Socialising your kitten by introducing them to new sights, smells and sounds will enable them to become a content and comfortable cat as they grow. Find out more about how to socialise your kitten in our guide.
What is kitten socialisation?
Preparing a kitten to cope with the human world and its challenges is one of the most important ways to ensure their lifelong welfare. Without careful consideration of their development, they may develop into an adult cat that will struggle to cope within a normal domestic setting. A kitten that has been appropriately socialised will be far less likely to experience high levels of stress, or even to develop behaviour problems as an adult.
Why should I socialise my kitten?
There are a number of benefits from a cat welfare point of view as to why socialisation is important. It is essential for a kitten to have a chance of growing up into a healthy, happy adult cat.
Whether you’re working at a rescue, you’re a breeder or your cat has had an accidental litter, it is your responsibility to look after the welfare of the cat – even if they are not staying with you in the long term.
As a rescue organisation or breeder, you’ll need to follow a socialisation plan, such as our socialisation chart, to ensure that the cat will become a happy adult.
How can I socialise my kittens to certain sounds?
Kittens that don’t have frequent controlled exposure to common sounds during their socialisation period are more likely to become stressed by certain noises during their life, or develop noise phobias. Most owners have experienced, or know someone who has, a cat that is fearful of common noises – thunder, fireworks or the vacuum cleaner, for example.
Use our CD or online sound library to socialise your kitten to household sounds.
How can I tell if my kitten has been socialised?
All kittens should not be rehomed until after eight weeks old – whether you adopt your cat from a breeder or rescue organisation. As a result, your cat should be already socialised. By knowing what socialisation is, and what to look out for, you’ll be in a better position to discuss with the establishment that you receive your kitten from.
If you do take on a kitten from an establishment that does not socialise kittens or has poor standards, you may be taking on a kitten that has a higher chance of having poor welfare or may develop higher levels of stress and behaviour problems through its lifetime.
Can kitten socialisation go wrong?
Unfortunately, yes. There are three key areas where things can go wrong with kitten socialisation.
Firstly, people often neglect the relationship with the adult female cat. Establishing a trusting relationship prior to the arrival of the kittens will make socialisation for the kittens far easier. While this can often be difficult in a rescue environment, many organisations will try and establish this relationship well before kittens arrive.
Secondly, it is important to consider infection control. This is more prevalent for rescue centres and breeders, rather than individual litters at home, but is still something to keep an eye on. Use personal protective equipment when interacting with the kittens to avoid passing on anything nasty from other cats.
Thirdly, people can expose the kittens to too much and not respond when the kitten is indicating that they are distressed. When socialising a kitten, always make sure you respond to them. Start slow, allow them to approach you initially and when introducing handling, do it for short sessions.
Avoid holding a kitten for long periods of time – seconds can be enough in the first instance. If the kitten vocalises or looks distressed, stop. Simply prolonging the experience or ‘flooding’ the cat can have a long-term negative impact.