Anxious Cats Often Encounter Their 1st Human In Their 9th Week

A kitten that does not encounter a human until his or her 9th week or later is quite likely to be anxious when near people for the remainder of his life.

Maine Coon Daydream van Siduroy, black tabby classic with white – Photo by Dani published here with her permission.

Scientists have come to the conclusion that cats need to begin learning about people much earlier than dogs need to. Dog breeders will want to handle their puppies before they are 8 weeks old. However, if they are not handled until that age the puppy can still become a well socialised dog with proper remedial treatment. This is not the case with cats, however.

A kitten born to a domestic cat can follow two paths. The factors which dictate which path the kitten – and then the adult cat – will follow depends on experiences very early on in the cat’s life.

One path is that of a confident, relaxed domesticated cat while the other is of a cat that finds difficulty fitting in with the life of humans and is therefore less likely to be confident and contented but perhaps fearful and timid or defensively aggressive.

Kittens start learning about people much earlier than puppies. In a study, kittens that were handled from their 3rd week were happy to sit on a person’s lap when they reached their 14th week of age. However, kittens who had had contact with people from 7 weeks of age jumped off a person’s lap within about 30 seconds. Kittens who had been handled only after 14 weeks of age would remain on a person’s lap for less than 15 seconds.

It was decided in this study that the variation in time a kitten remain a person’s lap was not due to the fact that some kittens were more active than others but rather due to the fact that very early handling had produced a powerful attraction to people. Indeed, when each kitten of varying degrees of socialisation was given the opportunity to cross the room to meet with one of his handlers, only the kittens that were handled at 3 weeks of age did so reliably.

Kittens that are handled late behave more like kittens that have not been handled at all. I don’t think that the importance of proper socialisation of domestic cats can be overstated. Any person who is involved in informal breeding of cats at home takes on a responsibility that perhaps she is unaware of. It is another reason why people should not be involved in careless or haphazard breeding of cats. There is an argument that there should be no deliberate breeding of cats in any event but careless breeding should be frowned upon.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • Exactly- and it's me who socializes the lady up the road's kittens. Not her. If I didn't they would still be shy ad scared. It takes time and effort and all kittens MUST be played with because their instinct tell them to hunt and play. If you do that with them then you are effectively joining them in their world and in their language of play hunting.

    If you don't do this - the cat will only come to you for food ad if you are lucky a few cuddles.

    That's why people get bored of cats.

    It's actually just that the cats are bored of them - in my opinion anyway. :)

    • exactly right and this lady must be so thankful having such a lovely person who can do this for her. As without cats or kitties socialized it makes it hard for others. All cats and kitties deserve love and play jsut like all children deserve to be in a stable enviroment and away from harm :)

  • This is true they need to be socialized as i know for a fact esp some of my kitties when were younger where often very shy and timid and very afraid esp of kids and dogs. Compared to jasmin whos very over confident, thou had a dog visit the other day and she wasnt happy at all. she flufed up and growled. I guess its just like us as children if we are grown up in a bad childhood it often affects our lives, if we were grew up in a happy and loving family its better for us. just my thoughts anyway.

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