Kitten Socialization Checklist & Tips | Hill's Transforming Lives

Tips for Socializing Your New Kitten

The first thing to consider upfront is that all cats have their personalities, just like humans. Some cats will relate well to people and other animals, while others may never be that keen. However, to encourage the very best socialisation of your furry companion, it’s best to ensure that you do so within the first 4-16 weeks of your kitten’s life. This is the most important phase for a cat’s overall behavioural and social development.

Encourage safe & happy formative experiences

Before your kitten comes to live with you, she will have been interacting with her mother, the other kittens in her litter and probably several different people. This encourages having an adult cat that is social and well adjusted to the sights, smells and sounds of daily living. Kittens need to get used to being handled by the people in your household early on - especially if you aren’t going to be a single caregiver. However, remember to not rush this process within the first few days after your kitten’s arrival.

Most kittens will arrive in their forever homes when they’re around 8-12 weeks old. It’s important to take your kitten straight to a quiet, safe space that houses its bowls, litter and bed. Your new kitten will be overwhelmed and you can show your love and reassurance by petting your kitten gently and keeping your voice soft and calm. One of our top tips for having your kitten grow into a friendly, confident cat is to play with them early on in your relationship. Make this a daily ritual and you’ll form an unbreakable bond in no time!

Socialise your kitten with kids

Whether you have children or not, it can be very beneficial to socialise your kitten with children as early as possible. Otherwise, they may reject or bite kids later in life. If you do have children who are thrilled to be meeting a new kitten, you must teach them before it arrives that it is not a toy and must be handled with great care. At first, there should be no unsupervised playtime with the kitten and once you notice it has had enough, intervene before your kitten feels the need to scratch or bite to retreat.

Introduce your kitten to visitors & strangers

If you want your cat to avoid developing a fear of new people in the future, it can help to introduce them to all sorts of different humans. Be sure to ask people not to scare or overwhelm your kitten when you introduce them, they must use calm voices and display strong signs of affection. As with other activities, your kitten will tire out quickly and most meeting times with new people should be kept short.

Supervise your kitten with other pets

When you prepare to bring your kitten home, it’s important to visit your vet to check that all other household pets are healthy and up to date on vaccinations. The sense of smell is an incredibly important part of introducing two animals to each other. Before you introduce your kitten to your pets, spend some time petting and transferring the smells of your other pets and home onto their fur. Mix these scents by petting your resident pets, then the kitten, and vice versa (without washing your hands until you’re done).

Nonetheless, all first meetings should be done one pet at a time, and preferably with your new kitten in a carrier or behind a baby gate. At even the slightest sign of aggression, you should immediately separate the two. You must never leave your new kitten alone with any other pets in your home until they’ve gotten on just fine for a few weeks. Always keep smaller pets, such as hamsters, fish and birds safely out of reach.

Some kittens may develop separation anxiety

Sometimes, it’s possible to do too good a job of raising your little furball to become a cat that loves to be around people. Now and then, a kitten may get too attached to you and will simply hate it when you go out. While many pet owners used to think that only dogs experienced separation anxiety, today we know that cats get stressed out by it too. If you get reports of your cat being excessively loud and vocal while you’re out or notice soiling of your home while you’re gone, then this may be the problem.

When this does happen, the worst thing you can do is punish your kitten. Your kitten simply won’t understand this and it will lead to further stress. So, how to manage your kitten’s separation anxiety? You can limit the amount of time you leave your cat alone by getting a cat sitter. It’s also a good idea to try not to make a big fuss about leaving the house when you do go.

You can also do a bit of training with your kitten, to help your kitten increase its threshold to short absences. For example, leave your kitten in a room, close the door and walk away. Return after a few minutes, go in but don’t interact with your kitten. Then after a few days, extend the absences to up to 30 minutes. Be sure to listen for signs of your kitten getting distressed or scratching at the door. After a while, your kitten will learn to self soothe and amuse themselves while the humans are away.