It’s a dilemma. You want to give your new kitten the best start in life, but so much of how she feels about people and the world in general is going to be imprinted on her brain between the ages of two and seven weeks, before she ever reaches your home. That’s because those critical weeks are considered a cat’s sensitive period of learning, when she picks up information about her world like a sponge. After that, her window of opportunity for learning begins to close. It never closes completely; but making new adjustments goes more slowly and doesn’t come as effortlessly.
Still, there’s much you can do to insure that your cat feels comfortable in her new home — and feels comfortable with you as her caretaker.
Put the carrier in which you brought your pet home in a safe area — away from a lot of foot traffic — and leave the door open so your kitten can come and go as she pleases. Consider spraying the towel- or blanket-lined carrier with pheromone spray (a reliable one is Feliway) to help increase feelings of calmness. A soft toy and a few treats will also help her feel more secure.
Introduce your cat to the scratching post, perhaps dangling a toy over it so that she becomes playful and surprises herself by dragging her claws along the post and seeing how good it feels.
Keep inquisitive dogs away — at least at first. A wet nose and a playful bounce from a “giant” dog can prove overwhelming. Perhaps put a baby gate between the two pets so they can see and smell each other before having a physical meet-and-greet. Also, once the cat and dog are allowed near each other, make sure there are high places the cat can jump to in order to avoid unwanted interactions with your canine pet.
Make sure any older cats are okay with the new situation. Many will welcome a kitten, displaying tolerance and even parental behavior. Others may be wary and at some point may even hiss or swat. After the two tussle over space and status, they’ll work it out, but you may have to intervene by protecting the new arrival from her housemate for a bit.
Steer your young children, who may want to show affection by hugging (out of the question!), to endearments that will be more welcome, such as offering toys and treats and taking care of feedings. Those gestures will help a kitten recognize your child as a friend and caretaker rather than an overbearing element in her life.