Social Sweeties: Early, Positive Experiences

Kittens benefit from positive socialization experiences in the early weeks of their lives.

By Marty Becker, DVM, and Janice Willard, DVM

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Ronda Leonhardy of Moscow, Idaho, recently rescued two 4-week-old kittens. Although she only wanted one cat for her family, she brought home the two kittens to raise together. I just thought they were too young to live without another cat, Leonhardy says. This way, they had a companion to play and sleep with. After the kittens were several months old, another family she knew adopted one, while she kept the other.

After Leaving Mama
When your kitten comes home, don't isolate it to a small world with limited experiences. If your house is full of activity and other animals, create security while also encouraging good experiences. Give the kitten its own carrier as a safe zone; then, when you take your kitten on car rides and errands, its in its secure carrier.

Allow your kitten to meet strangers by enticing positive interactions with food treats. Never force attention on a scared kitten. Silly but true, a scaredy kitten can become a scaredy cat.

The trick here is to create balance, Johnson-Bennett says. You want to allow for wide experiences while at the same time creating security.

If your cat might live with another cat sometime in its life, which is likely, now is the time to give it experience with other kittens so it learns appropriate social skills. This will make your cat better able to deal with a new cat in its space.

Get your kitten vaccinated before letting it venture out into the world. Also check to see if the queen has been vaccinated, says Jim Evermann, Ph.D., professor of infectious disease at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. The queens vaccination status is important because it reduces the shedding of viruses to her kittens. Examples of these viruses include feline leukemia virus (FeLV), herpes virus and calicivirus.

Within your home, offer environmental enrichments. Give your kitten a variety of play surfaces and toys. Now is also the time to offer different litters to experience and a wide variety of food, so you don't end up with a picky cat that only eats one type of food.

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Reader Comments

Janet    Bethlehem, PA

8/13/2013 3:22:33 PM


Janet    Bethlehem, PA

12/19/2012 3:01:45 AM

good article thank you

AA    hollister, CA

8/1/2011 11:48:06 PM

Thanks for the info

Darlene    azusa,ca, CA

5/9/2009 9:39:47 PM

how can i stop my kitten from biteing me all the time he's only 3 to 4 week's old can you please give me advice thank's darlene

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