How To Socialize a Kitten

Hannah Hart, DVM
By Hannah Hart, DVM on Apr. 5, 2024
gray fluffy kitten sitting on a cat tree

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Bringing a new kitten into your home is an exciting time. While kittens are playful, curious, affectionate, and (most of all) cute, they can also be a lot of work. This includes not only ensuring their basic necessities for physical health are being met, but also ensuring their emotional and social well-being.

Kittens mostly learn about the world from their mother. But once your kitten is at home with you, there is much more for them to learn about how to interact with other cats, other pets, people, and the various happenings in their daily routine.

As a pet parent, you play a crucial role in ensuring your kitten grows up to be a confident, friendly, well-adjusted cat, so socializing them properly is important. Here’s how to properly socialize a kitten.

Why Is Socializing a Kitten Important?

In general, a well-socialized kitten stands a better chance of living a long, healthy life.

Fearful cats will often hide or lash out by scratching, biting, or hissing when confronted with something new. This can lead to injury. Cats living with chronic fear and anxiety also often suffer from illnesses like lower urinary tract disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

Social cats have much better resilience than fearful cats. A social cat will need many successive negative experiences to develop a fearful, wary outlook toward new stimuli. In contrast, it takes many successive positive experiences for a fearful cat to accept new people, animals, and situations.

Social cats have better overall health due to their lower level of stress, and it’s often easier to detect illness and seek prompt treatment for social cats because they are more open with their human companions. Because fearful cats are more withdrawn, it may be difficult to tell when they don’t feel well.

When To Socialize Kittens

While there is a socialization window in kittens (from about 2 to 7 weeks of age, though some behavior experts extend this as far out as 9 weeks), most kittens are adopted into homes after this time frame.

Ideally, kittens will be with their mother in a home that has people and potentially other animals while they are nursing, as a kitten’s mother and how she interacts with the world shape a lot of their early experiences in life. However, if you have adopted a kitten that’s older than 7 to 9 weeks of age, don’t worry—there’s still time to socialize them.

You should start the socialization process as soon as the kitten comes home with you.

How To Socialize a Kitten

1. Allow Your Kitten to Acclimate

When you first bring your kitten home, set up an area of their own with food, water, toys, bedding, a litter box, and perches. This area should be closed off from the rest of the home. Allow your kitten to have at least a few days by themselves in their area to settle in.

2. Let Them Explore

After they’ve become accustomed to their private space, begin to introduce them one by one to other rooms, people, and animals in the home. Make sure introductions to other cats and dogs are done properly.

Start slowly, with just a few minutes a few times per day. Monitor them for signs of distress, such as:

If your kitten shows any of these signs, return them to their private space and try again another day. If they remain calm as they explore, with a relaxed body posture, ears turned forward in interest, and a tail held aloft, you can increase the length of time they spend in new areas of the home.

3. Expose Them to New Stimuli

Once they’re familiar with the rooms and other occupants of the home, begin to introduce new sounds, smells, and experiences to your kitten.

The specifics will depend on what they may frequently encounter in the home, such as regular grooming and maintenance tasks like tooth brushing, nail trimming, and ear cleaning. During this time, you can positively reinforce your kitten’s calm behavior by feeding them treats and other high-value foods.

Other experiences that may be helpful for your kitten include visits to other people’s homes or excursions in public to meet people and animals of all kinds, from different types of pets to people of all ages, skin colors, genders, and heights.

How Long Does It Take to Socialize a Kitten?

How fast you progress through the kitten socialization process depends on your individual cat. Some kittens may show calm behavior within hours to days of encountering new things, while some may need weeks or months of effort to form positive associations.

If your kitten shows any signs of stress or fear when exposed to a new stimulus, give them a break for a day or two before making another attempt. Patience is key with socializing your kitten, and by respecting their timeline, you will set them up for having successful interactions and experiences throughout their life.

Can You Socialize an Older Cat?

It’s more difficult, though not impossible, to socialize older cats. With an older cat, it’s important to understand that they may need a more extended timeline for exposure to new things before forming solid, positive associations and becoming confident. For example, while it may take a kitten only a few days to become confident and calm toward a new person, it may take an adult cat a few weeks.

Adult cats may need additional help from calming medications, supplements, and products to become properly socialized. These can include things like Purina® Pro Plan® Calming Care probiotic powder, Feliway® pheromone diffusers, and anti-anxiety medications like fluoxetine and sertraline.

If your adult cat seems to be having difficulty with socialization, it’s best to reach out to your veterinarian for assistance.


Turner D. The Mechanics of Social Interactions Between Cats and Their Owners. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 2021;8: 650143.


Hannah Hart, DVM


Hannah Hart, DVM


Dr. Hart graduated from veterinary school in 2017 and began her career with USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service as a public health...

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