Kitten Behavior 101
Kittens prime socialization period is between 3-8 weeks of age. This is prime time to expose your kitten to as many new people and scenarios as possible. However, kittens are not fully vaccinated at this time so should only interact with other kittens that have had at least one vaccine, fully vaccinated adult animals, and people that have washed their hands.
Most kittens start out eating wet food, and transition to dry at about 6 weeks of age.
Encouraging our kittens to eat meals rather than free feeding helps us to monitor
their appetite and reduce the chance of obesity. Kittens have a fast metabolism, so
make sure to provide them with a high calorie density food (usually labeled for
kittens) and give them three meals a day while they are growing. Meals also provide
us with an opportunity to introduce food toys, which can give the kittens mental
exercise as they try to figure it out! Here’s a link to make some food toys on your
DIY Food Toys
Kittens are naturally energetic, and will want to play with their human family members. It is important to teach them that human body parts are not toys, while not punishing the natural play behavior. Avoid playing with your hands, feet or hair with your kittens. It may seem cute now, but as they get older it can lead to harm to the owners that can lead to rehoming the kittens or worse. Instead, when a kitten comes to you looking to play, offer the kittens toys that they can kick. Some examples include the Kong Kickeroo or the Yeowww! Banana. In addition, a great way to play with kittens is with wand toys. These teach kittens appropriate play behavior. Kittens have a lot of energy, so make sure to have plenty of toys available for them and engage in at least 30 minutes of active play with them per day.
Inside vs Outside
While it is tempting to let our kittens outside, research shows that cats that live indoors only will live 2-3 years longer than those that live outdoors. They are protected from wildlife, dogs, and accidental deaths by being kept indoors. If your kitty is interested in exploring the outside world, we recommend training them to wear a harness for supervised outdoor time or, if you are really ambitious, building a catio! Environmental stimulation is extra important for indoor only cats to keep them happy and healthy and to protect against various behavioral and health concerns. Active play time as well as numerous toys, scratching posts, and places to hide are crucial for their mental and physical health.
Scratching is a natural social behavior of cats, but can become a problem for owners. We want our kitties to have appropriate opportunities to express this behavior, so having multiple scratching objects around high valued resources such as food bowls or resting spots will reduce a kittens need to scratch on other furniture. If your kitten is scratching on furniture, don’t punish them! Using a spray bottle or yelling only causes stress and fear in your kitten, and won’t fix the underlying cause of the problem. Instead, make the behavior unrewarding by covering the scratched area in an undesirable texture, such as aluminum foil or double sided tape.
Want to learn more?
Visit The Indoor Pet Initiative to see how you can enrich the life of your kitty!