July 24, 2014
Categories: Animal Behavior

MfCats_fostered_1300Kitten season’s in full swing. Do you know how to raise orphaned kittens so they’ll become feline socialites to rival even Jackie O?

Yah gotta have friends. The importance of littermates to the social development of the individual kitten cannot be stressed enough.

The presence of littermates, and even older cats, can help modulate the kitten’s play behavior so that it’s more appropriate. If presented with a single kitten, place her with others of similar age to expose her to the teachings of sibling rivalry.

The power of touch. “Touched by an angel.” That’s how kittens should feel when experiencing handling by humans.

Touch, whether feline or human, is not only calming, healing and pleasurable to the kitten, it is critical for healthy emotional development. Gently pick kittens up, with one hand under the back legs and the other around the chest, ensuring that they feel safe and secure.

Don’t limit this pleasure to adults. Kittens and kids go together — both love to play and cuddle, after all!

Party animals: The social life of kittens. Life’s a party! A kitten’s social life should be a top priority. This is especially important for orphaned kittens, where the foster parent will need to take on the social director’s role.

Start with short periods (5-10 minutes) of gentle and quiet handling, then slowly increase this time. Stroke bellies, rub behind ears, kiss their blessed heads — be creative, but always gentle and kind.

Extend party invitations to friends and family, and kitten-friendly pets.

By the fourth week of life, social play arises and increases until 11 to 14 weeks of age (and a lifetime for some). Now is the time to add play to kitten interactions.

Focus on toys that distance the person from the kitten (e.g., pole toys). Never use hands or feet as playthings.

Don’t restrict the party to just one area. Add some environmental fun by safely exposing them to normal household objects (furniture, appliances, windows) and noises (radio, television, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher), and even short car rides in cat carriers.

Socialization of kittens can be broken down into three simple components: friends, touch and parties! Even two-legged creatures can appreciate that.

Also of interest:

From Helpless Newborn to Skilled Acrobat: Feline Development and the Orphaned Kitten

Physical and Behavioral Development of Kittens for the First 6 Weeks of Life – Infographic