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Socializing 5 1/2 week old kittens

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I am fostering a mom cat (who does not trust people and lived outside for many years. She lets me give her chin scratches and she purrs, but is very wary.) and her 5 kittens. I have had them since the kittens were two days old.

The kittens are now 5 1/2 weeks old and they are not afraid of me at all. They run over my feet and climb my legs and run up to me when I walk up to them or follow me when I walk away.

In an effort to socialize them, I have had four different people come over to visit them. They are very fearful of the new people at first - hissing, hiding, etc. After about 10-20 minutes they start to get less scared and will let the people pet them, play with them, they'll walk around freely, etc. Is this normal or do you think they're not being well enough socialized? They will be going to a no-kill shelter after 9 weeks or so and I don't want them to be the cats who never walk up to anyone or hide from people and don't get adopted. What can I do to make sure that doesn't happen? I work from 9-5 but I spend at least 2 1/2 hours with them every day and when I am not home I leave the radio on for them.

My other concern is that while they love to play, they aren't super interested in being cuddly or being petted. They don't mind and sometimes they enjoy being petted but they'd always rather play. Is that normal?

post #2 of 9
If they haven't been handled by people, cuddled, kissed and loved on by the time they are two weeks old, they will be fearful of any strangers. They will continue that fear even after they have lived with their new owner for years. I have four that every time a stranger comes, they hiss or growl and then flee. If I drop something unexpectedly on the floor, they do the same thing, hiss and run. It is part and parcel of the fact they are feral. I didn't get them until they were young adults. One never even comes out from under the house except to eat- no matter what I try, Ghost is elusive.
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Really? I handled them when they were young - kisses, petting, etc. They were just not handled by anyone else than me.

post #4 of 9
At 5.5 weeks old, most kittens are absolutely not interested in cuddling, snuggling or kissing. Usually that changes at about 7 to 8 weeks and they become much more affectionate.

Handle them frequently, have family members, friends and other visitors to your house handle them. Try to expose them to a lot of different situations ... for instance, my best friend has a large-breed German Shepherd dog, Mindy (very cat-friendly docile girl) who visits my home with my friend frequently. When I have a litter, Mindy is allowed to visit with them and so they are less afraid if they go to a forever home shared by dogs. I also allow my young nieces and nephews to come over and roll around on the floor with them - and I love it that my 3 year-old niece Sadie is a screamer ... when she gets excited playing with the kittens, she just balls up her fists, squeezes her eyes shut, screams blue bloody murder and rolls over on the carpet - the kittens climb her like a mountain and simply adore her.
post #5 of 9
Originally Posted by almagarret
Really? I handled them when they were young - kisses, petting, etc. They were just not handled by anyone else than me.

I had a very similiar situation....my foster kittens were MUCH more interested in exploring or getting back to mom then to being "loved" by me. Just follow the advice from Gaye and continue to expose them to different people. Just make sure that anyone who touches the kittens washes their hands thoroughly before and after.

It's also a good time to introduce them to the "nail clippers"....they have very small but very sharp nails right now and I used to trim the nails of my fosters whenever they were getting long. It's a good thing to tell adoptors that the kitten is already used to nail trimmings.

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thank you for the advice. A friend of mine has an Irish Wolfhound who is very, very gentle and I'll bring him over soon.

The kittens are mainly in my kitchen right now and I actually slept in there last night thinking it might help! I was awoken by a playful bite on the nose

One more question: Everything I read stresses that they have *positive* experiences with new animals, people, etc and not to push it - but then I also read that they should be handled and not just left alone and to not let them hide behind things and stuff. Which is right?
post #7 of 9
Kittens are by nature extremely curious. If ~you~ don't make a big deal of it, most of the time, neither will they.
post #8 of 9
From the sound of it you are doing a great job. It is important to get kittens used to a variety of situations early in life so they get used to changes. Once they have had their first vaccines, you can take them places like the pet supply store and other places where animals are welcome so they get used to things like riding in the car, going new places, and meeting strangers. You can also take them with you to visit friends if your friends are cool with it.
post #9 of 9
We had a litter of 8 kittens that my daughter and her friends helped socialize by holding and stroking them quite a bit each day. They also interacted by playing with them in their "non-cuddly" phases, and in doing so, I think they taught the kittens that humans could be trusted in lots of situations. People have commented that these are the most purr-y, loving kittens around.

And there's a big difference between 5 and 12 weeks. I'll bet if you and your friends keep at it, they will continue to progress. But is there any way that they can avoid going to the shelter until 12 weeks? They really change between 9 and 12 weeks.
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