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Tips on Socializing your New Kitten

cat and girlLet’s face it: cats are not known for enthusiastically bounding to the door and greeting you or your guests. Despite their reputation, however, cats are quite social. If properly socialized, your little kitty can be the friendliest feline around.

Socialization is the process in which the kitten develops relationships with other living beings in its environment. The greater exposure a kitten has to new situations, the better adjusted she will be. And the more pleasant experiences your kitten has with a variety of people, the more relaxed and trusting she will be as she matures.

When kitty comes home
The introduction to a new home and housemates is a crucial point for a kitten. The optimal time to place a kitten in a new home is between eight to twelve weeks of age.

Kittens should always be transported in a proper carrier. After its arrival, place the kitten in a quiet area with food and a litter box. Family members should introduce themselves one at a time to the kitten. Approach him slowly, speaking softly, and eventually reach out to pet him. Regular and frequent handling of kittens increases the likelihood that they will relate well to people later in life. Studies have shown that interacting with kittens every day, even for just 15 minutes, will positively affect later behavior, including learning ability.

Varied experiences are important
Kittens should be introduced to all the aspects of living in a human home. They should see and hear other pets, visitors and noises. Don’t hesitate to run everyday appliances such as vacuum cleaners, dishwashers and televisions.

It’s also a good idea to secure the kittens in a cat carrier, and take them for little "outings" into the different areas of your home. You may even consider taking them for a short drive to get used to being in a car.

The more they are exposed to during this early stage of life, the better-accustomed companions they will be later on.

How to play
Socialization should include the gradual introduction to as many people as possible, to lessen Kitty’s fear of strangers. It is important, however, to be sure kitty’s interaction with strangers is pleasant.

Let her set her own pace. Instruct your friends (or children) to allow the kitten to approach them, and not to pursue the kitten. Let the kitten "investigate" the stranger first, with a sniff or a rub. Then, have your friend offer a treat a few times. Once the kitten appears comfortable, the person can reach out to pet kitty as the treat is given.

As an alternative to using treats each time, have the person invite Kitty to play. Since kittens love to romp, they are usually easily persuaded. Playing relaxes the cat and gives him pleasure. This establishes an important link in the cat’s mind: strangers can be fun. Avoid rough play, or play using your hands, fingers, feet or clothing. This encourages aggressive behavior, scratching and/or biting.

The kids will be very anxious to play with the new kittens. Show children how to properly pick up, hold and pet the kitten. Children shouldn’t deliberately make lots of noise around kittens, but they don’t need to significantly alter their behavior.