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Helping your kitten become a sociable cat

Socialising your kitten

You'll want your kitten to grow up into a cat who gets on well with people and becomes a friend and companion. To achieve this, you need to bear in mind that cats have a very short socialisation phase. So the first four to 16 weeks of her life is a critical time for behavioural and social development.


Your kitten's early experiences

Before your kitten comes to live with you, she will have been interacting with her mum, her littermates and people.

Kittens need to get used to being handled by people very early on, preferably several people so they don't just learn to accept a single carer. They also need to become accustomed to the sights, smells and sounds of everyday life.


Keeping up the good work

Your kitten will probably move into your home when she's about eight to 12 weeks of age. Assuming she's already had lots of human contact, it shouldn't be too difficult for you to reinforce all the good work and help her grow into a friendly, happy, confident cat.

When your kitten first arrives home with you, remember it can all be a bit overwhelming for her. So take her to a quiet, safe place and show her where her food and litter trays are. Give her lots of love and reassurance and pet her gently, talking to her in a soft, calm voice.

Playing is also an enjoyable and effective way for you to bond, and your kitten will soon want to join in.


Kids and kittens

Your kitten should be socialised with children as early as possible as she may reject or bite them later if she hasn't become used to them early on.

If you have children, they will naturally be very excited about the arrival of a new kitten. Make sure they learn that your kitten is not a toy and must be treated carefully. Play time must end when the kitten's had enough. It's also a good idea to warn the children that she may scratch or play bite.


People outside the family

It's a good idea to introduce your young kitten to as many people as possible. That way, you're likely to avoid her developing a fear of strangers in later life.


Your kitten and other pets

Of course, it may not only be humans your kitten has to socialise with. If you have other pets, she'll have to get used to them too. A large mesh pen can be very useful when introducing your kitten to a resident cat or dog. That way, your kitten will feel safe as the 'getting to know you' process takes place. Don't rush this and don't leave your kitten alone with another cat or a dog until you are entirely confident they're safe together.


Kitten separation anxiety

OK, the good news is you've done a great job raising your kitten to get on well with people. The bad news is, she's now so attached to you, she won't like it when you go out.

Separation anxiety, previously only recognised in dogs, is now acknowledged to occur in cats.

Signs that your kitten may be suffering from separation anxiety are if she seems stressed by you going out. She could be excessively vocal perhaps or soil the house in your absence.

Tips on dealing with separation anxiety include limiting the time you leave your kitten alone as much as you possibly can and trying not to make a big 'production' out of leaving the house (the 10 minute 'hunt for your keys routine' won't help!). If your kitten does soil the house, don't punish her. Cats don't understand punishment and, since her behaviour is a result of stress, you'll actually be making the problem worse.

Your vet can offer you further advice.


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