Despite some wild instincts, cats are domesticated, social animals. How they develop their social traits will depend largely on their upbringing. Therefore, it's important to understand kitten socialisation and the importance of it.
Regardless of whether you want to adopt an adult cat or a kitten, it's important that future feline owners understand how kitten socialisation works. This will help to ensure kittens receive the best support while developing, and also provide insight and understanding to those adopting an older cat.
While kittens need to learn to adapt to their domestic environment, it is vital not to wean a kitten too early as it can impact their development.
The ideal time for weaning is between about four and 12 weeks of age. With help from the kitten’s mother and contact with humans, he or she can begin to trust those around her and develop important social skills, without the risk of harm from humans or other animals.
The early days with your kitten
It is helpful to know where your new kitten was born, so that you can anticipate how they might react to coming home with you. This should include asking the shelter for as much information as is available, including how they interacted at the shelter.
If you are adopting from a breeder, then ensure you are able to see the mother and the environment in which your kitten was raised.
The arrival home should be carried out as seamlessly as possible, ensuring everything is well set-up beforehand. This transition is scary for any animal, let alone a brand new kitten, so take it slow and steady so they adjust accordingly.
Also remember to keep an eye on any children that might be present around your new pet. They will need to understand that a kitten is a fragile, living creature, and that it is not to be treated roughly. Squeals, loud noises and lots of movement may scare your kitten easily. Handling should always be done with care and with an adult present.
You can begin to give your kitten treats as they become more sociable and as a reward for good behaviour (yes, it can work for cats and not just dogs).
Socialising your wild kitten
A kitten that has been abandoned in or adopted from a more remote location, or in the wild, may not be used to human contact. As a result, you will need to show additional patience when settling them into their new environment. Ensure you do not punish them as this can not only be cruel but also detrimental to your relationship with them in the future.
Additionally, as it is important to help the kitten become used to human contact quickly, we recommend as much interaction as you and they can manage. This will help them to become familiar with humans and less afraid of future interactions. This is an important element to consider for their long-term stress levels and overall wellbeing.
How did you socialise your kitten?