Kitten Socialization and Development

by catfood

Jacque Lynn Schultz, C.P.D.T., serves as the program adviser for companion animals.
A cat’s personality is mostly determined by its experiences during the first eight weeks of life.

Here are some actions you may take to help your foster kitten behave as well as possible, leaving medical concerns to the veterinarian.


Your first and most important duty is to provide a balanced diet. The mother cat should acquire weight before giving birth because she can lose it while eating. Some foster parents move their pregnant foster cats back to kitten food in order to get the extra calories per mouthful. Studies show that an undernourished cat is impatient and less attentive to her pups. Therefore, her kittens will experience developmental delays and require more time to walk, play, and open their eyes. As they become older, these kittens exhibit greater antisocial behavior against other cats, have lower learning capacity, and exhibit higher degrees of fear and aggression.

Home is best of all

When setting up a foster kitten nursery, stay away from the empty room/sterile box setup, especially for kittens between the ages of two and eight weeks. Kittens raised in more complicated circumstances during their first two months of life are less anxious as adults than kittens raised in less stimulating situations. There should be plenty of sensory stimulation available. There may occasionally be a radio or television on in the room. As flooring, you can use old newspapers, soiled towels, a square of carpet, linoleum tiles, or even a piece of AstroturfTM. A tiny cardboard box with a hole cut out in the side can be used as a den once the kittens are mobile. However, stay away from utilizing fresh vegetable crates as they can have received a strong pesticide treatment.


As soon as you can, start gently handling the animal. Early human connection is the cause of precocious growth. When the kittens are two to three weeks old, increase the number of handlers in their daily circle to three or four in order to help them learn to trust everyone. However, keep adult male cats away from the nursery since the queen will mistakenly see them as predators and get too alarmed.

Families in business

It’s important to keep the litter with the mother until they are at least eight weeks old since kittens learn by watching how an adult cat acts. Conveniently, this coincides with when most kittens finish weaning. Through observational learning, they learn how to hunt (even if this activity is largely genetically predetermined), how to use the litter box, whether or not to cover waste, what foods are safe to eat, and who is suitable as a partner. Kittens also learn how to handle tension and disappointment because Mom Cat controls the “milk bar” and they don’t always get the chance to suckle until they are pleased. Last but not least, littermates should stay together until they are eight to 10 weeks old. Through cooperative play, kittens learn to restrain themselves from biting and clawing and to accept other cats as well as their littermates.


One other thing to note: Hand-reared single orphans or those who are taken away from their mother before eight weeks of age often develop into hyperactive kittens who are unable to handle displeasure. As adults, they frequently develop a fear of and hostility toward people and other cats. They are less able to learn and more likely to develop an asthma-like respiratory condition. By being adopted into another litter or, at the at least, by being fostered in a home with other cats who could serve as role models, orphans are frequently able to escape this fate.

The adjectives “aloof,” “anti-social,” and “scarey-cat” may no longer be used to describe America’s most popular pet as a result of these suggestions for the optimum socialization and development.


Wondering about Preventing Lost Cats? Check it out on our latest post!


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