A cat’s personality is mostly formed within its first eight months. Here are some suggestions to help ensure your kitten develops into a confident, well-behaved cat:
- Start even before they’re born. If you have a pregnant cat, make sure you’re providing her with proper nutrition. Momma will lose weight while nursing, so she should have some extra calories to bulk up. Some cat owners put their pregnant cats on kitten food for those extra calories. Malnourished momma cats are more likely to be crabby with their kittens and not provide as much mothering. This could lead to developmental delays in the kittens that will affect them later on.
- For your cat nursery, don’t just put a cardboard box in an empty room. A more-complex environment provides sensory stimulation. (Try leaving a radio or a television in the room for part of the time.) Flooring can consistent of newspapers, old towels, carpet squares or tiles. A small cardboard box for the kittens to crawl on with a hole in the side can be a den once the kitties get more mobile. (Do not use produce boxes; they may have been sprayed with pesticides.)
- Handle the kitties with care as soon as possible. When the kittens are 2 to 3 weeks old, expand the handlers to include three or four people daily to help ensure the kittens become trusting of a variety of people.
- Keep adult male cats out of the nursery. It will just stress Momma Cat out, and she doesn’t need that.
- Keep the litter with Momma Cat until the kittens are at least 8 weeks old. That’s typically around the end of weaning. Through their experience with her, the kittens will learn to use the litter box, how to hunt, what foods are safe to eat and who is an appropriate friend. Momma Cat also helps them learn how to cope with stress and frustration through sometimes not letting them feed until they’re satiated.
- Keep the litter together until 8 to 10 weeks of age. The littermates teach each other important life skills through their play – including how to control their clawing and biting.
- Orphans who are separated from their mother before 8 weeks old can have a litany of behavior-related issues or health problems. If you have an orphan kitty, add him or her to another litter or foster him/her in a home with other cats as role models.
Source: Adapted from information by Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT