Imagine you are a kitten. The world seems huge and everything is new to you. Sights, sounds, smells, people, animals - there’s something different around every corner. It can be a little bit scary.
We call this sensitive time ‘socialisation’ and it lasts for a kitten’s first 8-10 weeks.
Why socialisation is so important for your cat
The experiences your kitten has when they’re young play a huge part in the way they’ll behave when they’re grown up. Positive experiences will help your kitten become a friendly, well-adjusted adult cat.
Sadly, kittens that don’t have these positive experiences can become nervous cats and this can cause ongoing problems with their behaviour.
Early socialisation: before you bring your kitten home
Socialisation should start within days of your kitten being born. This early socialisation will usually happen when your kitten is with the breeder or at a rescue centre. Before you bring your kitten home, check to see which sights, sounds and experiences they’ve had and what you’ll need to introduce to them when you bring them home. Ideally, your kitten will have:
- Mixed with other people and pets.
- Seen every day sights.
- Heard normal household sounds at the breeder’s home, like the washing machine, hoover, TV etc.
Bringing your kitten home
When you bring your kitten back to live with you, help them to feel at home with lots of positive experiences. They’re likely to be a bit nervous at first so be patient and give them time to settle in. Gradually introduce new experiences – three new things a day will be plenty and won’t overwhelm your new friend.
Your kitten will need to get used to the things around them that they’ll experience regularly like meeting new people, getting calmly into a cat box or harness, or hearing the hoover.
To have a happy, confident cat, it is important kittens have lots of positive experiences up to the age of 10 weeks. Poorly socialised cats can become nervous adult cats.
- Cat breeders and rescue centres should make sure kittens are exposed to new sights and sounds and rewarded for calm behaviour while they are still with their mother. Kitten owners can then continue this at home.
- Try to live normally and make sure any every day events like the TV, hoover, visitors etc continue as normal.
- Be sure your kitten is always safe and give them a treat when they show curiosity or calm behaviour.
- Keep exposure to new things short and make sure you remove the kitten from the new sound or sight if they become frightened.
If your kitten seems fearful or anxious, take the training at a slower pace. Always reward good behaviour and ignore unwanted behaviours. Being consistent will help teach your kitten which behaviours get them attention and treats, and which behaviours will not get a reward.