Kittens are a lot like human babies in a number of different ways. Not only will your kitten will need to learn how to eat, walk and control her bladder and bowels, she will also need to learn how to live alongside the humans in her life as well as any other animals she comes into contact with. She also needs to be able to understand the world around her so that she doesn’t feel frightened or overwhelmed by new environments, people and circumstances. The best way to do this is to undertake a process known as socialization.
What is kitten socialization?
Socialization is the name given to the process whereby your kitten is gradually exposed to new smells, sounds and sights so that she views them as a positive rather than frightening event. By socializing her, you will be able to help ensure that she matures into a well-adjusted adult cat.
How old does my kitten need to be to be socialized?
You should start to handle your kitty from shortly after she is born as this will get her used to be touched and managed by humans. However, the time when kittens are most receptive to being socialized is between 2 and 7 weeks old. Ideally you should start the process around this time and continue right through until she reaches around 14/15 weeks of age. However, many kittens are not rehomed away from their mother until around 8 weeks old. Any reputable breeder should understand the importance of socialization and have started introducing your kitty to new people and situations before you bring her home for the first time. It is then up to you to continue the process to ensure that she is as well-adjusted as she can be.
Vaccinations / parasite prevention and socialization
Part of the socialization process involves exposing your new kitten to new animals and environments. However, before you can do this you must ensure that she has received all of her core vaccinations. These are designed to protect her from the various viruses and infectious diseases that could threaten her health and wellbeing.
Most breeders will arrange to start the vaccination process before your kitten comes to live with you, but if you are in any doubt that your furbaby has received the appropriate vaccinations then you should consult with your veterinarian before allowing her to mix with other animals or go outside.
How to socialize your kitten
There are various different aspects to consider when it comes to socializing your kitten. These include the following:
Introducing her to new people
Whether you live alone or in a house full of people, it is essential that you get your new kitty used to interacting with humans of all ages and genders. Your furry feline will come across a lot of different people during her lifetime and you don’t want her to feel scared or anxious about being around humans. As soon as she is ready, start introducing her to new people. Encourage them to get down on her level so that they appear less threatening and let your kitty approach them in her own time. Don’t just put your kitten on their lap and expect her to deal with it – she won’t like it at all and doing so could just put the socialization process back. Make sure that any children that you introduce her to are aware of what behaviors are acceptable, e.g. not to pull her tail.
Meeting new animals
If you don’t have other pets this might be easier said than done but interacting with other animals is a crucial part of your kitty’s development since it will teach her how to behave with them. If you have an adult cat, you can gradually introduce them to one another, but keep a close eye to make sure that they get along ok. Many felines will adapt to new animals fairly easily since they will be part of a litter until they around 7 or 8 weeks old. It is quite normal for cats to be cautious of larger animals, including dogs, but it is perfectly possible for canines and felines to live in harmony with one another.
For more advice and support on the best way to socialize your new kitten and get feeling comfortable and confident in the world, please contact our experienced veterinarians in Hoover AL at 205-308-0700 to schedule an appointment.