We want our kittens to grow up to be friendly, affectionate adults. The experiences they have in their first 3 months of life largely determine their adult temperament and behavior. The three factors that have been identified as being essential in raising the perfect feline companion are:
- Early Handling–gentle petting and talking to the kitten as early in the kitten’s life as possible.
- Socialization–introducing the kitten to a variety of people (including children), friendly pets, new places and experiences (e.g., riding in the car)– all supervised and with the kitten’s safety in mind.
- Environmental Enrichment–making the kitten’s home interesting and stimulating. Remember our domestic cats still have one paw in the jungle. (The house cat is genetically the same in mind and body as its wild cousins– the big cats.) This little tiger needs to climb, perch, play, and to investigate something new once-in-awhile.
A particularly sensitive period in a kitten’s life is between 8-12 weeks of age when the kitten is weaned and is most easily bonded to the owner. This is the time the owner should provide the kitten with a variety of positive and safe experiences. Care should be taken to ensure that no frightening or stressful events take place or the kitten may develop an avoidance response. No disciplinary training should take place at this time. The goal is to give the kitten a sense of control and self-confidence. Playing with the youngster on a regular basis also helps him to become more extroverted.