The fact that young puppies need to be socialized is a well-known fact that is increasingly being recognized by trainers, veterinarians, behaviorists and pet owners alike. However, what you may not know is that kittens also need to be socialized, and they need to be socialized very early in their life.
The ideal window of opportunity for kittens closes even earlier than it does for puppies. For puppies, socialization is most easily accomplished before the age of 3-4 months of age. After that, though socialization is still possible, the process becomes a bit more difficult. For kittens, that ideal window of opportunity closes closer to 2-3 months of age.
What exactly is early socialization? Early socialization means exposing your kitten to as many different experiences, situations, people, pets and other objects as possible. This is the time when learning is easiest for your kitten. Your kitten will be able to adjust more easily to new things at this age than at an older age. Early socialization will help make certain your kitten grows into a confident and well-adjusted adult cat.
When socializing your kitten, you never want to push him past his limit. If he is frightened or suspicious of something, let him investigate at his own pace. Don’t force him into an encounter that scares him.
Part of early socialization means allowing your kitten to interact with other kittens and adult cats. It is at this age that kittens learn from their playmates what type of play behavior is acceptable. Your kitten’s feline playmates will play an important role in teaching your kitten these important lessons.
The young age at which this socialization is occurring, however, also corresponds to the time when your kitten is most susceptible to infectious diseases. While socialization is critical, protecting your kitten from disease is also a necessity. As a result, it is important to choose your kitten’s feline playmates carefully.
- Make sure that all adult cats and kittens that are allowed to interact with your kitten are healthy and free of disease.
- All of your kitten’s feline friends should be current on core vaccinations, as appropriate for the cat’s age.
- Be certain all cats and kittens that play with your kitten are free of both intestinal and external parasites (fleas, ticks, lice, etc.)
Many communities now offer kitten play sessions through local shelters or veterinary hospitals. These are a good option for socializing kittens because the setting is controlled and monitored by staff members of the facility.
Dr. Lorie Huston