How to Socialize a Kitten: Best Practices for Your Cat’s Socialization
You may believe that your adorable kitten is naturally a social butterfly. But the reality is that they still require our support. As a cat owner, it is important to help actively socialize your kitten, to ensure that they can grow up to be the healthy, happy pets we want them to be.
We often believe that it’s normal for cats to be independent and uncaring. However, properly socializing your kitten can help you avoid these personality traits from occurring in your furry little pal.
If you have a kitten or plan to get one in the near future, you should follow this guide to help socialize your newest addition to the family.
When to Start Socializing your Kitten
If you own a cat who has just given birth to kittens, obviously the first week of age is not the best time to start taking them out on the town. The first week of life is a crucial time for the kitten to bond with its mother, so you’ll need to hold off on bringing them around other pets or people. However, it won’t be long before you and your kitten will be ready to begin the socialization process.
Similar to puppies, kittens have a prime socialization period, usually from 2 to 7 weeks of age. Sometimes this can even range up to 14 weeks. This is important to know because often times kittens are not brought home until they’re already between 7 to 8 weeks of age. That’s why it is crucial to find a breeder that will ensure your kitten is exposed to a variety of experiences during those early weeks.
Kittens should also be kept away from other animals for at least the first few months of age while they are still building up the antibodies they need to protect against infectious diseases and parasites. Usually, felines are given a series of vaccinations up until around 16 weeks. During this period they are exposed to people, but still should not be around other cats.
Encourage Opportunities for Positive Exposure
A kitten’s socialization period is the perfect time to allow them to be handled by different people so that they become familiar with humans. Try soft touches and rubs on their bellies, ears, mouth, and paws to help your kitten feel comforted.
Create opportunities for your kitten to explore different places around your home so that they can get used to interacting with a variety of people and animals, and can adjust to different sights, smells, and sounds. Provide positive reinforcement and rewards in a variety of situations to improve your kitten’s chances of becoming a more confident cat.
Cats often view new situations or anything unfamiliar to them as a threat. You can help ease their anxiety by exposing them as early as possible to situations they are likely to encounter as they get older. For example, if you don’t currently have children, it is still a good idea to introduce them to children in a positive way, as your situation could possibly change in the future.
Develop a Socialization Schedule
Come up with a list of ways that you can help expose your kitten to new things. For example, you can set up play dates with your kitten and a few of your friends. Encourage her to interact with guests on her own, and reward her when she does by offering a treat.
Here are a few other ways to help expose your cat to different experiences:
Put your Kitten in New Environments
- Take your kitten along with you on car rides
- Let your kitten try getting in a crate
- Expose your kitten to different situations in the home (i.e., playing music, cleaning, using different tools, etc.)
- Let your kitten explore the backyard (while on a harness)
- Take your kitten to the vet or groomers (in a carrier or using a harness)
Let them socialize with other animals
- Other cats and kittens who are friendly (and have received their proper vaccinations) can be great playmates for your new kitten
- Farm animals (specifically ones that are calm and gentle) can also be great exposure for your pet
- Birds can also be a good pal for your kitten (just make sure your bird can safely get away if needed)
- Expose your kitten to any other animals it may possibly interact with over its lifetime
Keep Socializing, Even after they’re all Grown Up
Even as your kitten grows to become a friendly cat, it’s important to keep creating opportunities for socialization. Continue to provide them with unique, safe, positive experiences that encourage your cat to enjoy the world around them.
Central Texas Animal Hospital provides a variety of veterinary services for cats in the Pflugerville/Austin-Round Rock area including vaccinations, parasite prevention, dental care, weight management, spaying and neutering, and more. Call us at 512-251-BARK today to learn more!