YOUR NEW KITTEN
Socialisation in kittens
Socialisation is the process by which a kitten becomes accustomed to the people, animals, sights, sounds, smells and experiences that will be encountered throughout life.
As with the young of all species, kittens need to learn that some things are pleasant and rewarding, some are best avoided, but many things are of no significance and can be accepted as part of their life.
The first eight weeks of life are the most important in the social development of cats. Experiences during this period can determine whether the kitten will grow into a confident, sociable animal, or into a timid, unfriendly or aggressive one.
Although the main socialisation period only lasts for the first eight weeks of life, you should continue to accustom your kitten to new people, experiences, sights, sounds and smells for at least the first six months.
Choosing your kitten
If possible select a kitten that has been reared in a family environment and is used to household noises, sights and smells. Young kittens learn a lot of their behaviour from the mother cat. If she is friendly it is likely that her kittens will be as well.
Encourage the kitten to approach you to be stroked and handled. If it rubs against you and purrs it is comfortable around people. A kitten that will not approach you or hisses, spits and scratches does not trust you and will require patience and understanding.
Handling your kitten
Calm, quiet stroking and handling of your kitten should be associated with treats. It should not be forced on a kitten that is uncomfortable with it, or he/she may become suspicious and defensive. If your kitten is shy and timid you need to be very patient and allow time to gradually build its trust in you.
As with the young of all species, kittens use play as a way of expressing natural behaviours and of establishing relationships with others in their environment. If you are able to provide your kitten with an outlet for its natural behaviours, it is less likely to use human hands and feet as targets!
Kittens like to play stalking, chasing, and pouncing games, so it is a good idea to choose toys which replicate this. Good examples are ping pong balls and fishing toys.
Physical punishment must never be used with kittens. Humans should only be associated with pleasant experiences. You need to find alternative methods of preventing unwanted behaviours, at the same time as making desirable ones more rewarding.