Guest post by Laura Cassiday
With no questions last month, I decided to talk about kittens this month! It’s finally almost spring, and with spring comes lots and lots of kittens. I’m particularly excited for this year’s kitten season because I will be running a Kitten Kindergarten class at a local veterinary clinic. You might be asking, what the heck is Kitten Kindergarten? It sounds adorable, doesn’t it? It is. But it can be a game changer for new cat parents when it comes to starting their new kittens out on the right paw.
What is Kitten Kindergarten?
Kitten Kindergarten is a cute name for a class, or series of classes where your new kitten can learn about important kitten things. It’s a place to socialize them with other kittens in a controlled environment, and to expose them to novel things to help increase confidence in new situations. It’s also a place for cat parents to learn about training their kittens and generally setting them up for success. Kittens may practice getting used to having their nails trimmed, learn appropriate play with other cats, or even practice getting a veterinary exam.
Why the need for Kitten Kindergarten?
One of the most common reasons that cats are re-homed or surrendered to shelters is for behavioral problems, including but not limited to litter box issues, aggression, and destructive behavior. Kittens that are under-socialized are much more likely to have behavioral issues than kittens who have been exposed to a variety of situations at a young age and made to feel safe. In addition, we all know that cats are often seen in a negative light and unfairly compared to dogs. Because of this, they can be viewed as aloof and untrainable. But if you’re here, hopefully you know that the opposite is true! We can help to change this inaccurate perception by bringing well-socialized, confident, personable cats into the world by starting them off right.
How can I find Kitten Kindergarten classes near me?
Although you can probably sign up for ten different puppy socialization classes within ten miles of your house, kitten socialization classes are still just taking off and not that easy to find. If you don’t see one offered in your area, ask your vet! Let them know it’s something you’re interested in. You can also contact your local certified cat behavior consultant (if you have one) or find one that works virtually. Even if you can’t take your kitten somewhere in person or find an opportunity to socialize him with other kittens, you can still get a crash course on kitten socialization from a professional. (And as one myself, I would be thrilled to hear from anyone who just wants to be proactive and help their kitten be the best kitten they can be.)
What are some things I can do to socialize my kitten on my own?
If you are a kitten foster parent or a cat breeder, start those kittens out early. Teach them that the world is safe. Expose them to other cats, friendly dogs, and appropriate children. Handle their paws on a daily basis. Let them see that their carrier is a safe place and doesn’t always mean they’re going to the vet.
The critical socialization window for kittens is between two and seven weeks. This is when they are more likely to approach and explore new people, animals, objects, and situations with little fear. So if you can get to them that early, that’s best. Even if you adopt your kitten at eight weeks, they are still much more malleable and moldable between that 8 to 16 week period.
Above all, giving your kitten opportunities to play with other kittens is key. Kittens raised with their mother and siblings are more well-adjusted in general. Hand-reared kittens raised away from others of their own species are more likely to show aggression as adults.
If you have a new kitten and want to set him up for success, I hope that you can locate a Kitten Kindergarten class near you! If not, I would love to help. Feel free to contact me at Pawsitive Vibes Cat Behavior and Training.
If you have any questions for April’s
“Ask the Cat Behaviorist” column,
please post them in the comments below!
Laura Cassiday is a certified cat behavior consultant (CCBC) and owner of Pawsitive Vibes Cat Behavior and Training. Laura is certified through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She is also a Fear Free certified animal trainer. Laura recently published her first book, The Complete Guide to Adopting a Cat (affiliate link*.) She works with cat guardians remotely from all over the world, as well as in-person in her local area of Baltimore, Maryland. For more information, visit Pawsitive Vibes Cat Behavior and Training.