BASIC CONCEPTS OF KITTEN SOCIALIZATION
Kitten socialization begins the minute the kittens open their eyes and ears. For the kitten, what a difference a day makes. One day it is snuggled against the mother, sleeping and nursing, the next climbing all over the place! This is the big difference between dogs and cats. Cats are hunters by nature. Just watch a litter of kittens after they’ve discovered that they have tails. They will play hide and seek with another. They will pounce on each other. This is the start of kitten socialization; that is trying to act like an adult cat.
Adding to that mystique of the cat, kittens (and adults) have excellent vision. Dogs only can see shades of black and white plus a few shades of blue and yellow. They are also near sighted. What saves the dog is its superior olfactory device; the nose! Cats are predators and have superb vision. This aids in stalking their prey. This comes in handy when they are young. Watching a kitten fly through the house chasing another requires steady, acute vision! At this point they are weaned and ready to enter the world ON THEIR TERMS! Kitten socialization turns that timid little kitten into a true hunter!
THE WAY OF THE CAT
Dogs are pack animals. Very, very social animals. Kittens and their elder brethren are social up to a point. Many people associate this behavior with aloofness. Not true. Comparing cat behavior with dog behavior is like comparing apples to mangos. Kittens do love playing with their siblings but when all are sold or given away, kittens as they grow older, can be solitary individuals. They have buddies in a multi-cat household but you will often find the kitten sleeping by itself. When it comes to people, kitten socialization is a different story! Kittens love their humans. They love to be picked up, carried, put in baby strollers and the list goes on. Kittens are very flexible and durable.
The social identity of a kitten can be challenged by dogs in the household. Kittens and adult cats love hanging around dogs their size. Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas fit this bill. These two breeds of dogs soon start acting like cats after hanging around the new kitten on the block! On the other hand, I had a cat in Ohio that used to run to me like a dog when called. Go figure.
As they start discovering their world, kitten socialization is one of curiosity. It will want to sit for hours watching a fly go back and forth. Any movement of birds outside attracts its attention. Hang a fishing pole in front of it with a fuzzy mouse attached to the line and it will give that inanimate mouse a run for its money. That curiosity also can get the cat into trouble. They often find a piece of yarn, start playing with it than swallow it! That is trouble! You might find interesting the article on Kitten Proofing the House.
Kitten socialization also teaches the pecking order in the house if there are older cats present. Kittens want to play with their elders but the adult cats see differently and will swat and hiss at them. This all changes in time, as the adults eventually will tolerate the youngsters. Kittens will also try to share the food bowl with the adults. This also usually does not work as the kitten will usually find out.
Kittens and adult cats are social but on their terms. As social animals they are as determined as they are fearless. Unless they are a Ragdoll, they will not back down! The fascinating thing about kitten socialization is what makes it so entertaining to us humans!