What is socialization?
Socialization simply means teaching kittens the right behavior towards both other animals and their humans, and feeling relaxed and comfortable in their new home and with people. In short, socialization is the act of helping your cat feel comfortable around being around, being gentle while playing, and adapting to the sounds in your home and the people who come and go.
The best age to start socialization is before 12 weeks of age while kittens are still with their mother and siblings. Kittens not treated before 12 weeks of age are harder to socialize and may remain a little skittish for a lifetime.
Kitten socialization is especially important when adopting a single cat. Kittens usually learn from each other and from their mother how to behave, be fearless during playtime with their siblings, and what hurts and is unacceptable during playtime. They also go to the litter box together when they are very young and learn how to do what mom showed them to do. If you are adopting a single kitten, it is up to you to teach him how to behave properly.
How do I make contacts?
Here are some ideas to help you work on kitten socialization and help your new feline friend grow into a safe cat who loves being around people:
Adopt in pairs: One of the best ways to get to know kittens is by adopting them in pairs. Kittens have this high octane energy and can consume their hyperactivity while playing with each other. As I mentioned earlier, kittens also learn quite a bit from each other. During game time, you’ll hear them scolding each other when someone bites too hard or gets too rough.
Playing time: Break out these toys because a kitten will also become more social if you interact with him on a daily basis. One of the best ways to hang out with kittens is through playtime. Whether you have a kitten or two (or more if you have a litter), if you use feather toys and fishing rod type toys to play with your kittens, they’ll look forward to being with you. Remember, use toys to play with kittens, not with your hands. My rule is: “Toys are there to be played with, hands to stroke.” Otherwise, you might have an adult cat who doesn’t know how to control its biting.
Treats and Meals: Giving treats and meals is a great way to get your cat used to you and the other members of your household. I like to precede meals with a good play session as it mimics a kitten’s natural desire to hunt. When she offers the food or treat after the game, she feels like she has a successful hunt behind her and caught her dinner. Have all family members take turns feeding the kitten so that it is comfortable with everyone in the household.
Friends and family: Have friends and family stop by to help your kitten get used to other people and their comings and goings. Otherwise, your kitten may become antisocial and fearful of other people when it grows up. Let the visitors do something nice for your kitten, petting and playing so that it knows that there is nothing to fear.
Of course, there are other things a cat needs to feel safe in its new home:
✔ Lots of toys to keep you busy
✔ Litter boxes in quiet, easily accessible areas with at least two escape routes to and from the boxes so she doesn’t feel cornered. (Usually one more litter box than cats.)
✔ High scratching posts or climbing shelves
✔ Cozy kitten holes where she can take a nap and allow the kitten to escape everyday life when she wants to have some time to herself
It goes without saying that the most important thing your kitten needs to feel safe and secure is your time and attention. Take the time to play with your kitten and snuggle her up on the sofa every day and she will become a happy, even-tempered, and social cat.
There are so many reasons to socialize kitty. Here are just a few of them:
DURING SOCIALIZATION, YOUR KITTEN WILL:
✤ Trust yourself and connect
✤ Build trust and feel safe
✤ Learn the correct (and improper) ways to play
✤ Relax at home and to the rhythm
✤ Be less nervous and nervous about noises
✤ Do not hide from other people, including visitors, in the house
✤ Get more curious
Rita Reimers is a multi-cat behavior expert, author and owner of JFCATS.com, a cat health and wellness company. Get exclusive advice from Club Cattitude at RitaReimers.com. Follow Rita on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @MultiCatExpert and on YouTube @RitaReimers.