We hear a lot about the importance of socialising puppies when they are young but did you know that it is just as important to socialise kittens too?!
Kittens, like puppies are most receptive to learning in their first few weeks of life (usually between 2-7 or 8 weeks of age). This means that, as pet owners, we should take advantage of this window of opportunity and ensure that our kitten receives a range of positive experiences with a variety of people, other pets and household stimuli. This will ensure that they grow up to be happy well-adjusted cats.
As cats do not have an innate 'need' to be with people, early handling by different people during this time is essential. Funnily enough, the pleasure for cats of being around people is a learned behaviour. It is very difficult to socialise kittens that have had no human contact after weaning so a well-structured socialisation plan is crucial.
Socialising your new kitten - guidelines
A structured kitten socialisation programme can include the following:
- Providing a variety of floor textures for the kitten to walk on (e.g. carpet, vinly and wooden flooring)
- Familiarisation of scents from different animals. These can be collected on a clean cloth by running it over healthy vaccinated dog, cat or rabbit and offering it to the kitten to smell
- Provide lots of toys in different shapes and sizes for them to sniff at and play with
- Make sure the kitten is exposed to sounds such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners and hair dryers (to name but a few!)
- Offering food in different flavours and feed from different bowls/plates
Studies have demonstrated that, one year on, kittens showed relaxed behaviour when exposed to an unfamiliar person or object if early socialisation programmes were implemented. In comparison, unsociable kittens showed high levels of distress and anxiety when subjected to similar situations.
Early handling and time spent socialising your new kitten is very important and ultimately produces more social, loving kittens... and of course improves the owner-pet bond.
Read more about caring for your new kitten.