Kitten Socialisation in Lockdown

16th Feb 2021


 

Tip #1

Resources

For a cat, the availability of suitable ‘resources’ is key to making your home a happy feline environment. These include:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Toileting areas
  • Resting  and sleeping areas

A general rule of thumb in a multi-cat house is one of each plus one! Cats also require areas to play and scratch.

 

Tip #2

Feeding

Cats in the wild spend up to 6 hours a day hunting and can catch 10 or more mice a day. So consider offering small quantities through the day in interesting ways:

  • Hide pieces of dry food for the kitten to forage and find.
  • Be inventive – offer food in a challenging way – e.g. in an empty egg box for the kitten to dig out.
  • Use a commercial cat treat feeding ball to stimulate hunting behaviour.

Ceramic and glass bowls with sides are best (plastic can hold off-putting smells and metal can clink). Have more than one bowl available separated from water or litter trays.

 

Tip #3

Water

  • Water is better placed away from food.
  • Offer several water sources around the house.
  • Filtered or cooled boiled water may encourage some cats to drink as tap water chemicals can be off putting.
  • Many kittens and cats will enjoy pet drinking fountains.
  • Bowls should be large enough so the kitten can drink without whiskers touching the sides, and filled to the brim to allow for lapping.
  • Be careful – there have been reports of cats being put off their water by a picture on the bottom of a dish.


Tip #4

Kitten Socialisation and Development

  • The key time for kitten socialisation is 2 – 7 weeks old.
  • To help your kitten bond with your family, ‘meet’ the kitten at floor level and let it come to your hand initially and sniff.
  • Begin gentle stroking around head and cheeks. Avoid sensitive belly area.
  • Talk gently to the kitten.
  • Don’t force interactions. Let the kitten move away when it is ready.
  • Provide hiding places such as boxes and quiet areas both for the kitten to hide and for older cats to get away from the kitten.
  • Cats like a familiar home environment. However, help kittens to become less threatened by change by introducing objects like cardboard boxes for them to explore.


Tip #5

A Safe Place to Hide and Rest

  • For a cat this is private and secure and often in a raised location.
  • Cardboard boxes on their sides can be suitable.
  • A covered cat carrier with familiar bedding inside is a good choice.
  • Soft beds with high sides that kittens can snuggle down into are good especially if slightly elevated.
  • Create comfortable areas in shelves but not too high for young kittens.
  • Wash bedding only if soiled. Bedding will be scented with comforting familiar pheromones.
  • Artificial pheromone sprays are available and can help.


Tip #6

Play

Play is important for kitten development, provides interest and enhances the bond with you.

  • Play mimics foraging and predatory behaviour.
  • Hide food and use puzzle feeders (commercial or home made).
  • Toys should be size appropriate.
  • Let them chase fur or feather toys on a rod.
  • Let them chase and catch smaller toys, large soft toys can be raked and bitten.
  • Reward a ‘catch’ with a food treat.
  • Put toys away after play and rotate to avoid boredom and prevent ingestion of parts such as elastic and bells.
  • Avoid using your hands and feet in play to avoid injury.


Tip #7

Litter Trays

Like us cats view toileting as a private business. However, regular trips are essential to maintain optimal health.

  • Remember 1 per cat, plus 1 in different locations.
  • Place in discreet area away from thoroughfares and doors – especially glass doors.
  • Clean soiled material at least daily, and entire tray weekly.
  • Covered trays are available and preferred by some cats.
  • Size of tray ideally 1.5 times length of cat from nose to tail base.
  • Cats prefer a litter depth around 3cm.
  • Ideal litter choices are lightweight, biodegradable and not highly scented.
  • Clean with hot water and detergent or dilute bleach then rinse well. Some disinfectants can be toxic.


Tip #8

Avoiding Dangers

For your kitten, your home is an exiting place to explore and discover. However, there are dangers to be considered and a kitten may not be as discerning as an adult cat.

  • Accessible electrical cables may be chewed and dangling wires from hot irons could be enticing.
  • If they can reach the worktop they could also access hot hobs.
  • Watch out for paper shredders, open washing machines, and chemicals under sinks.
  • Needles and threads can be fun to play with, but dangerous if swallowed.
  • Watch out for balconies and open upstairs windows.
  • Some plants and flowers can be toxic, e.g. lillies.
  • Antifreeze is highly toxic.
  • Don’t worry too much, but try think like a cat to limit risk.