By Bonney Brown
This is the time of year many people acquire a new kitten. One of the most valuable things you can do for your new kitten is to provide them with a variety of positive experiences early in life to help ensure that they will become a well-adjusted adult cat. All young animals have a critical socialization period when they can most easily learn new things and adapt to new experiences. For kittens, this is before they reach eight weeks of age.
You can start handling kittens as early as three days after they are born, picking them up briefly and gently stroking them once a day. As they get older, you should get them used to being held longer and touched softly all over their bodies. It’s good for kittens to become accustomed to a variety of people, but you want to avoid overwhelming them. All handling must be gentle and children require close supervision.
Kittens learn from their mother about how to relate to other cats and it’s best that they stay with her a minimum of eight weeks and preferably longer. Many experts recommend adopting two kittens as they can burn off energy and provide company for each other.
Be sure to provide objects for kittens to explore, such as cardboard boxes, paper shopping bags, a scratching post, and toys with holes that they can investigate with their paws. Interactive toys, such as fishing rod toys, allow you to imitate the movement of mice so kittens can practice pouncing and catching skills. Be sure to let the kitten catch the toy sometimes.
It’s important for young cats to learn that human fingers are not toys as play biting becomes more painful as cats grow. If a kitten scratches or bites in play, use a toy to redirect the play. You can also teach bite inhibition when the kitten bites or scratches by yelping or crying and withdrawing from play for a little while.
This is a good time to get kittens acclimated to short car rides in their carrier. You can also clicker train your kitten (or cat) to sit, fetch and come to you with the help of Karen Pryor’s book, Clicker Training for Cats. Local trainers or vet clinics may offer kitten kindergarten or socialization classes.
Time invested in working with kittens during their critical socialization period benefits them and strengthens their bond with you throughout the rest of their lives.
Events that Help Animals
Hairball Club Pet Adoption Promotion, April 5 – 14 at Nevada Humane Society. Adopt adult cats for $25 and adult dogs for $50. 2825 Longley Ln, Reno. Call 775-856-2000 for more information.
Walk for Animals May 18 at Sparks Marina. Register today to help raise funds for homeless pets. Brochures available at area businesses, download one or register online at NevadaHumaneSociety.org.