Socialization for kittens is just as important as it is for puppies. It helps them learn to interact with people, other pets, and builds confidence and security so they can grow up to be great cats and purr-fect companions. This month, we’re learning ‘how to’ socialize kittens with our Behavior Supervisor and Feline Welfare Specialist Melissa Graham, CFTBS. 

Under-socialized kittens haven’t had opportunities to learn how to interact with humans appropriately. Depending on the age of your kitten, different types of toys and treats are going to help reward your kitten for good behavior:

  • Ages 5-7 weeks are just exploring new toys, using small toys such as shoe laces, pipe cleaners and balls
  • Ages 8-12 weeks are exploring bigger toys, wand toys, crinkle balls, laser lights

Kittens who need socialization don’t typically understand toys, so leaving toys out for 6-week-old kittens, such as shoe laces, pipe cleaners, and ping pong balls, will have a better effect on your kittens as they won’t make a strange noise or move too fast when they explore them. With time and a lot of exploration, your kittens will learn to adjust to toys and will be more interested in the big cat toys that move around the room and in the air.

When introducing your kitten to a home, most new pet owner’s first instinct is to let their animals explore the house. This is a wonderful opportunity for under-socialized kittens to find the best hiding space where their new parents can’t get to them.

  • To help kittens feel safe in their new temporary home, provide your kittens with a safe room. This room is typically a smaller bathroom, walk-in closet, or office space.
  • Avoid a bedroom with hard-to-reach spaces under the bed. If you can, block those spaces up with blankets or towels.
  • Add easy access hiding cubbies to your kitten’s safety room, including the carrier they come in. Provide a cardboard box on its side with a soft blanket or a laundry basket turned into a cave using an oversize blanket.
  • If you want to get fancy a cat tree or cat cubbies/blankets are a great source of comfort for our nervous kittens.

Touching and picking up kittens who are under-socialized can be a big struggle as they are not used to it. Tricks that can help under-socialized kittens are:

  • Wet food on the back of a spoon
  • Treats that are tossed to our kittens as they come closer to us
  • Toys that can guide our kittens in to touch
  • Petting our kittens when they are eating.

Begin by touching the kittens lightly along their backs. This can be a great way to get our kittens used to being handled, then pick them up when they are ready. Always reward your kittens for good behavior, and remember to give them breaks when they are overwhelmed by handling or play.

AHS’ behavior team is a wonderful source of help and knowledge, and they love to know when they can be of assistance to any pet owner who needs their help. For more information or to schedule a virtual or one-on-one session, visit our Dog Training page. It’s for cats, too! Or, check our tips for more helpful hints.


January 13, 2023