A kitten that has been handled by several people from a young age will be more open and curious; this is the same for everyday sounds. The more stimulating the environment, the more well-balanced the kitten is likely to be. If a kitten has grown up in an environment lacking in stimuli, make sure it stays with its mother a little longer before bringing it to a new home, and introduce them slowly and gently to new people and sounds.
Playing is actually a cornerstone in the development and socialisation of your kitten. A toy they can move, roll, slide and bat about usually works best at stimulating your kitten to move about and explore. Play with your kitten to help with boredom, loneliness and encourage exercise; do watch out for biting and scratching though! From the start a kitten learns through ‘play fighting’ with its siblings, determining strength and how to use its teeth and nails, be sure your kitten understands what is acceptable from the earliest opportunity, before these teeth and claws are fully developed!
Different types of play:
- Fighting – Attack & defence behaviour
- Wrestling – Controlled biting; respect for hierarchy
- Side-step – Defending territory and hunting
- Chase – Defending territory and hunting
- Standing upright – Defending territory and hunting
- Boxing – Optimising visual and tactile sensitivity; controlled scratching
Playing and hunting are two closely related activities for cats, because most games stimulate the hunting instinct! Kittens start learning to hunt from a very early age, even adopting the correct positions from about 1 month old! From about 6 months, in theory, a kitten is able to provide for its own needs, understanding what is edible.
By around 5-6 weeks a kitten should already be house trained by its mother, and know how to use the litter tray. If the kitten does not do this, you will need to show the kitten what to do, by placing it into the tray and covering any excrement. Repeat this every time the kitten begins to go to the toilet, until they have learnt to use the litter tray.
Grooming is necessary to clear away any dead hairs that get trapped in the coat, so that your kitten doesn’t swallow them. Too many ingested hairs, can result in the formation of hairballs in the stomach. You should get your kitten use to brushing at an early age, and finish off with a cuddle or play session to reward them.
Very few cats like contact with water, however, bathing is necessary to clean some medium and long coats. So you should get your kitten used to water as early as possible, reassuring them the whole time with gentle words and strokes. Wet your kittens back with a small bowl of water, taking care to prevent water getting into its eyes or ears. Don’t moisten its head.
It is important to remember to use only specialist cat shampoo, human shampoo can be toxic to cats!
You should never adopt a kitten younger than 2 months old. If it is too young it will be more delicate and harder to educate around 3 months is usually considered the right age.