Raising Happy Kittens Into Happier Cats
Kittens, kittens, and more kittens. In the last few months, I’ve taken in a number of homeless pregnant moms and an abandoned litter rescued from an attic in a family’s home.
As I find homes for these kitties, I like to speak with the adopters about how they should continue to socialize them. It’s so important that kittens don’t develop fearfulness towards situations or people or even other animals. The prime socialization period for kittens is from three to nine weeks, but this work should continue to make them as well-rounded as possible. So don’t think that if they are 10 weeks or even six months, they can’t be socialized anymore. In fact, I have socialized older kittens with great success. It just takes time and patience.
I tell my adopters that they shouldn’t give the kittens a lot of space to roam when they first go home. Keep the kittens first to one room—it can be a bedroom or even a bathroom. Check the room and remove anything that isn’t safe for the kittens or that they may destroy, for example, cleaning products or a shower curtain. Also look for any hiding spots they can squeeze into that you can’t get to and block those off.
It’s important that they have all of their necessary items in there including a litter box, bed, safe kitten toys, food and water bowls. I like putting in a tent bed if they are fearful still. You can also include their carrier so they get used to it and feel comfortable when they see it on transport days to vet or travel.
You can use food and treats and toys to help gain their trust. Give them wet food when you are in the room so they associate you with the food. Try to give them some on a spoon or move the plate closer to you until it’s on your lap. Then pet them as they are eating and start gently handling them. Continue to try hands-on socialization in frequent, short sessions. Kittens like to be held close to your body so they feel your warmth, your heartbeat, and a sense of security. When they start to cuddle and purr, you will melt into a million pieces!
Have friends come over for kitten playtime. Have treats available and have the kittens approach your friends to receive the treats. If interactions are all good, they can pick them up and hold them too. If, at any point in this process, they become afraid of an object or person, back up and give them more space. You can also break out their favorite toys and have a play session. Pole or wand toys and cat dancers are a great way to play without having hands too close to the kittens. Remember to let them win some of the games too!
Do make sure that your kittens have collars and ID tags when you take them on their short car trips and to the vet for their wellness visits and vaccinations even if they are indoor pets. I keep collars with ID on all of my resident cats in case the unthinkable happens and they accidentally get outside. They are also all microchipped. (you can ask your veterinarian about microchips.)
That brings up the dangers of the warmer weather and vacation time for all household pets. They are more likely to escape the house through an open door or window or from a car on a road trip and get lost. That’s why July has been designated as Lost Pet Prevention Month. The numbers are incredible. More than 10 million pets are lost each year and one out of three pets will be lost during its lifetime according to the National Council of Pet Population Study and Policy and the American Humane Association. That is sad enough, but only one in 10 pets is ever found and even less are ever reunited with their owners. This is just tragic for the animals!
That’s why collars, ID tags, and microchips are so important. The ID tag, rabies tag, and city/county license should be on the collars (a license for a dog is another way that you can be traced and contacted should he/she show up in a shelter). All tags should include contact names, address, and multiple phone numbers. Many shelters are equipped now to scan animals for microchips, but more need to be. The tiny electronic chip, embedded under an animal’s skin, has a code that links the pet to its owner through a database.
Digital pet ID tags have unique codes, chips, or web addresses embedded in them that link to an online profile. This enables you to have many emergency contacts, all information is in one place, including medical data, and it’s ready to be used in case your pet goes missing. But for all of these options, owners must always keep the information updated, if there is a chance to recover their lost pet. Losing a pet is heartbreaking for everyone involved so please remember to supply your pets with ID tags and microchips so they’re much more likely to come home to your loving family.
Love is something that some dogs and cats in other parts of the world never get to feel and this is so upsetting to me. North Shore Animal League America ran a campaign again in June to make people aware of the horrific cruelty and suffering surrounding the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in China. Most people in China, South Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia don’t even eat dog meat and dislike the idea of its consumption, especially the younger generations. It’s encouraging that through the Animal League America campaign, more than 55,000 people pledged their support to end this event.
There has truly been a global movement against this festival (and the dog and cat meat trade in general) and the many petitions against it, media coverage, and international political pressure are starting to make a difference. The slaughter has been reduced in recent years from 15,000 dogs to 3,000. Sixty- two dogs were rescued from a Yulin slaughterhouse five days before this year’s festival by Chinese animal activists and are being cared for in a shelter in northern China. My heart is happy when I think about Frankie and Angie (shown snuggling below), two previous Yulin rescues who were adopted from Animal League America, and are now happily living in Connecticut with a loving family. You can read more about their incredible story here.