29 March 2018

Handling kittens

Part of the International Cat Care and Ceva cat handling video series (owner)

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kitchens are generally very curious and playful but they are not born thinking people are great companions they need to learn this how friendly a cat is to people depends both on its genetics and its exposure to people in its early life the temperament of both parents will have a genetic influence on the temperament of the kitten parents that are confident and friendly towards people are more likely to produce kittens that are friendly both of these kittens have been born into a busy riding stables and both of the mothers are relaxed around lots of different people while the father can only influence these traits in a kitten by his genes the mother's behavior around people will be observed by the kittens and this as well as her genetic input will help determine how friendly a kitten is however genes are only one half of the story early positive exposure to people is vital for the kitten to learn that it can be enjoyable to be around people and to be handled by them this kitten is thoroughly enjoying being stroked a kittens most sensitive period to learning about its social world is between approximately 2 and 8

weeks so this is thought to be the ideal time for a kitten to start learning about people the experiences that occurred you in this period are likely to have both short and long term effects on a kittens behavior and physical development however learning continues throughout kitten hood and so further gentle positive handling should continue after this time a kitten that has missed any handling during the sensitive period of 2 to 8 weeks may find closed interactions with people difficult during its life thus friendly parents and early positive interactions with people including handling really are vital and producing kittens that enjoy human company and are therefore suitable as pets before any handling commences kittens should be comfortable in the presence of people kittens should also be given a chance to investigate people including feeling comfortable with approach such as an outstretched hand at the same time you can talk to the kitten in a gentle soft voice so it becomes accustomed to people talking five main components of handling kittens during the sensitive period have been found to influence how cats react to

handling throughout their lives the first is a type of handling handling should be gentle and occur in a manner the kitten feels comfortable with most kittens like adult cats will be receptive to being stroked on their faces heads and backs so this is the best place to start the most common ways to touch a cat or stroking and scratching so these techniques should be used with the kitten to ensure it is comfortable with both start handling by getting down to the same level as the kitten where possible and stay in an environment familiar to the kitten gently speaking to the kitten while stroking it can improve the handling experience for it remember to always go at a kitten's pace if it is showing signs of discomfort with the handling stop give the kitten a break and next time you handle try something less intense for example stroking with one finger instead of the whole hand or keeping the stroking on just one part of the body to become well-rounded cats that are able to cope with life as pet cats it is important that they can cope with all types of interaction not just stroking

and scratching cats are often picked up cuddled and kissed and it's important that they are fully comfortable with these types of interactions to ensure the human cat relationship is mutually beneficial the second component is how frequently and for how long the kittens are handled research has shown that a total daily amount of handling of somewhere between 40 minutes and two hours is likely to help produce kittens that enjoy handling this handling should not however occur in one long bout but instead be broken up during the day into lots of handling sessions of shorter duration think little and often when it comes to handling the third component is the number and type of people carrying out the handling the number of handlers has also been shown to influence how comfortable kittens are during handling particularly with strangers kittens handled by a range of different people during the sensitive period are more likely to be outgoing and comfortable in the presence of strangers a minimum of five people is a good go to work towards during the sensitive period and ideally the handlers should be people of all sexes

and ages including children the fourth component is the presence of the mother a mother cat that is friendly and confident towards people is likely to be a calming influence on kittens during handling and interaction with people the fifth component is the presence of the kittens siblings kittens have been found to be more confident during socialization to people if accompanied by their siblings thus when handling a young kitten made sure its siblings are nearby and all are relaxed playing with kittens is important for their behavioral development and is also extremely enjoyable however it is vitally important that they are played with in the correct manner hands fingers and feet should never be moved in a manner to encourage kittens to play with them although this may seem a fun game while they are little as they get older and that adult teeth come through the risk of injury to the person is high instead kittens should always play with appropriate toys such as wooden toys as part of caring for a cat it needs to be groomed have physical examinations and will need medication for example being

wormed and treated for fleas thus it is just as important that we teach kittens to be comfortable with being handled in the ways needed to care for it this can be done by gently interspersing the less accepted forms of handling and lifting and gentle restraint amongst the more accepted forms of handling here the kittens ear are touched and examined gradually increase the duration of each type of handling over the sessions this kitten which is approximately 12 weeks old meets new person extending the social experiences it has already learnt he is fully comfortable approaching an outstretched finger and rubbing on it and is rewarded for friendly behavior however this kitten is not yet always fully relaxed with being stroked while on a lap the kitten is not fearful but can be excitable and often wants to play with fingers by biting them here he is being taught that by staying calm on the lap and being stroked will result in tasty food treats instead of being allowed to bite fingers a1 tori is used to play with the kitten which gives them much more appropriate outlet and helps use up energy and the cat is relaxed for further handling

the kitten is now comfortable being stroked on the head currently with one finger without the need for treats notes how he licks the handlers finger instead of biting it once the kitten has learnt to remain calm while being strict on the head the handling is extended to down the back and tail initially using treats again here is the same kitten two months later with lots of positive gentle handling coupled with rewards carried out in a progressive manner and only being allowed to play with toys and not fingers the kitten is now much more relaxed about being handled he is even now happy to be picked up [Music]