Many cat owners have heard of socialization but most don’t understand the importance of it and many don’t know how to socialize their kitten the right way.
A well-socialized cat has experienced different people, places, and situations in a positive manner when he was a young kitten.
This will also help your cat to react calmly and relaxed in new situations he hasn’t experienced in the past.
The more you can desensitize your kitten to his environment the less likely he will become reactive later on.
Can You Over Socialize A Cat?
The socialization period is a very vital phase in the development of a young kitten.
The goal here is to let the young kitten positively experience as many situations as possible to boost his confidence and prepare him for the environment, including other cats, people, places, and sounds.
Many adolescent behavior problems can be traced back to poor socialization training. Your young kitten has to be prepared for the world in order to react appropriately to it.
Problems like excessive meowing, reactivity, aggression, anxiety, and hyperactivity can all be caused by undersocialization.
Behavior issues are in fact the number one cause of death in cats under the age of three years, so socialization is actually a lifesaver for your kitten.
Is it possible to over socialise a kitten?
No, it’s impossible to socialise your kitten too much, unless your cat is too exhausted and or you establish negative habits like pulling and overexcitement.
When Should I Start Socializing My Kitten?
The socialization period happens early between the age of 3 – 16 weeks and nothing should be more prioritized than socialization in these few weeks.
You probably pick up your kitten around the age of 8-10 weeks.
So it is very important and critical to choose a responsible breeder that will do some socialization work with the litter beforehand.
In this post, you can learn more about how you can find a professional breeder.
You will only have a few weeks before this period ends which means that you will have to completely commit to prioritizing this training in the first few weeks.
Your kitten will not only learn from you but you will also learn a lot about your kitten’s personality and it will make your bond much stronger.
Can I Take My Kitten Outside Before Vaccinations?
Studies have shown that the risk of your cat getting infected by a transmitted disease is way lower than the risk of a cat dying because of a behavior problem.
Early and adequate socialization and programs of positive training can go a long way to preventing behavior problems and improving bonding between humans and cats.
While the first three months is the most important socialization period in a kitten's life, owners of kittens that have passed this milestone are strongly encouraged to continue to socialize their kittens to as many people, pets, and locations as is practical.
However, owners of kittens displaying fear should seek veterinary guidance.
Kittens should receive a minimum of one set of vaccines at least 7 days prior to the first class and a first deworming and should be kept up-to-date on vaccines throughout the class.
In general, kittens can start (off-leash positive method socialization classes) as early as 7-8 weeks of age.I Cat Care Position Statement on Kitten Socialization
How Do I Socialize My Kitten?
There has been a myth around for very long that kittens should not be socialized until they are fully vaccinated by the age of 4- 5 months.
This information is not only outdated but is also very dangerous as you miss the most important part of kitten behavior development.
If your cat has a healthy and normal functioning immune system, you can easily take him to kitten classes by the age of 10 weeks.
Playing with other Kittens
When a kitten plays with cats at his own age, he will learn important skills like bite inhibition, confidence, and social skills and he will learn to interact with you while distracted.
Great kitten classes should be off-leash and well structured. They should be always supervised and you should be able to integrate training into your socialization.
Visiting New Places
New places will teach your kitten different sights, smells and sounds. This is incredibly exciting for a new kitten and ignites his curiosity.
To successfully socialize your kitten it should be protected and experience its environment in a safe way. Do not just throw your kitten in new situations and hope for the best.
You will have to get him used to the environment in a very gentle manner.
Approach everything slowly and be sure to praise your cat for the right reaction and comfort him if he is scared.
Take a step back if he seems anxious as we only want positive experiences.
Avoid cat parks as you cannot control this environment and playing is oftentimes too rough for small and young kittens and things could escalate quickly.
Start in a quiet area and slowly build up to public places.
When I started exposing my kitten, I began taking her to the backyard where she could experience different smells and insects but wouldn’t get scared by anything.
Then I would go down the streets with her in the neighborhood where a door might upon and a few cars slowly drive by.
After a few days, I had built up her confidence and we were ready to go to a more busy street. I got out of the car with her and we were far away from the streets.
When I got her used to the environment, we went closer and closer to the street.
After about an hour we could safely take the crosswalk across the streets a couple of times and this is how she learned to safely cope with traffic noise.
Making the Experience Positive
Always keep in mind that your kitten has to be happy around these places. This will connect new environments with something great.
I always took plenty of high–value treats with me (cooked chicken) and rewarded her for every desired reaction.
Pay attention to your kitten's body language. When his body begins to stiffen then take him away from the area as he seems to be uncomfortable.
Always reassure him that you got his back and that you can accomplish everything together.
This will give his confidence a great boost and you will immediately see his mood change.
Meeting New People
Many cats are scared of certain people for their whole live just because of how they appear and sound.
You will want to desensitize your cat to as many people as possible for the best socialization results.
Start with friends and family and let them meet your new kitten in a calm and safe environment.
It is important that your kitten meets both genders, people of different ethnicities, age and sizes.
They should also wear different clothes, white dresses, black hoodies and so on.
Once your kitten became familiar with the outside world, he can start meeting more people in different situations.
People in wheelchairs, people with walking sticks or bicycles. This is obvious but your kitten should meet your vet early especially for health reasons.
Getting Used to Being Touched
Your kitten just came from his own cat family to your house. Now he is surrounded by so many people and not used to being touched by these weird fingers that we have.
A kitten should be comfortable being gently pet on his sensitive ears and paws but you will also have to prepare him for unexpected handling like a kid suddenly pulling on his tail.
The vet will need to examine your kitten and you want him to be prepared for that. Things, like lifting up his tail or clipping his nails should be okay with him.
Getting your kitten used to car rides is important even though you can’t think of a situation where you would need that.
Your kitten should be prepared for every possible situation that could occur.
Cats usually don’t like car rides, it’s loud and bumpy and just not enjoyable. This is why you will have to do your best to make the experience a positive one.
Start by choosing the right gear. For your cat's safety, you will need a harness and a seatbelt.
But if you do have a harness or your kitten is too small, you can also just buy a seatbelt.
You also won’t need to worry about your car if your cat got wet from the rain or swimming or simply being dirty from a walk.
I started by giving her some company for the first few weeks in the backseat while my boyfriend was driving, so she could settle and always lay on my lap.
I took many treats with me and would occasionally feed them to her. I also spread some blankets on the backseat to make it extra comfortable.
Get your kitten used to being in the car and let him sniff around at least 10 minutes before departure.
Take baby steps and just start the engine and reward your cat; then you can turn it off again.
Drive slowly and see how your kitten is reacting to turns and sounds. Slowly build up the progress and ensure that your kitten is happy with you in the car.
Once she got a bit older and more confident, I got back to the front seat and we never had any problems with it.
Of course, you don’t have to start that way if you do not have a friend or person that could drive you.
Your cat might be comfortable in the car from day one especially if the breeder took him on car rides.
Recommended Reading: Can cats improve your mental health?
Meeting Other Animals
Not only other cats are interesting for your cat but also animals like cats, birds, ducks and so on. You can let your kitten experience them from far away or get a little closer if it’s save.
Keep in mind that not all animals are keen to meet your kitten. They could be scared or intimidated and you do not want your cat to get hurt.
If you already have other pets in your home, start with them.
You will want to teach your kitten the appropriate way to react to other animals to avoid behavior issues like meowing, lunging or chasing.
Reward your kitten if he is calm and unafraid.
If you already have a cat in your home, you will want to plan their first meeting thoroughly to avoid any chasing.
You can read my guide on how to introduce a new kitten to your cat.
I have attached a comprehensive checklist that will help you remember everything:
What Not to Do When Socializing Your Kitten
There are a few things that should be avoided when socializing a young kitten:
Visiting the cat park – A cat park is a huge no for a kitten. Not only is it overwhelming but it is also quite dangerous. Oftentimes, the cats will be far away from the owners and unsupervised.
A little kitten could be easily run over by some large cats and get scared for his life.
You simply do not have control over your cat in the park unless he is old enough and has mastered the recall training.
Leaving your kitten somewhere – Do not leave a young kitten in front of a store or inside a car. The fear of getting abandoned in new places is just too big for kittens. Never leave him anywhere unsupervised.
Starting off with crowded places – Taking your kitten to festivals or crowded public places will overwhelm and scare him. Instead, look for quieter places and start with smaller crowds like a park.
Putting him into a situation without an exit – Only choose places and situations where you could easily escape from. If you sense that your cat gets nervous, you don’t want to be standing in the middle of a shopping mile. Always stay around the corners of a place where you could easily switch into a quieter environment.
Meeting aggressive and rowdy cats– Kittens at their own age are the best playmates. Do not visit places or classes where your kitten would be playing with or meeting aggressive or rowdy cats. It will be too much for your kitten and he will become frightened.
How to Socialize An Adult Cat
Older cats can be socialized in the same way as kittens can despite having missed the critical period.
Slowly desensitize your cat to the same things as listed above and you will see him getting comfortable with it.
If you experience some unsolvable problems along the way, you can always consult a professional cat trainer especially concerning aggression towards people or other animals or severe fearfulness.
If you take everything into consideration, you will provide your kitten with a great foundation for his future.
Let me know your experiences with socialization and what has worked for you, in the comments down below.