Published on Wednesday, 13 November 2013
You’ve just welcomed a kitten to your home. With this bundle of joy comes the responsibility of proper socialisation to ensure it grows into a confident, friendly and well-behaved member of the family. Getting Kitty accustomed to people, animals and new environments early in life helps to preclude the development of behavioural problems such as fear and aggression, issues that become difficult to manage in adulthood. The best time to socialise your kitten is between two and seven weeks of age, when it is most receptive to interaction and stimulus.
Introducing Kitty to human touch early ensures that it grows to be comfortable with our company and assists in its physical development too. Kittens that are held and stroked several minutes daily will open their eyes earlier, enabling them to explore their surroundings and acclimatise to the everyday things that will become part of their adult life.
- Gently pick up your kitten a few times a day, speaking to it in a soothing and quiet voice. Stroke it lightly for a few minutes each time. Increase the duration of your interaction gradually. If your kitten starts to resist or struggle, leave it alone to rest.
- As Kitty gets used to your handling, begin to examine its ears, paws and nails. Lightly press its abdomen and touch its legs and tail, feeling for any abnormalities. Open its mouth and gently rub your finger on its teeth and gums. By going through these exercises regularly, your kitten will learn to be cooperative during grooming, tooth brushing and vet check-ups.
- Expose the young feline to different types of environments such as the field, vet clinic and car to familiarise it with these places.
- Engage your kitten in interactive play, using a wand toy or fishing pole to pique its curiosity. Whenever it tries to attack or bite you, end the playtime immediately and reprove Kitty with a firm “No”.
Introducing other pets
It is important to introduce your kitten to other animals while it is still young. Be sure to do so gradually, under careful supervision. When done properly, your kitten can learn to get along with its other furry friends peaceably, even forming close bonds.
- Start by introducing them to each other’s scents before allowing them to meet physically. Place the dog or cat’s toys near your kitten to familiarise it with the new odour and vice versa.
- When meeting another pet for the first time, keep Kitty in a carrier or in a playpen to give it a sense of security. Allow the leashed dog or cat to approach the enclosed kitten, keeping a watchful eye on them. Let them sniff each other through the bars and get over their initial excitement. When both animals are calm, let the kitten out and allow it to approach the newcomer slowly, on its own terms.
- Praise the pair for calm interactions and use treats to reward them for good behaviour. This helps to keep their experience with each other a positive one. Never leave them unsupervised until they get along well.
It is a good idea to expose Kitty to a variety of people so that it learns to accept not just its caregiver but others too. Provide adequate opportunities for the young feline to meet and be handled by different people to encourage it to be receptive to human company.
- When introducing Kitty to children, remind them to keep their voices down to avoid frightening it. Place a treat on the child’s hand to encourage it to approach the kid. Allow the child to stroke the kitten softly and stop when the kitten shows signs of resistance or discomfort.
- Invite visitors to your house to interact with your kitten. Take care to ensure that no one scares Kitty or overwhelms it with excessive affection. It may take a few visits for the young feline to be fully at ease with other people.