Socializing kittens is an integral part of being a breeder. All kittens require socialization to become good pets. It’s one of the most important roles that a breeder plays to the kittens. It’s the breeder’s job as their Guardian from birth to make sure that they are ready for their new home. This doesn’t happen automatically. It takes skill, care and diligence to make sure that every baby from the litter is well socialized and prepared for his new life when its time to leave the nest.
Socializing a kitten gives it confidence and makes them feel secure in any environment. Think of it like emotional security that will last for the rest of its life.
Socializing a Kitten is Crucial Between 3 and 9 Weeks Old
The primary socialization window for a kitten in between the ages of 3 weeks old and 9 weeks old. This is a critical time in the kitten’s life where they are easily influenced and trained to react to outside factors. Things that they’re exposed to and experiences that they have during this age can stay with them for the rest of their lives. So make it all positive!
Proper socialization teaches a cat how to be a cat, proper feline manners, how to communicate with other felines, and who the cat’s friends and enemies are.
Let’s discuss how to socialize a kitten during their critical socialization window:
Holding and Petting Kittens
For the first couple of weeks of life, there’s not much need to pick up the kittens and handle them. This is, as long as the Queen is there and is doing a good job caring for her kittens. Of course, you’ll pick them up and have a quick look, checking to make sure everything is going well with weights and development.
Around the age of 2 weeks old, it’s time to pick the kittens up and start getting them used to human touch and smells. At this young age, their eyes are open, but they can’t see very well yet. So you may just be a blur to them. Their sense of smell if very good, however, and they can associate smells. This is the perfect time to start gently stroking their little heads and bodies, letting them know that humans are safe.
As the kittens get older, each kitten needs to be picked up and handled, petted and talked to for a minimum of 10-15 minutes daily. Start this at around 2 weeks old and continue until the day they go home. This will build confidence in them that they need to feel safe around humans and associate with positivity.
Start petting their little faces, chins, and behind their ears and work up to petting all over.
How to Socialize a Kitten with New Human Friends
The Kittens should be introduced to new human friends throughout kittenhood. Men, women, and children alike. Low voices, loud voices, tall and short.
Invite your friends over for pizza. Have the visitors pick up, pet, and handle the kittens.
Introducing New Animal Friends
Your kitten should meet new animals. Primarily cats and dogs. It’s very likely that the kitten will not be the only pet in the home. Start out the introduction just be allowing the kitten to see the other animals for a week or so before ever having direct contact or engagement with them. This doesn’t mean they will always LIKE other animals, but the goal is to let them associate other animals with positivity. If the Queen reacts to dogs in a fearful way, so will the kitten. So be conscious of that!
Kittens might be a bit intimidated by adult cats and dogs at first. They’ll typically bow up, and all of the hair will stand up on their back and tail. They’re very unsure at what they’re looking at in the beginning, so they go straight to defensive mode. But if introduced early enough, this behavior usually doesn’t last long at all. They quickly realize that this cat or dog means no harm, and will warm up to them quickly.
On the other hand, if you know that the new cat or dog isn’t friendly with new animals or poses any threat to the kittens whatsoever, then never, under any circumstances introduce them to your kittens.
Playtime with Kittens
Kittens have very playful instincts once they can hear and see clearly. For about the first 4 weeks they don’t really respond to toys. That’s because they can’t hear or see very well. Once their vision becomes clear then they chase everything in sight! Around 5 weeks old is a good time to start playing with the kitten with toys, moving them slowly at first to help them with their focus.
Sit on the floor with the babies, and play with them using toys. Feather sticks, balls, anything that makes a crinkly sound. Just be sure to put any toys up after playtime that could be a potential hazard.
Grooming a kitten is a great way to create a warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s also perfect for socializing kittens. If started at an early age, grooming will be a very enjoyable part of the cat’s life. Start by gently combing the kitten with a soft bristle toothbrush. As the kitten matures, use a grooming comb and/or brush and lightly brush the kitten. Never pull the kitten’s fur or brush too hard. This will end you with scratches!
Sounds and Environment
Kittens shouldn’t grow up in a quiet environment. They need to be accustomed to the noises of everyday life. Without being raised in an environment with everyday life noises, they may become startled by everything once they are in their new home. Here’s a list of the noises that the kittens between the ages of 3-12 weeks need to get used to:
- People talking (men and women) (Both loud and soft voices)
- Vacuum Cleaners
- Dogs Barking
- Doors Opening and Closing
- Sounds of Pots and Pans/Cooking
- Children (Inside and Outside Voice)
- Brooms and Sweeping
Here’s a couple of short videos that touch on the socialization window and some quick tips on socializing kittens.
Socializing Kittens Once They’re In Their New Homes
As long as the breeder has done their job socializing, then it should be an easy transition into their new home. Cats and Kittens don’t like change, so the kitten should always be given a few days to settle into their new home before being introduced to the entire household, along with other pets and children. Here’s a great article about introducing new kittens to other pets.