When you bring home a new kitten, remember that his life so far has been spent with his mother and littermates. Adjusting to a new house – new smells, new people and, possibly, new siblings in the form of other pets – is going to take some doing.
On the other hand, if you bring home an adult, the suitcase he brings along with him may include emotional baggage – fear, nervousness – from an earlier relationship.
In either case, your assignment will be the same: to nurture your new pet with a low-key comfort zone. Whatever you do, don't overwhelm him with a welcoming party of noise and visitors.
Plan on spending the entire first day at home with your pet, acquainting him with his new digs. Make sure he knows where the litter box is located, and that he can get in and out of it. The litter box should not be placed in high-trafficked or noisy areas – otherwise your kitten may decide to do his business in a more "private" location.
If you have children, the ground rules for bringing a new pet home should already have been established. Youngsters must be instructed beforehand not to approach the animal while running or screaming. Instead, let the kitten take the initiative: Allow the kitten to go to your children on his own terms, once he has begun to settle in and get comfortable. This can take anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours.
Don't force other household pets on the newcomer, either. Allow them to gradually introduce themselves to one another through a safely blockaded or gated doorway. Each should be under the firm control of a family member on each side. Dogs should be leashed.
After a few minutes of introductions, allow your pet to explore his new surroundings. If he's an indoor/outdoor cat, orient him to the door that will lead him to the yard where he can do his business. Then take him outside and see if he will relieve himself.
Throughout the day, watch your new pet carefully. But, no matter how vigilant you are, remember that accidents are to be expected: Excitement, a new environment and newfound friends can prove stressful for your cat in his first few days, so be prepared with paper towels, old bathroom towels and newspapers. Your kitten will quickly learn to do his business in the litter box, but it is up to you to keep the litter fresh. Scoop the litter box once a day, and change the litter once a week.
As the first day fades to night, you may discover that your kitten has a love for the hunt, which may include your legs. Kittens can be wild, but they often settle down. You have a decision to make, however. If you let your kitten sleep with you, expect a visitor every night. If you prefer to sleep alone, prepare a comfortable bed for your new companion and shut the bedroom door.