Socialising a kitten: how is it done?

It is important to socialise a kitten to make sure it grows up to be a confident and happy cat. Proper socialisation will help your kitten get used to other animals, people and sounds at a young age. This will prevent anxious or aggressive behaviour. Socialising a kitten is very important! Here’s how to socialise your kitten.

Why is socialisation necessary?

Socialisation is necessary to get a tame, confident cat. A non-socialised cat is often shy and scared of people and other animals. Socialisation is especially important if you want a cat to get used to life as an indoor cat, or if you’re looking for a lap cat. Of course, the amount of affection a cat will accept also depends on the character on the individual animal.

What is the starting age for socialising a kitten?

Socialisation of a kitten begins right after birth. Where a kitten is born and where it spends its very first days and weeks, largely determines its behaviour later in life. If a kitten is born in a living room, for example, it is exposed to people and unfamiliar sounds almost immediately. The mother is usually properly socialised in these cases as well. Kittens see and naturally copy their mother’s behaviour. Kittens born outside or in a barn on a farm, are often a lot less tame and more impatient. It will take the owner more time and patience to socialise the animals. The earliest age for kittens to begin the socialisation process lies between 3 and 16 weeks.

Good example

The mother is responsible for an important part of the socialisation process. She teaches her little ones what the boundaries of their behaviour are, what things warrant fear and what things do not. She also watches over them to make sure they don’t hurt each other during play. If your kitten has been biting too much during play, odds are it left the nest too early. This is why it is important that a kitten is never forced to leave its nest until the age of 8 weeks.  Living with its brothers and sisters will teach a kitten how to deal with other cats.

Socialising a kitten

Is your kitten insufficiently socialised or have circumstances (an anxious mother or being an orphan) rendered it unable to learn enough or anything at all from its mother? You will have to muster a lot of patience and love to socialise it yourself. Socialising your kitten begins by gradually getting it habituated to different new stimuli. For example, start calling your kitten regularly, give it kibble in your lap and try to pet or brush it a bit longer every day. When sharing a home with more cats or other animals, do not place them all in the same environment at once. Instead, allow them to get used to each other gradually and in stages. Also make sure the weakest one, usually the kitten, always has an escape route to a safe place. Once two animals are starting to get used to each other’s presence, you can proceed to the next step. Allow your cat to get to know your housemates, children and/or partner. Also, take your kitten for a car ride in a basket before it turns 16 weeks. This will reduce the amount of stress it will experience when having to go through this later in life. Your trips to the vet will be a lot more pleasant! Both for you and your cat.

Stay calm and avoid stress

The most important things when socialising your kitten are composure and regularity. By remaining calm, for example when your kitten hears a new sound, you demonstrate that there is no reason to be frightened. Do you spot an anxious or aggressive response to a new experience? Leave your kitten alone for a bit in a trusted spot, for example in its basket. And do not forget to play with it! This will help your kitten figure out that humans are fun and it will help you forge a bond with your pet. Is your kitten playing nice, without using its nails and teeth? Reward it with a good meal or some kibble!

Rewarding a kitten works better than punishment

Always try to approach your cat or kitten in a positive way. Punishment will only evoke a negative response which will drive a wedge between you and your cat. Which is the opposite of what you want! A much better alternative is to reward good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour. Always stay positive and calm when socialising your kitten, and make sure it has a safe and cat-friendly living environment.


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