The earlier a kitten is socialised, the friendlier it will be in adult life. Here are 14 suggestions to to help your new feline patients
Posted: 11 January 2018
It’s generally true that the earlier a kitten is socialised, the friendlier it will be in adult life. The benefits this can bring are invaluable, as they tend to be more relaxed and have fewer health issues associated with stress.
It’s for these reasons that it’s important they’re given opportunities early on in life to experience sufficient, appropriate socialisation. Gentle positive handling during the first few weeks of life will almost certainly make future veterinary examinations easier for everyone concerned.
Kittens separated from the mother from a very early age seem to be at a higher risk of developing behavioral and emotional abnormalities and often show signs of fear and aggression.
The critical socialisation period is between 2 and 7 weeks of age.
During this early period, kittens find out about their environment and determine what is ‘safe’. It’s felt that most things they come across during this time are likely to be accepted as something that is normal and okay. Anything they don’t experience though is more likely to produce a fear response as they become adults. The greater the variety of positive experiences they have during this time, the more likely they are to cope with novel experiences in the future.
Since tolerance of people is a learned behaviour, early handling by a variety of people during this period is really important.
While it’s probably too late to change the personality of a cat after this age, it’s best to encourage owners to continue the socialising process with positive experiences throughout its life. After 7 weeks, attachments and preferences can still be developed, but they’re made slowly and with more difficulty. If the kitten’s mother is present and remains calm and accepting, the socialisation events can be more successful.
Kittens born to malnourished mothers have behavioral and cognitive impairment, and are often antisocial to other cats showing fear and aggression. These abnormalities may also be seen in kittens whose mothers were undernourished during the lactation period. These problems often persist despite the kitten going on to be well fed and nourished.
It’s therefore vital to make sure that both the mother and kitten are well fed throughout gestation and the months after birth. At Burgess Pet Care we produce a range of high quality premium food for the different stages of a cats life.
In addition to socialisation, kittens need to experience their surroundings early to make appropriate associations to help them cope with life in the home. This is sometimes known as social referencing, and should include a wide variety of experiences that involve all the senses. Below are 13 suggestions to tell your clients and help their new kitten explore the world.