kitten socialization secrets

Kitten Socialization Secrets


What is Socialization?

Socialization simply means teaching kittens proper behaviors, both with other animals and with their humans, and to feel relaxed and at ease in their new home and with people. In short, socialization is the act of helping your cat feel comfortable being handled, to be gentle during playtime and to adapt to the noises in your home and the people coming and going.

The best age to begin socialization is before the age of 12 weeks, while kittens are still with their mom and siblings. Kittens that don’t get handled before the age of 12 weeks are harder to socialize and may remain somewhat skittish for life.

Kitten socialization is especially important if you are adopting a single cat. Kittens typically learn from one another and their mother how to behave, to be fearless during playtime with their siblings and what hurts and is not acceptable during playtime. They also go to the litter box together when they are very young, learning how to do what Mom showed them. If you adopt a single kitten, it will be up to you to teach her how to properly behave.

How Do I Socialize?

Here are a few ideas to help you work on kitten socialization and help your new feline friend grow into a secure cat who loves to be around people:

Adopt in Pairs: One of the best ways to begin socializing kittens is to adopt them in pairs. Kittens have that high-octane energy, and they can use up their hyperactivity during play with one another. Also, as I mentioned, kittens learn a fair amount from one another. During playtime, you will hear them scold each other if someone bites too hard or gets too rough.

Playtime: Break out those toys, because another way a kitten becomes more social is if you interact with her daily. One of the best ways to spend time with kittens is during playtime. Whether you have one kitten or two (or more if you have a litter), using feather toys and fishing-pole type toys to play with your kittens will have them looking forward to being with you. Remember, use toys to play with kittens, not your hands. My rule is “Toys are for playing, hands are for pet-ting.” Otherwise, you may end up with an adult cat who doesn’t know how to control his biting.

Treats and Meals: Giving treats and meals is a great way to get your cat used to you and the other members of your household. I like to precede meals with a good play session, as this mimics a kitten’s natural desire to hunt. Offering the meal or treat after play makes her feel like she’s had a successful hunt and has caught her dinner. Have everyone in the family take turns feeding the kitten, so she becomes comfortable with everyone in the household.

Friends and Family: Have friends and family drop by, so your kitten gets used to other people and their comings and goings. Otherwise, you may see your kitten become anti-social and fearful of other people as she grows into adulthood. Have visitors offer a treat, pet and play with your kitten so she knows there’s is nothing to fear.

Ensure Security

Of course, there are other things a cat needs to feel secure in her new home:

✔ Plenty of toys to keep busy

Litter boxes in quiet, easily accessible areas with at least two escape routes to and from the boxes, so she doesn’t feel cornered. (Rule is one more litter box than there are cats.)

✔ Tall cat trees or climbing shelves

✔ Cozy kitten cubby holes to nap in and to allow the kitten to get away from it all when she wants some alone time

It goes without saying that the most important thing your kitten needs to feel safe and secure is time and attention from you. Make the time to play with your kitten and cuddle her on the sofa every single day, and she will grow up to be a happy, well-adjusted and social cat.

Social Superstars

There are so many reasons to socialize kitty. Here are just some of them:


✤ Start to trust you and bond

✤ Build confidence and feel secure

✤ Learn proper (and improper) ways to play

✤ Become relaxed in the home and with its rhythm

✤ Be less skittish and jumpy around noises

✤ Not hide from other people, including visitors, in the home

✤ Become more inquisitive

Rita Reimers is a multi-cat behavior expert, author and owner of, a feline health and wellness company. Get her advice exclusively by joining Club Cattitude at Follow Rita on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @MultiCatExpert and on YouTube @RitaReimers.

5 thoughts on “Kitten Socialization Secrets”

  1. I have had many cats and I wished I had known this. Hubby refuses to buy another cat and our little Snoopy is almost 2 and is very skittish and runs and hides whenever we have people over. When she had just been born or not long after the “mother” cat left to find food and sadly she was hit by a car. She had to be bottle fed to get her ready for adoption. We had just lost our cat Shea to cancer and I desperately needed another cat to heal my pain of losing her. Sadly Snoopy adopted her daddy and will only do stuff with him. She follows him around like a lost puppy. I do know what to do

  2. I also foster~usually kittens from outside female people to ignorant/uncaring to
    sterilize. Have 42’crates stacked two high. Don’t tower over them. Hammock, cube
    to be on or in. Have pair now that are going on to another foster who will also
    crate as she socializes. Males come are usually less feral & lovable. Females follow lead of brother. Had pair w/virus w/mouth & nose sores/bloody discharge.
    Syringing meds was painful; but, they’re fine now. Takes a lot of time, patience & determination w/them; but, it’s worth it when the find an understanding adopter. Remember, better to keep crated than let them out & have to get back~been there/done that. Adopter must understand semi-feral-isolcate & work foster to have successful transition. Written history w/instructions accompany adoption contract w/follow up-guidance. If not done-failure is inevitable. I crate non-feral initially until they lose fear. Crates are ‘homes’ not jail cells. We need to put ourselves in the soul of
    foster cats/dogs ~ they’ve lost all they knew, trusted ~ what do we expect.

  3. I have a feral colony in my yard. One of the kittens seemed to be watching me whenever I was outside. So I decided to trap him, get him neutered and keep him inside. It took a few weeks of giving kitty treats to get him to trust me and come closer. After he was fixed, I kept him inside and he loved petting and attention. But I had to teach him that human Mommy does not like it when he bites. He finally got the message about NO BITE! But it seemed like wanted to return my affection when I pet him, so he licks my hand.

  4. I used to get feral kittens from neighbor.I would lock them in room with me .have food,water,litter available. Then I would leave them alone for a few weeks.They would see me coming and going. See me sleeping.After a few weeks.I would reach under bed.Get them by scruff pull them out.Then just pet them as they were on floor. Twice a day for ten minutes.The breakthrough is when they purr.It used to work for me.

  5. I foster kittens for several rescue groups and often get feral kittens older than 10-12 weeks. Any special tips for these babies? I already practice the tips you mention but some kittens are pretty resistant to socialization. Thanks for any I sights.

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