Everything is brand new, the sights, the sounds, the smells. They’re bound to need a little help getting used to it all. That’s where you come in.
As a proud new cat owner (or a caring kitty foster carer), it’s your responsibility to help kittens to navigate this confusing time in their life and equip them with the valuable skills to make their way in the world.
What does ‘socialising a kitten’ mean?
It’s quite simple. Socialising a kitten merely means providing experiences that help them to adjust to life in the world. Your role is to engineer safe situations in which the kitten can meet other people, other animals and explore their world.
Do I need to socialise my cat?
Do you really need to socialise your cat? They’re already pretty adorable, surely that should be enough. The short answer is yes, you do. Kittens need plenty of positive experiences in the first weeks of their lives to help them become happy, well-adjusted cats. Kittens that aren’t adequately socialised may become nervous and anti-social causing behavioural problems in later life.
Five ways to help socialise your kittens
So, you have a brand-new kitty and you want to get socialising but where to start? Here are five ways to socialise your kitten:
1. Help your cat to feel safe
Firstly, set up a safe space for your new kitty. Kittens feel safer at height so consider setting up a cosy crate in an elevated place. For the first day or two after you bring them home, allow them to hide in here as much as they like and aim to keep noise and activity to a minimum.
Don’t allow them the completely run of your home right away. Consider keeping them in a single room to begin with and gradually opening things up as they acclimatise to your home.
2. Use food
We all love food and kittens are no different. When you first give them wet food, sit next to them as they eat so they associate food with you. Gradually move the food closer until eventually the kitten is happy to eat the food from your lap.
Don’t try to rush the process though, move at a slow pace and eventually you’ll win your kitty’s trust and they’ll know that you’re there to protect and help them.
3. Use play
Kittens love to play. Aim to spend around two hours a day playing with your kitten so that they associate you with fun and playtime. Like with puppies, playtime can build a strong bond between you and your cat.
4. Get sociable
Once your cat has settled in to your home, it’s a good idea to invite pals (and their children) around so your cat gets used to people. You may want to leave some treats by the door so that every time your kitty greets a new visitor, they get a treat. Don’t overwhelm your kitty and don’t force them to interact with big groups, simply reward them for sociable behaviour and let them learn that visitors are nothing to be scared of.
5. Consider the life your cat will have
Consider the experiences your kitten will likely have as they grow. Get your cat used to their carrier using positive treats and reinforcements, get them used to car travel and interacting with children or other pets. Positive experiences at an early age will go a long way.
Can abused rescue cats be re-socialised?
Rescue cats with difficult starts can absolutely be re-socialised and perhaps deserve it even more so. The emphasis with rescue or feral cats is to make their safety your priority. Ensure that they feel safe and at home before you attempt to introduce new experiences. Always give them the option to get away and hide if anything feels overwhelming and never force them to interact when they’re not ready. Time is key. Allow your rescue cat to get used to you in their own time and provide plenty of positive reinforcements when they act calmly and confidently.
Once your cat is socialised, don’t stop!
Once your cat seems happy and confident in her new home it’s easy to think of your job as done but really socialisation lasts a lifetime. Continue to give your kitten positive rewarding experiences as they grow and the fun will never stop.