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A new kitten over lockdown: The kitten socialisation period

When a kitten grows up, they go through a stage where their experiences impact how they view the world around them. These experiences are so important as they learn what is safe and what they should avoid. This phase is often known as “socialisation.”

What is meant by a kitten socialisation period?

If you have recently become a happy new owner of your furry bundle of joy, then you may be wondering what the socialisation period is. This is the time when your kitten is most open to new experiences. It generally starts from birth and lasts until they are about 8 weeks old. They begin to get used to some intimidating parts of life, things such as being picked up, the washing machine and the vacuum cleaner. You should ideally not be bringing your kitten home until they are at least 8 weeks old so you know they likely would have already passed their socialising stage by the time you collect them. A lot of pet insurance companies will also not insure your kitten until they have reached 8 weeks of age.

Bringing my kitten home

If you purchased your kitten from a breeder, you may have already spoken to them about the experiences they had looking after your kitten before you purchased. This is a good indication of how well they have been socialised. If you notice your kitten is a lot more timid despite having a few weeks to settle in, this could mean they require more time and patience in order to get more adjusted to the new family environment, and to fully develop their personality. Poorly socialised cats could be naturally more timid.

My cat has recently given birth. How do I help its kitten through its socialisation period?

Kittens spend the first few weeks of their life discovering what is safe and friendly and what things are loud, intimidating, and scary. This is the time they learn what they can trust, and what things they should be scared of. Newborn kittens are very open-minded at this time and tend to get used to positive experiences quickly. If they find they have a positive experience with something then they are unlikely to develop any fear with that encounter in the future.

Your new kitten should be getting used to a big range of experiences, such as children, other animals, other people and plenty of handling. The more experiences your kitten gets, the more beneficial it will be for them later in life. Just ensure you don’t do too much at one time so that you don’t overwhelm them.

In general, well socialised kittens adapt well to new situations, are content in other peoples and pets companies, whereas poor socialisation could lead to timid, aggressive and scared cats.  

Please remember though, you must not let your cats new kittens out until they have had their second dose of vaccinations.

What type of socialisation activities can I do to help my kitten?

If you’re concerned your kitten needs a bit of assistance, the following may help your kitten with their socialisation:

  • Playing sounds such as rain, thunder, fireworks and traffic so that they get familiar with them.
  • Meet ups! The more people your kitten meets the better- as long as they are relaxed throughout. Children are especially good to meet as they will show an interest throughout the kittens entire life.
  • Vet visits – Trips to the vets may be a frequent occurrence in your pets life. Getting them used to the vet early can hopefully help them not be as scared if they do need to go in future. Making the vets a fun experience from day one can also help- adding treats to their carrier, giving them extra cuddles and maybe a new toy could help.

With patience and understanding, you can help your kitten catch up and grow into a happy, confident cat.  

  • Take time with them and stay calm
  • Introduce new things slowly and gradually
  • Offer rewards and new interesting ways to keep them motivated
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help

I have been socialising my kitten for a few months, how do I know if they’re anxious about anything?

  • Body posture is stiff
  • Eyes seem wider and more alert
  • Ears directed back or down
  • They cry a lot

Be imaginative with their new experiences and try to take them out of their comfort zone. You should find that your kitten naturally adapts into life by themselves, however if you are ever worried about anything, always speak to your local veterinary practice.