A newborn kitten can be one of the greatest gifts in your life, and trying to get one acclimated to the world around them can be as fun as newborn babies doing the same. But not all cats are lucky enough to go through the socialization process like ones in good homes. Evidence of that was seen recently in Portland, Oregon where an angry adult cat attacked a child in a home and precipitated a call to 911. This story went viral and became an immediate target of late-night TV monologues. It also made the Twitter hashtag #angrykitty one that more or less described feline socialization gone awry in the 21st century.
While the above cat could still be helped with socialization techniques, it takes considerably longer to make that happen once they’re older than a few years. ASPCA points out socialization has to take place before they’re seven to nine weeks if you want to make them truly comfortable around people. Yet, how much of the world should you really subject your cats to at a young age?
With the world a much more volatile place, you may have to be a little more circumspect.
The Handling Process
ASPCA mentions the importance of kitten handling already before they’re seven weeks old. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to the mother cat and how nervous she is with everyone holding her kittens. You don’t want another #angrykitty situation as the result of handling the kittens before the feline matriarch is ready.
When you do handle the kittens, be very gentle and be sure family members know how to pick them up properly so they aren’t dropped. Toddlers in the family may not be the best choice to handle the kittens now for obvious reasons. The important thing is that the kittens get the feeling of being touched and used to the feel of human hands. You may even find out their predilections for stomach rubs or head rubs that can be nurtured as time goes on.
Interactive toys help kittens start figuring out the physics of the world, even if they may be perplexed by it all at first. You may even be able to develop their intellect by tricking them into figuring out certain rigged devices like hiding a ball under a box.
You can also help develop their curiosity with the world by having them walk on various surfaces both in your home and outside. This means venturing into your yard and having them walk on various challenging surfaces, including the lawn. Just be sure they’re in a safe and secure environment and away from stray dogs that might get alarmed at the new kitten in their vicinity.
Providing some mental stimulation and exposure to more people can get them to trust people when other elements around them are perhaps a little volatile. If you live in an area prone to natural disasters, for instance, having them develop trust in people will prevent any panicking when the world appears to be ending.
Venturing Outside the Comforts of Home
You always have to be cautious about overwhelming your kittens with too much of the world all at once. Taking them into more chaotic places that don’t look familiar can affect them psychologically with stress. Part of that overwhelming feeling could come in taking them in a car if the only time they see a car is when taking them to a vet.
After a while, a cat will associate riding in a car with nothing but going to a vet rather than anything fun. That’s why the ASPCA recommends a Kitten Kindergarten to help them get used to going out and interacting with other people and fellow animals. Right now, the Kindergarten concept is mostly done in Australia. But it’s something America should consider to create a more stable breed of cats that automatically deem us as trusting rather than a menace to their existence.