Are you thinking of adopting a kitten? You should: they’re furry, adorable, and hilarious! It’s a natural choice. But once that little cat comes home, it’s time to socialize your new pet. For a happy and loving cat, you should learn more about what to do with a new pet cat with this Udemy course.
Petting, talking to, and playing with your new kitten will help make it a pet that meshes with your life. Interacting with your kitten is just as important as training a puppy (learn more with this course)!
Birth to Two Weeks
The kitten has just been born. Kittens need to stay with their mother for at least twelve weeks, as they will learn vital social skills from her. If she is a skittish kitty, or completely feral, you can act to intervene and make the new kittens get used to human behavior. Newborn kittens are wholly dependent on their mothers – they are born blind, hairless, and helpless. Being with its mother and littermates is crucial to the kitten’s development – separation will result in an a social or even aggressive cat. Cats that are weaned off their mother’s milk too soon will most likely exhibit suckling behavior later in life. This means they might suck on blankets, pillows, or even your arm! Those first three months of litter life are very important to a kitten.
A kitten’s eyes should open by the age of two weeks. In the third week, the kitten begins to see and can now smell adequately. The kitten also begins to regulate her own body temperature and does not depend on her mother to keep warm.
Three to Seven Weeks
Kittens who are handled gently just 15 to 40 minutes a day in their first seven weeks of life develop larger brains than those who are not handled by humans. They are getting used to your scents and the feel of your hands.
Social development is key during the second to seventh weeks of life – kittens needs other kittens and cats. Important connections are forming in the kitten’s brain regarding social interaction and muscle use. For instance, a kitten deprived of this kind of interaction might become a biter! In interacting with littermates, a kitten learns what is too strong of a bite during play. Without these vital cat-on-cat social interactions, the kitten might never learn just how hard to bite for fun – and how hard to bite when you mean it!
In the fourth week of life, the kitten can smell and hear maturely. The kitten can finally walk in a developed manner. Its teeth start to appear as well. By the next week, the eyesight has caught up with the senses of smell and hearing. Thus, the kitten begins to play at stalking and pouncing imaginary pretty. The kitten also begins to clean herself, and does not depend upon the mother cat to do so.
Around week six of life, the kitten is behaving more maturely – from sleeping patterns to motor skills. They are like a toddler at this time in terms of abilities and development. (Learn more about toddler development in this course.)
At this age, kitten play is important for developing not only their physical abilities but also their social ones. Weeks seven to 14 are when kittens become most playful! They will paw at objects, chase their tails, pounce on imaginary prey, and ambush each other for impromptu wrestling sessions. The end of this period is when you kitten is weaned and ready to leave her littermates behind – and is ready to come into your home and wreak havoc with her antics!
A kitten is learning about the world and has an open and fearless attitude towards things it encounters. Exposing your kitten to new objects and experiences means you will acclimate him to these during a phase when he is open to accepting it. Delaying it means he might never accept these things and will be fearful of them later in life. This fear can serve a cat well – helping him avoid dangerous situations – but it can also make him frightened of commonplace things.
Eight Weeks And Beyond
Kittens must interact with humans in the first couple months of life in order to avoid becoming feral and frightened of people. Weeks two to seven of life are the prime time to handle the kitten gently so she becomes accustomed to humans.
If Mama Kitty is accustomed to humans, it is best for the kittens to stay with her for the full twelve weeks. But those kittens born to feral mothers may need to be adopted earlier – around week six or seven – in order to get them used to humans during this crucial development period. The more contact with people that a kitten gets in the first seven weeks of life, the friendlier that cat will be later in life!
During the first two weeks, the mother of the kittens might be too cautious to allow you to approach. You can try to stroke them gently while she is taking a meal or bathroom break. Then, once their eyes are opened and they start to gain independence, the kittens should be ready for short sessions of human interaction.
Pick up the kitten and hold him gently. Stroke the kitten’s body and face. Handle his paws to get him used to that sensation. Expose the kitten to other pets – like the family dog. Take the kitten around the house to get used to the sounds and smells of every room. Let the kitten walk on different surfaces like carpeting, grass, tile, linoleum, gravel, and concrete. Give the kitten toys to play with start around week four or five. Also let the kitten explore – cats love paper bags and boxes to creep into.
Provide a scratching post and discourage clawing of the furniture. Make sure the kitten does not bite fingers or use claws when playing with people – polite and gentle play counts for kittens, too! Pull away, say “ow” or “no” and then redirect her attention to an appropriate toy.
These rules of socialization apply even to older kittens and cats – any work you do with your new feline friend will help make him a better companion and more comfortable in different situations. Interacting with your pet is not only fun for you, it is also an important component of the cat’s development! Playing with your cat is as vital as knowing first aid for pets, which you can learn about with this Udemy course.