The Importance of Socialising Your Kitten
With something new lurking behind every corner – be it sights, smells, people, or animals – the world can be a pretty daunting place for a little kitten. So how exactly can you transform a skittish kitty into a friendly, open and oh-so-snuggable cat? The secret is socialisation. You see, the first two months of your little fur ball’s life will shape her future character and temperament. During this window, it’s vital owners introduce their feline friends to new people, new environments and new animals – attuning them to every eventuality of family life. Kittens that aren’t exposed to positive experiences at young age could become nervous and tentative cats, potentially triggering on-going behavioural problems well into adulthood. With that in mind, here are our top tips on socialising your wee ball o’fur.
Once kitty’s paws have touched down in your house, try to keep any noise to a minimum. Don’t be surprised if she seems shy at first – she will come out of her furry shell in no time at all. Above all though, be patient; let her come to you, rather than constantly beckoning her.
If you want your kitten to be an active, confident and approachable member of your family, it’s vitally important to keep talking to her, handling her and stroking her right from the get-go. In fact, studies have shown that just 40 minutes of handling a day during the socialisation period can have a significant impact on the friendliness of adult cats. Ideally, a range of people should interact with your new kitten: men, women, older people and children. And don’t be afraid to handle sensitive areas either (ears, feet and tail). This will prove invaluable when your cat needs to be examined by the vet (what a brilliant excuse for snuggles, eh?) Always remind friends and family members to handle your furry friend with the utmost care – stroke her gently and keep playing sessions short and sweet, as she can tire quickly.
Kitty doesn’t just groom herself to stay clean; in the wild, big cats groom each other to improve social bonds. Why not imitate this behaviour by partaking in grooming sessions with her? Not only will the action of combing your kitty strengthen your bond, but it will have a calming influence over her too. She’ll love it, and learn to trust you even more.
Visit your vet
An early trip to the vet will be an indispensable socialisation experience for your little kitten. This event will give kitty her first taster of the veterinary environment – somewhere she will need to visit several times in her life. Always cultivate a sense of positivity around visiting the vets. Offer your feline friend verbal rewards and treats when she’s being examined.
As soon as possible, start venturing out on car trips with kitty. Exposure to traffic noise and vehicular movements will make essential travel to the vets much less of a stressful ordeal in the future. Try to accustom your little fur ball to the cat carrier too, as this will help to eliminate any hullabaloo that often goes hand in hand with it. Always bring treats on trips to reinforce the notion the car is a safe-space for your furry friend.
Cats are pretty skittish by nature, so helping them acclimatise to your household environment will ensure they won’t jump at the slightest sound or sight of an object. Ease exposing your feline friend to everyday noises gently – hoovers, washing machines, music, TV, and the doorbell – as this will help her settle into the humdrum of family life. The same goes for her physical living space. Allowing her to experience a range of floor surfaces like wood, lino and carpet will support her adjustment period too. The sooner you can subject kitty to every aspect of your home setup, the more assertive and confident she’ll be in adulthood.
If you have a dog or smaller pets like rabbits, gerbils or guinea pigs, let your kitten meet them in a supervised area. Always ensure smaller animals are out of their cages and dogs are on leads when interacting with your feline friend for the first time. With plenty of reassurance and love from you and your family, everyone should get along soon enough.
If you have another feline friend in your household, it’s essential to handle the first introduction carefully. Cats are tremendously territorial, so you can expect a little rivalry to begin with. Thankfully, there’s a simple trick to ensure their relationship gets off to a positive start. Find something that holds your scent (an old piece of clothing or scarf usually works well), and gently rub your new kitten with it. Give the item to your cat – the familiar smell will ensure your little fur ball is more easily accepted. If this doesn’t work, be patient. Eventually, both felines will see eye to eye and learn to get along. Always respect the independence of your cat and kitten by giving them separate litter trays, beds and food bowls.
Confident felines are made, not born. And in order to raise a well-adjusted cat – one that doesn’t object to handling, grooming, car rides, or the ‘dreaded’ cat carrier – you need to start socialising kitty at a young age. Introducing your little fur ball to new sights, smells and sounds is an immensely important aspect of her overall health and wellbeing. Neglect this duty, and you’ll only raise a timid, wary and fearful cat.
Cat’s Protection. (2018). Kitten Socialisation. Available online: http://www.cats.org.uk/uploads/documents/The_Cat_Mag_extracts/Kitten_socialisation.pdf
PDSA. (2018). Kitten socialisation. Available online: https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-after-your-pet/kittens-cats/socialising-your-kitten