Kittens, just like other baby animals, need lots of guidance, support and patience. Their development can be strongly enhanced by understanding their needs, and creating safe places and experiences.
Kitten socialisation period begins at 2 weeks of age and ends at 7 weeks of age – with some research suggesting it can continue until 10 weeks of age.
Nutrition is a key factor in the development of physically, mentally and emotionally well kittens. Always feed your kitten food that is specifically made for them at this young age. Even when they’re asleep their little bodies are doing so much growing they need nutritionally balanced, energy dense fuel.
Environmental enrichment is critical in young kittens to enhance their sensory development. Kittens are born blind and will open their eyes at about 7-10 days. They begin to walk from about 10 days and can toilet voluntarily by about 21 days. They are deaf when born and will start to hear from about day 5. Tailoring the environment for these milestones can set your kitten up for robust physical, mental and behavioural development.Environmental enrichment for kittens includes:
Play with other kittens
It is critical for your kitten to have the opportunity to play with other kittens, or the household dog/puppy/cat, during their socialisation period. This will reduce the likelihood of the kitten growing up to be worried about other pets in the home. However, these experiences need to be positive and well-controlled to ensure your kitten only has good experiences. Keep an eye-out for well run kitten kindergartens to help you through this process! For more great information about playing with your kitten, check out the Kitten Play handout (PDF) with thanks to our friends at Fear Free™ Pets.
Kittens should remain with their littermates until they are at least 10 weeks old. If kittens are rehomed earlier than this, the risk of problem behaviours in adulthood increases. For most pet owners, this means doing your research before purchasing a kitten!
Kittens should be encouraged to explore their environment in safe ways every day. This may be achieved by scattering their food throughout the house or creating an enclosed outdoor space that they can play in or just laze about and enjoy the sun. Check out the Fear Free™ Find it game for felines.
Give your kitten a safe place to retreat AND make visiting the vet so much easier by conditioning them to love their crate or carrier. Dropping treats in there, having it up high where they can’t be disturbed by other pets or children, or covering it over to create a den-like atmosphere can all make this their favourite place to relax!