Sensitive Period of Socialisation for Kittens

by Michael
(London, UK)

Was it Saint Francis Xavier, the founder of the Jesuit Order who said something like, “Give me the child for seven years, and I will give you the man”? I suppose he was referring to the first seven years of the life of a child during which, through good parenting, he could be molded into a good man.

If the first seven years of a human life are the sensitive years for development of the child, the first seven weeks is the sensitive period to socialise a kitten. More accurately it is said that the period is from 2 – 7 weeks of age.

Socialisation means instilling in the cat behavior that we find acceptable towards us and other animals.

During the first seven weeks the kitten is highly responsive to “interactions with others and to opportunities to form social attachments”1. The social attachments refer to the human caretaker(s) and other companion animals.

Without this period of socialisation the kitten is likely to be fearful of humans.

Socialisation is achieved by handling the kittens and interacting with them. Interactions with other socialised animals is also beneficial.

The most effective period for socialisation training is during the first four weeks. Thirty minutes or more every day is required, it is said1.

The amount of handling and interaction can be increased as the kitten becomes older (from 7 – 14 weeks of age). This enhances the cat’s sociability later in life.

This sensitive period of socialisation for kittens is very important for cat breeders for obvious reasons. Breeders achieve this by letting their kittens roam around the house interacting with other companion animals such as dogs and the breeder themselves.

Socialization is the nurture element in the nature-nurture influences that dictate the behavior of cats and people.

The inherited genes of the cat also dictate how the kitten will turn out in terms of behavior.

There are two basic types of cat: (1) outgoing and confident and (2) shy and retiring. Although the categorisation is not settled and is open to debate.

The outogoing cat will naturally be more open to the socialisation process.


1. The Cat, Its Behavior, Nutrition & Health page 120. ISBN 978-0-8138-0331-9

Comments for
Sensitive Period of Socialisation for Kittens

Click here to add your own comments

Jul 15, 2011 Monty was feral at 8 weeks
by: Ruth (Monty’s Mom)

I’ve read this info before, but I don’t think it means a person can’t have good luck socializing older kittens and even cats. It depends on the individual cat. I know sometimes ferals will just bond with one person. Monty, a feral kitten caught by me at 8 weeks of age, has bonded well with my husband, my sister and I.

Monty is not always good with other people. I never know what to expect. He has been quite hostile toward many of my guests, but then sometimes he’ll be completely at ease with someone. It depends on his evaluation of the person (if you smell of dog forget it) and his mood at the time. I apologize for him when he growls at people saying that he was feral, so sometimes he’s not used to people. My husband says he’s just spoiled and it has nothing to do with having been feral. A feral cat would be fearful and Monty is anything but that around humans, though dogs do seem to scare him.

My favorite was the time he sat growling at my friend Wendy’s little boy. Monty didn’t have his ears back or anything and his mouth wasn’t open, nor was he puffed up, so we were not immediately aware that he was vocalizing. He was just calmly sitting near Wendy’s son making a constant low growling sound. We were trying to figure out what that noise was. My guests didn’t believe me at first when I said it was Monty. We all sat quietly listening, and sure enough, the noise we’d been hearing was Monty growling at that little boy.


Sensitive Period of Socialisation for Kittens — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Should I adapt a bold or timid shelter cat? | Pictures of Cats

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please only upload photos that are small in size of max 500px width and 50 KB size. Large images typical of most default settings on digital cameras may fail to upload. Thanks.