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Socializing Kittens

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I have fostered 60 plus kittens over the last 4 years. Most have been born in my bathroom or lived there since a week or two old. They stay in my bathroom almost exclusively except when I am confident that they are healthy and able to visit my other rooms in the condo. I live by myself with two adult cats. My kittens have always been happy and healthy when adjusted in their new homes. They always sit on my lap, are comfortable being held, petted, and are friendly and playful kittens with me. However, when I show the kittens to their potential adopters, they are often terrified of meeting new people, going to new places, etc. Some are hissy, shaking, and frozen. After a day or two they have all always adjusted well to their new environment.

I know socialization is most effective at 1-10 weeks. How do I help expose them to new people and places without exposing them to diseases? I have no dogs. I don't want to take them where they may get sick. I have friends who occasionally come by, but even a few visits from a few different people each week doesn't seem to make them less scared when leaving my bathroom.

My current litter is 5 weeks today and already scared when in my bedroom for the first time.

Any advice for a single female in a quiet home to help make more social kittens while still remaining healthy?
post #2 of 9
Thread Starter 
Does anyone have any ideas? No responses so far.

I also thought I would share some pictures of my little guys.

post #3 of 9
I'm sorry, I don't know about socializing,but I wanted to comment on how adorable your kitties are!!!
post #4 of 9
I don't have a whole lot of experience, but I do have recent experience. In fact my situation is exaclty like yours. I have 2 healthy 1 year old cats who are mine permanently. Recently I started fostering some 4 or 5 week old feral kittens. To protect my cats I am keeping them in my walk in closet extended from my bathroom. I used the bathroom door as a double barrier in case my cats try (and boy they've tried a lot) to slip in and see the little critters.

When I first took them in they would hiss at me constantly. They screamed if they were picked up, and hated everyone. Within 4 days they had warmed up to me and would purr when pet. To socialize them to others, I've been introducing them to friends of mine by locking my own cats up in my home office. Then I lay a blanket over my sofa and used household objects to create a little perimeter around an area that I could easily disinfect. I invite visitors over almost daily and allthough they are shy at first, a little food from the stranger is a great way to break the ice. So far this seems to be working.

I also have a dog, so I've been trying to socialize the babies to him as well without pushing them and making them insecure. What I've been doing is opening the closet door and the bathroom door so there is the bathroom between the safe closet and the bedroom. I put up a fence barrier to keep my dog from the temptation of paying them a little visit. I sit in the bathroom while the dog gazes through the fence tail wagging and uttering scary doggy noises whenever he sees them. They can't resist the temptation come play with me and my toes, but every time he makes a noise, they run back to the closet. I've been doing this for 2 days and so far one of them has started to ignore the dog and sticks with me. The other 2 don't run all the way back into the closet, but they keep their distance at the threshold between the closet and the bathroom.

I hope this helps you. It's just my tips of what has been working for me. If you don't have a room to lock your cats in while you take the kittens out, what also works for me plays on my cat's obsession with the linen closet. Every time I open the door they dart into the closet and run up the shelves and curl up on the top one on my clean sheets. They can be content in that closet for hours, and they let me know when they're done in there. I would not advise this if your cats don't like closets. Just go with what works for your cats.
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks a lot for your input. I do have areas that they can go out upon. The problem is usually I don't have willing friends to come daily and socialize them! My friends aren't nearly as devoted to kitties as myself and some who like them get allergic after spending a lot of time with them. I can get people to come for a few minutes a few times a week, but usually not longer. I do have areas to let them out though and I frequently do that. Thanks so much again.
post #6 of 9
hmmmmmmmmm not sure. we don't have many people that stop by our house either, but we have a very full house. my cats even now get a bit freaked when company is here and most run and hide. one will NEVER be seen if company is around (but then again she is very antisocial unless SHE wants attention even with us), another loves everyone and everything so is always around, the youngest loves everyone too, and one is shy and hides around corners and peeks out when company is here. after a bit he may come out depending. My cats are 2 yrs old, 6ish?, 8ish and around 10. So not sure what to tell you. I think with any cat/kitten anything new is a bit scarey and they will take time to adjust. Do any of your friends have kids (old enough not to hurt the kittens) that you could take for a couple hours and give parents a break but also socialize the kittens?
post #7 of 9
Are you affiliated with a rescue? That would help a lot. I foster for a rescue, and keep my foster cats and new kittens locked in one bedroom for the full 8 weeks. Then the kittens go off to new homes (after vaccinations), and then are allowed the run of the home. If you could transfer your kitties to a new home, that would offer them more stimulation.

Asking kids to come play with them is a great idea, too. Look beyond your immediate circle of friends into your acquaintances. People from work or church or other activities who you don't have much in common with. Start spreading the word about what you are doing, and if anyone expresses interest, invite them and their kids (if any) over for some lemonade or tea. Let them know they can meet your kittens, and that it is even helping the kittens to play with them.

I just passed my last foster Mom to a new home in this way. Someone at work had a 16 y/o who is begging for a cat. Yet at 16, she will be off to college in a few years, leaving Mom with the cat (and their 2 dogs)! So we discussed it, and since my foster Sarabi was fighting with my cats, and really needed more time in a cat free home, off she went to her new foster home.

She initially hid and was very shy, but soon came out of her shell for attention. My cats are thrilled to have her gone, and Sarabi is experiencing a new home...and getting a lot more attention as the single cat of a teenager than she could ever get as cat #5 of a working Mom! LOL!

So just think outside the box a little. Somewhere in your circle, or just outside it, is someone who would be THRILLED to visit you and play with your precious babies!
post #8 of 9
Wow, that is a lot of kittens to have raised! You rock! *smile*

As I am confident you already know, kittens, when exposed to new things, can behave as though they are absolutely paralyzed with fear. But, as with all things pertaining to kittens, time, patience and a good understand that it is normal -- let me just say that again for clarity -- NORMAL for kittens to be wary of new people. Simply explain to your potential adopters that this is 100% to be expected in kittens and that it in NO WAY is an indication of future personality or temperment. My guess is that if these people were to get down on the floor and just totally ignore the babies, it wouldn't be long before the adventurous one of the bunch trotted right over and plopped a favorite toy into the lap of that person. Once the brave heart got through it unscathed, the rest of the litter (with the possible exception of the very, very shy one of the bunch) would be right along behind. Of course, the screamer is going to yell his fool head off until he realizes that no one is listening to his BS anymore, and the little shy one will hold back her attention unless this is a match truly made in Heaven -- then Katie bar the door, she'll leap into their arms, smothering them with purrs, kitten spit and fuzzy little kitten furs.

What I am trying to say here is simply this: It all works out. Just spend a lot of time down on the floor with them and expose them to as many new situations as you can. The best advice I can give you is to remember that when cats are involved, we are no longer in control of anything that happens. They make the choices and only begrudgingly allow us to take the credit.
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thank for all of your input. I don't know too many young children (except for my cousin who lives an hour away). I do like that idea however, so I will see if I can figure out an acquaintance who may want to have the family come over for a day.

I am associated with a shelter/rescue. In the past the kittens went from my home to their new home. With the group I am with currently, they may be in the shelter for a few days before going to their permanent homes. They don't have many foster homes so my kittens are either with me or at the shelter. Given the disease in the shelter, I would much rather them be with me!

My kittens seem to have always grown up to be happy and well adjusted in their new homes with dogs, cats, and kids. However, I know they have more of an adjustment period than they would need if they were exposed to those creatures at a younger age. I have no doubt that they will adjust, I just want to make it a little easier for them all! Some kittens that I have fostered who were on their own in the streets for the first weeks of their lives tend to be less of the fraidy cats. I don't want them living on the streets, but I know that exposure left them a lot more willing to experience change. Even today, a friend came over. I held my kitten up who then gave a loud kitten hiss into his face! Silly kitten never hisses at me...

Thanks again everyone.
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