6 Tips on How to Socialize a Kitten
By: Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM | Apr 22, 2017
Time really flies with an adorable kitten in the house. Around the age of four months, they start losing baby teeth, by six months, they’ll have reached sexual maturity and will need to be spayed/neutered, and at 12 months, they are already an adult.
After getting a new kitten, it’s important to get them accustomed to being handled and to teach them good behavior during its development. Cats have a reputation for being finicky and difficult to train, but it isn’t entirely deserved. We’ve all heard stories of “nightmare cats” that terrorize the vet or become a hissing ball of rage when their owner tries to trim their nails. Cats like this weren’t properly handled and socialized when they were young. Handling your kitten frequently will ensure it grows into a friendly and easy to care for adult. Here we go over a list of 6 tips on how to socialize a kitten.
1. Play every day.
According to Humane Society International, kittens who are gently handled by people 15 to 40 minutes a day during the first seven weeks are more likely to develop larger brains. They’re more exploratory, more playful and better learners. Skills not acquired during the first eight weeks may be lost forever.
2. Teach them that toys, not hands, are for playing with.
An important aspect of raising a kitten is that they need to learn that hands are not for biting and clawing. Wondering how to train a kitten not to bite? Don’t yell or hit them if they attack your hands. Instead, let your hand go limp and take it away. Redirect their focus to a toy and reward them with more playtime when they play with the toy.
3. Gradually introduce new experiences.
For your kitten’s health and safety, they need to be comfortable in many situations, from being picked up and held without struggling, to allowing you to touch and handle their paws while trimming their nails. Gradually introduce your kitten to the activity you want them to accept, such as allowing you to touch their paws. Slowly increase the duration and reward your kitten with treats and praise for good behavior. If you’re working up to trimming their nails, start with trimming just one nail at a time.
4. Don’t punish them.
Kittens aren’t very good at associating a punishment with the behavior that prompted it. Instead, they tend to associate the negative experience with their owner and become fearful and more difficult to handle. Firmly say, “No” and intervene to stop bad behavior. If distracting and redirecting their attention doesn’t work, withdraw your attention by getting up and leaving the room.
5. Finish on a good note.
Whenever possible, end on a positive note so that your kitten learns to look forward to interacting with you. If you’re teaching them to accept being brushed, finish up by brushing them in an area they enjoy, such as under their chin. If you’re practising picking up and holding your cat, reward them with a treat or play session when you put them down.
6. Introduce them to other people and situations, too!
New noises, new people, and new environments are all difficult situations for an anxious cat. These fears are caused by a lack of exposure. Expose your kitten to normal household noises as much as possible without frightening them. Invite friends and family to meet and interact with your new kitten. A well-socialized kitten becomes a confident adult cat.
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