If a mother cat is not around to train her kittens, how does it impact their personalities?

The question is asked by Carol Chapell on the Internet. She actually answers the question herself. In this instance, a kitten’s mother was tragically killed in a road traffic accident. The 10-day-old kitten came up to Carol screaming at the top of her voice. It was a demand to be adopted. I love that behaviour of cats and kittens. They know that to survive they need the caregiving of a human and they seek it with commitment if and when the opportunity arises.

Carol's kitten as rescued and then 12 years later
Carol’s kitten as rescued and then 12 years later. Photos: Carol.
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Carol accepted the request and adopted her. At the time she was going to teach yoga.

“The kitten was small enough to fit not just in my hand, but in my palm and spent the yoga class curled up there.”

She became the kitten’s surrogate mum. The kitten learned by observing her. For instance, rather than using the cat litter the kitten grew up to poop and pee in the human toilet because it is where it should be done. And she learned to pee in the shower because she had seen her mum showering peeing in the shower! P.S. Eventually, she saw other cats using the litterbox and adapted to that type of toilet 😕 .

“I got her a little catbox, but she just tried to eat the litter. She saw mommy using the toilet, and started using the toilet too! There was one glorious day when I came home to a perfect kitty poop in the toilet.”

But the point here is that kittens learn by observation and they relate to their human caregiver as a surrogate parent, normally. And exception is when an adult cat brings prey back to the home. They can switch roles, in my view, and treat their human companion as a kitten. They have instinctively become a parent themselves and are teaching their kitten i.e. their human, how to kill prey as a process in their weaning towards independence.

And because this charming tabby female cat has always regarded Carol to be her mother, her mentality is normally that of a kitten. This is because she is provided for almost entirely by a human. It’s as if those early years before independence are perpetuated until the end of the cat’s life. It’s permanent kittenhood for the adult domestic cat in many instances. But cats can get a bit confused sometimes as to their role (as mentioned).

But if that charming female kitten had not been adopted by Carol (and well-done to Carol by the way) she would have become a feral cat. This is an unsocialized cat. In essence, her personality would have been that of a wild cat. When a female domestic cat gives birth to kittens, at the moment of birth, they are not domestic cats. Their mind is that of a feral cat, a wild cat. They become domestic cats through seven weeks of intensive socialisation if, as it should be, they live in a human home and are raised underfoot. It’s a transformation from a cat who is unsuited to live with people to one who must live with people to feel whole and content.

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