems, very dirty box, and other strong stressors immediately associated with the box. There are a few more generalized pee-cats in the world, but it's not very common.

As far as introducing the dog- I'd find a way to do a sort of half introduction where you can observe the kitten, and the kitten has a space to feel very safe in as soon as the kitten starts being comfortable and curious about the world outside the room. I've tended to introduce cats to other cats very quickly, at a mutual mealtime (where everybody's attention is more on food than visitors), and slowly expand from there depending on how it goes. Like people, there are extroverted cats and introverted cats, friendly cats and prickly cats. You get a friendly, extroverted kitten, and a situation where the dog is very chill, and it may not take many introductions. A prickly, introverted cat may still be having trouble a month later.
posted by wotsac at 6:51 PM on June 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

You have a lot of rules pretty much any cat will not follow. Plus you state that your apartment is small and you already have a pet.

I get the feeling you might not have a lot of previous experience with cat ownership? Cats are only interested in using their litter box unless it's an uneutered male that's spraying or there is something severely wrong physically (like an infection) or mentally. Dirty litter box, too. Heh. I forgot about that one.

Are you really sure this is a good idea? You can't train them like dogs, these two pet experiences are vastly different. Giving cats commands doesn't really work. Yelling does not work. What's your plan B if they never get along?

I get the feeling this is a poor idea and all three of you are going to be very unhappy. If you can back out of this adoption, I urge you to do so.
posted by jbenben at 6:58 PM on June 4, 2016 [20 favorites]

Cats want to use their litterbox – again, you may be thinking dogs. You don't have to chivvy them into using it. Being clean in this way is in a cat's nature.

I've always had cats and over the last couple of years have been fostering cats. With the fosters (all adults) I haven't even had to show them the box. They find it and use it and everything's fine. Kittens, you may need to show them the box once.

Keep the box clean (scoop at least once/24 hrs, preferably twice, freshening the litter each time; do a complete reset every week to 10 days) and they're very unlikely to go anywhere else.
posted by zadcat at 7:02 PM on June 4, 2016

Strongly seconding jbenben
posted by lalex at 7:04 PM on June 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Be careful introducing your pets during mealtime, especially if your dog has aggression issues regarding their food like some dogs do. Ditto be aware if your dog develops food aggression after the kitten is introduced.

The kitten will be into EVERYTHING. That's what kittens do. They explore. They'll want to know what the dog is eating, etc..

Introducing cats during mealtime is fine. A kitten and a dog? Be wary.
posted by jbenben at 7:07 PM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

To keep him off your bed, you could try:

Close your bedroom door at bedtime
Every time he jumps up, put him on the floor
Spray water on him when he jumps up (this isn't super nice to do but it's one way to train; it's what we did to teach our cat to stay away from our bird); or clap at him or make a weird noise or a sharp "shhh" sound

I think it'll be hard. Basically, if he wants to be on the bed, it's likely he will be.
posted by ramenopres at 7:11 PM on June 4, 2016

Also, on the subject of meal times, your dog may find the kitten's food more interesting than its own, so I would plan on separate rooms for meals (or feeding the kitten somewhere the dog can't get).

Similarly, dogs often find litter boxes to be a very interesting spot for exploration, so I would look into getting a covered litter box.

Also, how much of a dealbreaker is the bed thing? And how do you feel about him on the couch? Or kitchen counters? Because you can try to train the kitten, but there aren't any guarantees. For a lot of cats, nothing short of physically picking them up and moving them will get them off of something they want to be on. Also, the smaller your apartment, the more likely they are to want to explore the "higher up" surfaces like beds or counters. Even more so with you having a dog, since this will be away to escape from the dog (or taunt the dog).

To help with this, you may want to get one of those cat climbing hangout things. But really, nothing short of physically preventing the cat from being in the room will be guaranteed to work, so if it's really important that you keep the cat off of your bed, I would recommend not adopting a cat.

Oh, and as far as acclimating the cat, I think the bathroom works well. Just make sure you keep the lid closed on the toilet and see how sturdy your shower rod is. Unless it's screwed in, I would be concerned about the cat pulling it down when it (inevitably) starts playing with the shower curtain. I also hope you aren't too attached to your shower curtain. Or to any curtains/window fixtures.

It's also not clear to me whether you plan to keep the kitten in the bathroom the whole time for a week, or if that's just where it will be when you're not there to supervise it. I think it's fine for a day or two to let it stay in there, but after that, I would give it some time to explore other parts of the house for a bit. (You can always keep your dog locked in the other room until you're ready to introduce them.) The bathroom is perfect for at night or any time you can't supervise the kitten when it's getting adjusted.
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:20 PM on June 4, 2016

I just want to chime in as another one who's not sure this is going to be the right situation for you or the cat. You can't really train cats to stay off furniture like you can dogs--especially since cats do need to be able to get up on higher levels--so, as has been asked, how do you feel about him being on other furniture/surfaces in the house? Efforts to prevent this may result in a very stressed-out and unhappy cat. But if you must keep him off your bed, keeping the door closed all the time is really the only answer.
posted by tiger tiger at 7:31 PM on June 4, 2016

You need to do a prolonged introduction process. Cat in bathroom with dog having free reign of house -> dog cloistered in bedroom while cat explores living room then return cat to bathroom and let dog investigate the new smells -> dog cloistered in living room while cat investigates bedroom etc -> put up a divider of sorts and supervised introduction at bathroom/living room barrier then separate them again -> slowly increase the duration of contact and level of interaction over however long it takes. Don't be shy about separating them again at night/when you can't supervise, either by keeping the dog in the bedroom (so cat has living room and bathroom) or by keeping the cat in the bathroom (less ideal but hey if you gotta).

I'd get a baby gate and put it up in the bathroom doorway so that 1) dog can't go eat cat poop, 2) cat is not scared of the dog lying in wait while it uses the litter, and 3) cat has a safe space to run to if it needs it. I'd do this indefinitely if the dog is pushy (my dog really likes to lick my cats and loves them with all her heart but they do not appreciate this so I still have a baby gate up after a year).

Cats are very "climb all the things" oriented and really like to be up high so you will probably need to revise your expectations for the cat staying off of anything. They also very much do what they want and while you can train them to some degree it's best to go in with a "it would be nice if but it is not mandatory" attitude otherwise you're likely to end up frustrated and tired very quickly. Your best bet for him not sleeping in your bed is to not give him access to your bed at night. You might end up with a cat who doesn't want to sleep on your bed but it's not trainable and again, these little jerks go where they want, it's kind of the appeal of cats.

Edit: I would put the litter box in its permanent spot right away and then not move it so everything above assumes the bathroom as its permanent home.
posted by buteo at 7:48 PM on June 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that kittens are rocket-powered--as in, they go flying by at eye-level when you are sitting down. They race around like little maniacs, jump on everything (it is amazing how high they can jump; you'd be able to jump to the roof of a house if you could jump like they can), worry everything they can get their little sharp teeth into, and are generally tireless. If your dog is a chaser of small animals when out, be very careful with the kitten's introduction & be sure you supervise all interactions for more than the first weeks. The kitten is going to look like an action toy to the dog. In kitten vs dog, the dog will likely win.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 8:03 PM on June 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

A bathroom is a very boring environment for a curious kitten. Your plan to keep the kitten cooped up in a tiny windowless room for at least a week sounds cruel to me.
posted by carmicha at 8:04 PM on June 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

Yes. This is a bad idea. Don't bring a cat into this environment. It sounds sad and unpleasant. The cat deserves better.
posted by nanook at 8:32 PM on June 4, 2016 [10 favorites]

your dog may find the kitten's food more interesting than its own

From things I've heard from people with both species, it's worse than that. Your dog may find the kitten's poo an interesting snack.
posted by zadcat at 8:37 PM on June 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

A week sounds like a ridiculously long time to get the cat and dog used to each other. I'd just make sure I was able to be home all day the first day you bring the kitten home and introduce them right away. I would not leave them alone together for about a week or for more than about 20 mins at a time once you do start letting them stay alone together. But most likely everything will be fine as long as you are a good dog owner who regularly (every day no mater what) walks or runs with your dog. A happy, well adjusted dog will gently show the kitten the ropes and help you teach the kitten the rules of the house. Not that the kitten will follow all the rules of course, but she'll know what they are. Don't expect that your pets are capable of "entertaining each other," and therefore you don't have to excercise the dog or play with the cat any more. Your pets need you to do right by them EVERY SINGLE DAY. Bored, frustrated animals get into lots of trouble!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:19 PM on June 4, 2016

I, too, have to question whether this is a good idea. You seem to have very unrealistic expectations about how much sway you'll have over this kitten's behavior, and an extremely limited idea of how to introduce a kitten to a new environment, let alone one with a dog already in it. The worst case scenario here is not that you return the kitten unharmed to wherever it came from--the worst case scenario is that you turn your back for a second and the kitten is dead. Dogs, even otherwise sweet and docile dogs, kill kittens all the time.

Please don't bring this kitten into your home until you have a detailed introduction plan developed with the help of people who are familiar with cat behavior.
posted by jesourie at 9:19 PM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am confused by all the allegations that you are a cruel bastard for putting the kitten in the bathroom. I have always been told-- by fostering organizations-- to keep a kitten in a small room in the house/apartment for about a week, then slowly easy them into the size of the rest of the apartment. A roommate once disagreed and refused to follow the instructions, and the kitten went missing for three days while I waited, terrified, wondering if she had somehow jumped out a window or something. (She showed up, inside the apartment, unharmed, but it was not a good time.)

I would be concerned about the dog + kitten combo, but it's not like it's unheard of. Just exercise precaution and best practices for socializing the animals. Best way to get the kitten not to sleep on your bed = shut your bedroom door.

Not everyone has to be a supposed expert on cat behaviors to be a good cat parent; just do your best and protect the cat while the dog is getting to know him/her. God knows there are plenty of cats who don't have homes and will be put down or end up on the street anyway.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:32 PM on June 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

I think the bathroom for a week will be fine. You just need to kitten proof it and assume he'll climb on everything so remove breakable from shelves and counters, hide anything toxic or cords her could play with / chew on. He'll probably be hyper / noisy exploring for at least the first night or two. Equip the space with a proper kitten toys and a bed. I'm seconding all the things mentioned about not having the cat in your bed. Aside from simply denying access to your bedroom entirely it may be very hard to train the kitten about that. Beds are warm and comfy and that's where the people hang out so it's extra inviting to them.

The prolonged intro process mentioned above sound like what I've read about introducing new animals to one another.
posted by oneear at 10:22 PM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have no advice about the slow introduction because I've never had to do that with a cat, but a week in the bathroom doesn't sound terrible to me, as long as you go and spend time with the kitten and play with it there.

The bed thing is a total lost cause though. Cats think they deserve the softest, most comfortable spot in the house, and unfortunately that's your bed. The only thing I can think of is to keep the kitten out of the room completely, but most cats hate that and will cry and cry outside your door. Living with a cat just means that you'll have to accept having their buttholes in your face and their dirty adorable little toebeans all over your furniture/counters/bed/stuff/everything you will ever own ever.
posted by sprezzy at 12:22 AM on June 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also, how could I teach him he'll have his own bed to sleep on at bedtime and it WON'T be mine.

Keeping cats out of bedrooms at night is like the Fermat's Last Theorem of cat ownership. Well, that's not totally accurate... Fermat's Last Theorem was eventually solved after hundreds of years.

Cats are not like dogs. They're more like water. You can physically keep them away from where they want to go with impermeable barriers and constant vigilance, but the second you stop paying attention or remove the barriers, they will pour into the spaces you were trying to keep them out of. You'll feel the rage of losing an epic battle against insurmountable odds and they will not even notice. Just curl up next to you (if it's cold).

They're pretty much the greatest.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 1:42 AM on June 5, 2016 [13 favorites]

The bathroom will be fine for the cat, especially assuming you provide some toys. But the week's separation may or may not work out for you. I tried that the last time I brought a new cat home, and both old and new cats all decided after about two days that they needed to meet each other and were going to fling themselves bodily against the door from both directions until I facilitated that. Cats know their own minds and are not going to be persuaded by what you might have planned for them.

Similarly, you will not be able to teach him not to get on your bed. If you don't want him on the bed, you can't let him into that room, period. If you really want to try to have the bedroom open but not have the cat sleep on the bed, your best bet is probably to make something else in the room more attractive to sleep on. Which might mean a tall cat tree with a comfortable sleeping place up high, a couple of different kinds of cat beds scattered around the room until you find out which your cat likes best, or something along those lines. But even so, I pretty much guarantee that at some point you're going to wind up waking up with a cat tucked under your chin. (Which is the greatest thing and I highly recommend it, but if it's not for you, learn to love the closed bedroom door.)
posted by Stacey at 3:38 AM on June 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hi, I have a doctorate in Crazy Cat Lady. I agree that a kitten/cat may not be a good pet for you. Cats do what they damn well please, and that's all there is to it. (Fortunately, it pleases them to use a litter box.) They don't care what you think. About anything. I really do think your expectations are unrealistic. Remember: dogs have owners; cats have staff.

And locking a young, scared, extremely energetic and curious kitten in a bathroom for a week is cruel. It's solitary confinement. A bedroom is much kinder.

Please don't do this. The fact that you seem determined that the cat will bend to your will is troubling. Cats don't do well in that kind of environment.
posted by MexicanYenta at 3:46 AM on June 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am writing this having forgotten to close my bedroom door last night, with a kitten on my feet, who woke me by poking my toes just in case they were edible. Our two kittens (cats, now, really) are quite different in personality. One will immediately hop on the bed whenever given access, and the other will immediately hop into whatever box/basket/bin is available. They've been like this since we inherited them, and I can't imagine being able to change this quirk.

I agree with those who said keeping the kitty away from the dog during a week of gradual introductions is the plan I've always heard recommended for fosters and adoptions. But I also agree that pets have minds of their own and may not follow this advice.

I'm less worried about the kitten here, and more concerned with your dog-- I would not introduce a dog with a strong prey drive to a kitten roommate in your living environment. What breed of dog is it? What temperament? What age? We introduced the kittens to a sweet, elderly, mostly-napping grandma dog last summer, and it still took 2-3 months before I stopped being wary when they were around each other. Maybe twice that. (When I was a kid, we had a fiesty kitten swat our beloved dog in the eye-- it only takes one popped dog eyeball to be wary of this for life. Fortunately, the dog and eye healed fine, but GAH. Don't let this happen to your dog.)
posted by instamatic at 6:14 AM on June 5, 2016

A bathroom is a totally fine place to put a kitten while acclimating it to the dog. I've fostered lots of kittens and that's where they'd always stay. Every expert I talked to said it made cats feel more secure to have a tiny domain they could explore thoroughly first before they were introduced to a huge wide open house where their little predator brains weren't sure what could be lurking behind every unexplored corner. My only piece of advice is make sure the kitten has plenty of warm stuff to snuggle up with. My bathroom got pretty cold when the AC was on and the door was closed all the time.

I will second the folks that say you can't keep a cat off your bed (or any other furniture) without keeping it out of the room completely, though.
posted by MsMolly at 9:47 AM on June 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

And locking a young, scared, extremely energetic and curious kitten in a bathroom for a week is cruel. It's solitary confinement. A bedroom is much kinder.

This is based on an imaginary sense that a kitten really knows the difference between a bedroom and a bathroom. It's fine, just spend some time with the kitten while it's in the bathroom and slowly introduce it to the rest of the house.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:39 PM on June 5, 2016

If you must close the kitten in the bathroom at least put down something soft in a corner, a folded blanket or even a small dog bed from a pet store, where s/he can rest. But I tend to agree with some of the others here: with a tiny apartment do you really want two pets with differing and possibly conflicting needs?
posted by zadcat at 2:58 PM on June 5, 2016

Eh, I think the hivemind is catastrophizing a wee bit. If you've never had a cat before, there may be a learning curve. If kitty does something you don't like, just remember that it's still a baby with a lot of learning to do too. The Humane Society has some good tips on positive reinforcement for cats.

A bathroom will be fine. I know I have a hard time, mentally, putting my foster kitten in her condo at night (can't keep her in the bathroom because that's where the big cat's box is), then I remember the size of the cages cats do fine at in at the shelter/vet/boarding office/what have you. It's not forever, give her plenty of toys and snuggly things and go in and play with her (how could you resist? KITTEN!).

Has your dog ever met cats before? Make sure you have someone with you when you introduce them, one to monitor the kitten and one to hold the (leashed) dog. You'll be able to tell pretty quickly if your dog is cat aggressive. If they don't get along, bring kitty back. ALL places that adopt kittens will understand this. Also, they could get along great!

We keep the cats off the bed by shutting the bedroom door. Yes, in our tiny apartment. It is the only way. I make it up to them by finding room for their giant cost-more-than-the-couch cat tower by the window. If kitty has her own bed, make it attractive to her by putting it in a great place, maybe window-height somewhere, maybe with one of these
posted by theweasel at 5:52 PM on June 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Nthing those saying you can't keep a cat off your bed. If you do decide to shut the bedroom door at night (and on further thought, even if you don't), for the love of all that is holy do not feed kitty right off when you wake up. You will not appreciate the early-a.m. meowy, door-scratching behavior that you will have created.

I've moved litter boxes without trouble, but I don't see a problem with the bathroom if it's an enriched and comfortable environment and he gets lots of visits.

Cats are trainable to a degree, and you can prevent destructive behaviors such as inappropriate scratching and elimination pretty easily with some attention and diligence, but as others said, you're never going to get the kind of obedience you would get from a dog. I feel like it's really important to understand that you will have limited control over his actions. If you're not up for this, a cat might not be the best companion for you.
posted by moira at 6:30 PM on June 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, you mention that the bathroom doesn't have a window. You will need to provide light for the kitty.
posted by moira at 6:32 PM on June 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have had some limited success keeping my cat off the bed by providing him with an alternate bed that he adores: a soft bed atop small cat tree about the height of a bedside table. The cat tree is in the window, so he can bask in the sun, and it's right next to my bed, so the cat can see me and even touch me with a paw. My cat LOVES this bed. He spends his day napping there in the sun, and if he goes to bed at night before I do, he's usually asleep on his cat tree.

But it's still about a 50/50 split whether I'll wake up in the morning to the cat still in his tree or the cat asleep in bed next to me, having moved in the night. A cat who loves you will sleep on your bed (or on YOU) sometimes because it smells like you and they find that comforting. If you don't want them on the bed at all, the easiest way is to keep them out of the bedroom at night from the beginning.
posted by nicebookrack at 2:23 PM on June 7, 2016

My second cat was totally fine with being in a small windowless bathroom while I acclimated him to my slightly older cat. Though they were very curious about each other so I would do playdates, then return the kitten to the bathroom. I meant to have him in there about a week but they were fine after 3 days :)

I also intended to keep the cats off the bed but that basically only lasted about 3 weeks. My first cat would cry so much in the morning and scrabble underneath the door when he heard me moving around after I woke up that eventually I just gave in. I don't tolerate that either of my cats wake me up for food in the morning though, I know that's an issue for some people. The only way you'll keep him from sleeping in your bed if he wants to is by closing your bedroom door at night.
posted by raw sugar at 7:57 PM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

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