Why You Need To Socialize A Kitten
Newborn kittens are not only abandoned from their mother, but in a lot of cases, they are also abandoned from their litter. All kittens require early socialization in order to become good pets. It helps kittens learn to interact with other cats and pets as well as people, and it requires positive interactions.
Starting to socialize kittens will also help them build confidence. That confidence will also help them feel secure in their new home environment. Especially if there are other cats.
Before You Start To Socialize A Kitten
Contrary to popular belief, you can actually train a cat. Cats can be trained at any age and they continue to learn throughout their lives. It’s important to start training kittens on the right behavior early in their lives to help make it easier as they grow up.
Think of kittens a little fuzzy sponges. They absorb all the lesion that you teach them all within the few first months of their lives.
Even without humans, kittens are still learning. The prime example of this during kitten-hood. If a kitten is not exposed to positive human interactions during this period, they stand a great chance of becoming feral (wild).
Proper socialization teaches a cat how to be a cat. However, proper socialization teaches them how to be an amazing indoor cat to other animals, humans, and even your furniture.
When to Socialize a Kitten
The age when kittens are most receptive is between two and seven weeks of age. So this is the prime time to make sure you get them started on good habits and eliminate any bad habits from starting.
Fun fact: Do you know the original of the term copycat? It is because kittens will learn their mannerisms from watching their mother and imitating her behavior.
If a cat mother is buddies with a dog, her kittens will accept dogs as a safe part of their world. But if the mother cat goes into hysterics, that’s a lesson the kittens will have a hard time un-learning.
If a kitten is orphaned without a mother but there is an older cat in the house, the kitten will then watch them and mimic their behaviors.
Cats even learn from their littermates. The littermates teach each other about claw and bite inhibition, and how to pull their punches during play. They teach them how to get along with other cats.
If you look at Wobbles, our feral rescue, you can tell that she was not socialized early in her life. Because of that, she has a hard time understanding how to play with our other cats. To no fault of any of our cats, it’s like neither of them can understand each other.
And while kittens do learn the most when they are in their kittenhood stage of life, it is still possible for them to learn new patterns. It just takes a much longer process to get them all speaking the same language. So anyone raising or forstering newborn kittens, it is imperative to start socializing and having positive connections early on before they go to new homes.
What You Can Do
Now if you adopt a kitten that isn’t socialized, or find a newborn kitten that you are caring for, all hope is not lost. There is still a lot that you can do as a new owner.
Young cats have a great capacity for learning new behaviors than when they are older. So if you have a new kitten it is crucial that you continue positive lessons for weeks after adopting them.
It’s vital that the babies be exposed to positive experiences with other pets and people if they are to accept them as part of their “family” and become loving well-adjusted pets. Starting this behavior early will help them come out of their shells and show their real personalities.
There are three T’s that are used when it comes to socializing kittens: Timing, Touching, and Talking.
What You Need To Socialize a Kitten
- Treats and toys
- Leveraging other cats if you have them in your home
The First T: Timing
Let’s talk about the first T in socializing kittens. That is timing.
It is really important that the behaviors you are reinforcing have the accurate time frame around them.
A positive and a negative example for you. Let’s say the kitten has an accident on the carpet. You don’t find it for an hour and then you start yelling and screaming at them. They have absolutely no context as to why you are yelling.
They had their accident an hour ago! That’s like a decade in kitten years!
The same thing is true if your kitten uses the litter box the right way. If you wait for an hour to give them a treat. They are going to have a much harder time associating the positive treat with the litter box.
It’s actually more powerful to use timing to catch your kitten doing something right. Praise the kitten when it uses the litter box correctly immediately. You can offer them a treat when they great a visitor or when they come up to a family member. (Yes I am using personal examples of what we have done). You want them to associate positive emotions when it comes to humans and other animals.
The Second T: Touching
The second piece of socializing your cat is probably going to come as a surprise for you. But is it touching. Touching your kitten often is a vital part of socializing your new arrival. Petting is one of the first sensations newborns feel when their mother licks and grooms them, and petting takes them back to this wonderful safe experience.
And while you may think you are giving your newborn kitten space by leaving them in a room by themselves for hours, you are really keeping them from the positive emotions that come with touching humans.
Petting, cuddling, even holding are social skills that cats learn at a young age.
Let’s go back to my cats. We had the two kittens at a very young age. We carried them around, help them, petted them and honestly did everything our two other cats wouldn’t let us do. Why wouldn’t they let us do that? Because wherever they were before we found them did not do that. Phoebe sees being held as a punishment and is complacent with it only after YEARS of positive reinforcement. (YEARS).
Petting feels good for both of you and it teaches your kitten that contact with people is pleasant, self-rewarding, and in no way scary. This helps your cat feel secure not only in their environment, but also with you as their protector.
Another fun fact time: Did you know that studies have shown that petting an animal can actually lower blood pressure in humans? It’s true. It also lowers blood pressure and heart rates in kittens as they are feeling more secure in their environment. This can not only set your kitten up for a lifetime of calm interaction and good health, but also benefit yours as well.
Studies have shown that handling furry babies for five minutes a day during their first three weeks increases the pet’s ability to learn later in life. When it comes to a new kitten, make sure to give them as much love as they could possible want.
I know it may feel excessive now and in the beginning. But when you have a friendly social cat, you will be so grateful that you trained them early. (Remember the holding of the cats I mentioned earlier? We still hold our kittens all the time!)
The Third T: Talking
Talking is something that benefits not only humans, but animals too. Think about babies, a soothing voice may help stop them from crying. Similar thing is true for kittens. Talking to your kitten teaches the furbaby to listen and pay attention to your voice. Like babies, they may not understand every word, but they can start to understand the inflection in the tone of your voice and even learn their name.
The more you speak to your cat, the better it will learn to understand and react to what you want. That enhances your relationship and sets a good foundation for training now and in the future.
I joke with my husband that I have full conversations with our cats. And we have talkative cats. In my head, they talk about to me. Even if it is in a different language.
My biggest advice second to holding your cat is talk to your cat. I know it may feel silly in the beginning, but start small.
During your petting sessions, use a soft, soothing voice so the kitten associates this time and you with affection and security.
When you are rewarding them for going to the bathroom, use a bright and happy tone of voice to show different emotions at different times..