Preparing for the Forever Home

author  R.H. Schmidt            NewWalden RagaMuffins

I was asked recently, “Tell me, how do you prepare a RagaMuffin for their ‘Forever Home’.” So, it got me to thinking about my procedure. I have raised cats all my life, and I have worked with them for so long, that I don’t give it another thought. It is automatic like driving a car. However, in thinking it over, I decided to dissect my method and procedure and share it with others.
I start my procedure I suppose by talking constantly to my queen and her unborn kittens before they are born. I tell her what pretty babies she has and how It puts my queen in a loving mood and whether the unborn kittens can or cannot hear me, they will receive her good feelings as she contently purrs and communicates with me.
My next move of course is to do all the things one should do when newborns finally show up that is doing all the daily weights, checking to for general health, etc., but that is not the purpose here and can be researched as a different subject altogether. One other item I use is I always transfer a heating pad on low in what corner of their area until they are at least 3 weeks of age.
I start my training of the RagaMuffin kittens when they are just one day old, I start talking to them in a soft voice and simultaneously lightly stroking their heads with sanitary hands when I weigh them each morning Then, as soon as they open their eyes they are moved out of the darkness and quiet and into a cage that has two levels during the day. I prefer a two-level breeding cage, because mother can get away from the kittens on a different level, yet still be present. It gives her some freedom too. The kittens are safe with the upper-level door only open, and mother can come and go as she pleases yet kittens are safe in the lower level. We live in a large log home with a lot of glass and skylights, so the cage is situated right in the middle of the great room where they get introduced into normal daily noises. They are introduced to people, other pets, sounds and smells, TV, radio, music, etc., I even run the vacuum when they are present, so they get used to the sound.
At three weeks of age, they start to lift their little faces and follow my voice. I pick them up and talk softly to them for about a minute. Some even purr at this stage. The second event is that they get their first taste of solid food, and I use Fancy Feast wet chicken for RagaMuffin kittens every morning for the first. I mix it with distilled water into a little gruel put it on a large round plate and I will slightly warm it. I give it to them with mother there, then I put a little in their mouth for taste and put them back down to the plate. Mother helps to train them by example to the plate. A third event, at this time is to place a small box with crystal litter in their midst The little boxes that come for the 3 oz. cans of Fancy Feast are excellent for these tiny tots. Never use clumping litter when they are this young. They can ingest it and die from it hardening in their esophagus and stomachs. Just like human babies they have to test everything with their mouth. The crystals will dissolve if tasted. Pick them up and put them in the little box of litter as soon as they finished eating They are also introduced to distilled water for drinking at this time. They will eventually discover it and play in it as well. So, be prepared; I suggest you use a hard surface under the play pen rather than carpet.
This is also the time period that I usually get their first photos shots and then follow their growth with additional photos, and in case I have potential adopters, I will send them pics and post some on our website and with other organizations. It is good networking.
At four weeks of age, I transfer them to their third daytime routine. It is a large circular or rectangular play pen. Place them in it with bedding for them and their mother. Dry kitten kibble, water and play toys, especially little play mice with tails. Kittens love these, and they very quickly will bring them to you to play fetch with them as they get older. This is also the time period to play with the bird wand with them and as they grow older let the older cats play with them as well. The socialization is very good for them. You can start judging who will need a little more socialization, because they will tend to hang back. It is a good measurement.
The kittens will stay in this playpen during the day until they can climb out of it. It will not take long. They should be individually brought out and played with during the day, and loved of course,so the human bond can start taking place. Soon they will be heading out on their own investigations and eventually little paws will find your bed, and nestle up to you.
At 8, 12 and 16 weeks I give them their kitten vaccinations of modified live virus not dead virus. I do not start these injections until they are 8 weeks of age, because I want to make sure the vacs., do not interfere with their mother’s natural colostrum immunity being given them through her milk. Also, I follow the “2013 AAFP Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel Report ” as a guideline, on what I give them. I also administer my shots in the back left leg, so as not to be in danger of cancer later in the inoculation area. The loss of a back leg in case cancer does occur later in his/her life is better than cancer showing up in the nape of the neck inoculation and loss of life.
Now, after the initial 6 weeks, kittens hold their balance sufficiently, so running, jumping and playing are the primary behaviors and catnaps by all means. This is the best time to start playing with them, they love little balls, and toy mice. Teach them to play fetch by getting their full attention and pitching the mouse or ball across the room. At first, they will all run for it, and will not return it to you, because they will be much too busy batting it around and tusseling with each other over it, but the day will come when they will bring it back to you and want to play. This is the best time to play with them using the bird wand. Some of your kittens might be shy and will hang back; entice them into the fray. Before this subject is exhausted, I want to say if either you or an adopter is planning showing the kitten, you may want to get out the kitty treat, and go to work, training the kitten to prepare for showing. Watch the judges at a cat show and mimic their procedure, remember to reinforce good behavior each time with a treat. One good example is to use a cat post and teach your cat to scratch and stretch on it. Place your treat on the very top of the pole and watch how fast the cat will climb up. One of my grand champions managed to go all the way to the top, and delightedly surprised the judge.
Photos of the RagaMuffin kittens, I take constantly with my phone, and text or email it to my deposited adopters. I also make a 5 min videos periodically and email it also. I would like to be able to send these pics, and videos to all adopters on the same email. Unfortunately, I try to respect their privacy and do one adopter’s post at a time. And before my adopter’s and their kitten walk away, I get a photo of adopter(s) and that special little teddy bear of a cat to put in my album.
Now, I would like to cover putting a notebook together for your adopters and keeping a copy of the info yourself as will. As I do so, I will point out some more procedures as I move forward. The first thing I do is keep a log on the adopters that contact me and are really interested. That log is headed by the Sire and Dam names, whether this is the first or a later breeding of this couple, and the birthdate of the kittens. I take down the potential adopters’ location, names, email address, and what their lifestyle is, family, and other pet situations. I also ask why they are interested in a Ragamuffin and would they like male, female, color preference and other characteristics. If they are still interested by this point then I send them a blank New Walden contract so they can peruse info and criteria therein, and stimulate we must both follow those guidelines. I also state there are no strings attached, but I will expect a non-refundable deposit on a kitten they are really interested in holding, and the remainder of the fee at pickup or delivery.
I make it clear in my contract that they are responsible for pickup, either by themselves or with Nanny couriers, like the professional ‘Pet Jet Pals.’ I will not ship by cargo, ever. It is too dangerous for the kitten. If it is a distance. I will recommend that they can fly into the Indianapolis International airport, on a round trip ticket and meet me to pick up the kitten at a designated area there. Some adopters just want to drive here, and take their time. A couple not long ago picked-up two of my kits for Orlando Florida. I will sometimes meet adopters half way it will depend on the circumstances at the time.
So, what do I put in the notebook? First thing of course is 2 copies of the signed and dated contract, their reg., litter numbers and sheets for ACFA and CFAs, I place a copy of both parent’s Ragdoll HCM negative test from UC Davis Genetics Lab in CA. I insert scientific information on Core and non-core vaccines. I also insert the vaccinations records (kitten requirements), and it is explained in the contract what will be needed before I actually email the ACFA and CFA litter registrations for them to obtain their full cat registration.
I include in the folder a copy of the vet’s invoice that I paid for additional wellness care and spaying or neutering of the kitten. That I make clear in my contract. That way I can make sure no adopter of mine will become a backyard breeder. Additional papers include info on worming schedules. I do my every 3 months after six weeks of age with ‘Panacur’ according to the weight of the kitten. I tell the adopter’s that I do not trust commercial pet foods completely, and being that those pets are felines that occasionally like to catch mice, and insects, etc., then I am sure they will not contract any parasites. I put an inclusive sheet on all vaccinations, their dates for FDRC and rabies injections, and worming schedule that should help the adopter, and I include any invoices needed. This notebook
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will go with my kitten at 16 weeks of age when he/she goes to their Forever Home. I also should mention that when I discuss the adopter’s getting the kitten’s first rabies shot from their vet, they may also want to have the kitten ID chipped with their information during that visit.
Some minor things I include in the info is the differences in Ragamuffin coats, how often I clip nails, etc., I will also include a complete “RagaMuffin Kitten Care Guide” if they want it, or if they have little experience with cats. I will send out the care guide out as I send the contract. It will cover introduction to new people and other animals. It covers litter boxes, food, grooming tools to use, and what to and not to give to kittens all the way down to keeping sanitary conditions and kept that way with Clorox bleach, and then there is a happy healthy kitten for years to come.
As I close, I want to stress, that introducing your kitten to various situations, and people are all helpful. It has been difficult during the Covid 19 quarantine time to do that. However, patience, love, and perseverance is all it takes with any of us species here on Mother Earth. I am always sad to see them go. The thing, I love to hear from an adopter the most is, “I cannot believe how loving this kitten is.” That kind of a statement makes my day and I feel contented that I have added a little love to a fractured world.