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How to Socialize a New Kitten

Learn some important facts about socializing a kitten.

It's commonly understood that puppies need socialization, but did you know that the same is true of kittens? Cats are best trained to be adaptable to new situations, people, and other animals when they are between about two and three months of age.

What Type of Socialization Does a Kitten Need?

Kittens need to learn appropriate play behavior with other cats, humans, and potentially dogs. They need to learn to accept certain types of handling, as well, such as brushing and claw trimming.

Kittens learn best by being exposed routinely to the situations to which you want them to become comfortable. Playing regularly with other kittens and cats is a great way for kittens to become socialized. Playmates and older cats teach your kitten how to moderate their bites and scratches.

Playing with a variety of different humans can also help a kitten learn what appropriate play behavior is in those situations. Cats must moderate their bites and scratches even more when playing with humans than they do with other cats.

What About Infectious Feline Illnesses?

Unfortunately, the ideal time for socializing a kitten, between two and three months of age, is also a time when many kittens are not yet fully vaccinated and may be more susceptible to infectious parasites, feline viruses, and bacterial infections.

There are two ways you can navigate this common conundrum: get your veterinarian's advice on whether your kitten is ready to play with a variety of other cats and people, and choose your kitten's playmates carefully. Be sure that your kitten is only playing with other cats and kittens that have been deemed healthy by their veterinarians, are fully vaccinated for their age, and have been tested for intestinal parasites.

Host a Kitten Play Date

People have play dates for their children in order to create meaningful experiences and opportunities for socialization. You can do the same thing for your kitten by creating times for other well-socialized cats and kittens to come visit. Again, it's important to verify that the visitors are healthy, vaccinated, and negative for intestinal parasites. It's also necessary to provide a safe space for the cats to play and be sure there is adequate human supervision.

Always have throw toys available in case the cats begin playing too roughly. Never intervene with your hands, as you might be injured. You can make a loud noise to get their attention and then throw some toys in opposite directions to hopefully get the cats separated.

You can also check with your local veterinary clinics and shelters, which sometimes host play events for cats in order to help with socialization.

If you have an older cat that needs help with social skills, you may find some helpful tips here: "How to Socialize an Older Cat."

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