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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-21-2009, 12:46 AM Thread Starter
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best way to socialize a kitten?

Well my other 2 cats were taken young(not by choice, abandoned) and bottle fed at 3 days and 2 weeks old. This new kitten, Sphinx we found older. I'm not sure how old exactly I think 5ish weeks?

Well lately(since we moved on the 1st at that time we had her for a little under a month) she's been very skittish. She was already a bit skittish, comming up to us but running scared from guests. Now its gotten worse where she'll run from us too rarely even letting us pet her if we're sitting.

Any suggestions?
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-21-2009, 02:18 AM
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Re: best way to socialize a kitten?

Her long fur is a bit misleading to judge age by her body-size but she could be 6-7wks old. Though she
seems tall enough to me (sort of 'tall and gangly') and combined with her eye-color, she could be as old
as 8-9wks...

IMO, the only way to socialize her is to handle her.
I would try to make every experience a positive one and try to help her anticipate that Good Things will
happen when she is around and handled by people; delightful massages, gentle playing and tasty treats.
In order to do this, you will need to be able to touch her. Gently restraining her on your lap for frequent
and multiple short handling sessions until she becomes relaxed and confident with being handled is how I
slowly incorporate a tolerance of that handling behavior into their lives.
What is making her run from you, is at this age of a kitten's life they *must* run/hide if they are to
survive in the wild.
Now, since her instincts don't *know* she doesn't have to do this with you and her new home, it is up to
you to show her that she can trust her own judgement about people, and in order for this to happen, you
have to *teach* her about all the Good Things being comfortable around people can provide for her. IMO,
I feel waiting for a kitten to come to you is presenting an opportunity for the kitten to stay away, become
even more skittish and fearful, and because this period of her life is so impressionable ... the things she
learns *now* will stay with her all her life. I would prefer for her to learn confidence and security so she
can carry those skills with her all her life, allowing her to have a fabulous life living with people.

I have been told that I am not an expert. Well...
I don't have a degree in animal behavior.
I donít have a webpage.
I donít have a book published.
I donít even have a blog.
...and it is fine to judge me by whatever criteria you choose.
What I *am*, is someone who loves animals and has found a method that works.
I have been using this 'method' all my life around animals and fine-tune honing it with the past 7 dedicated
years of socializing feral and semi-feral cats for public adoption. My techniques are humane, gentle, they
*work* and most important; they help feral cats to become confident within themselves which allows them
to keep these happy and relaxed-around-people traits, enabling them to be adopted into loving, purr-manant
homes as a valued and confident member of the family, not a fearful cat slinking around the edges of the
living room or one that people are afraid to handle.
Heck, 100% of the cats I've worked with can't be wrong, so...I must be doing *something* right.
Whether or not I am a licensed and certificated 'expert' is moot. The point is; I have proven results that are
safe and humane and numerous delightfully happy cats as a testament to my efforts at bettering their lives.

How to socialize a kitten or cat.
Now, this information is strictly how to *socialize*, which means; getting the cat accustomed to handling.
Like I said earlier; to teach a cat how to become comfortable with being handled, you have to handle it. What
follows is what should happen *after* you have gained the animal's trust and it has first allowed you to touch
or pet it. Because your kitten is running from you, I think it is important to confine her in a smaller room. One
that has few places to escape you. You want to give her a "safe cave" where she can go to or 'hide' to make
herself feel safe, but you need to be able to reach her.

You must be respectful, and not rush getting the cat past certain, critical, points as you gain its' trust, but to
get it accustomed to will need to sort of "flood" it with handling experiences, often and
regardless of the cat's reluctance. This is important to help the cat work past this reluctance because she is
forming opinions about things in her life/world right now, and you want to imprint a positive experience for being
handled with her.
This does not mean you completely ignore the cat's wishes, but you do have to hold the cat for incrementally
longer periods, accompanied with more frequent/numerous short handling sessions, even if the cat wiggles and
*wiggles/struggles* This does NOT mean holding a cat who is terrified and feels it *must* get away at
any/all costs. This just means the cat doesn't sit quietly or stay of its' own volition. It is gentle restraint (gentle
scruff hold or hand around the chest
) to keep the cat near as the free hand rubs all over to get the cat
accustomed to being touched.
Begin by trying to lure the kitten to you with tasty food treats. If the kitten allows you to pet it while it eats,
that is great! The goal is for the kitten to allow contact and not evade and run from you. If the kitten won't
come on its' own...

I sit on the floor and hold them gently by the scruff and place them on my lap, facing my knees. Then I hold
them by the scruff and pet and rub them all over with my free hand. IF they begin to relax, I'll loosen my
scruff hold and scrubble the fur at their neck to 'erase' the memory of me holding them. Then I let them move
off my lap if they wish, though I continue to pet and ruffle their fur in a pleasing, massaging manner as long as
they allow it.
The goal in this exercise is for them to walk, and not dart fearfully, away.

If the kitten is fearful and does not relax at all, I will only handle them for about 5-15 seconds per handling
session. When I am done handling them I take them off my lap and set them close to the opening of the safe
-cave and release them like it is no big deal. I do not watch them to judge their reaction because a direct
stare is viewed by them as either predatory or confrontational. I know they may turn and look at me and I do
not want them to see me staring at them with interest. I want them to learn that I will hold them, handle
them, not hurt them and I will not hold them against their will forever because I will release them. Nothing to
get worried or excited about.
The signals I am looking for when handling them are small signs of relaxation and I try to reward that by
lowering my handling intensity, which encourages them to seek it.

As this progresses and you can see they aren't behaving in a confused manner when you set them away
from you at the end of a handling session, try watching for signs of relaxing on your lap as you are handling
them; they may raise their rear end when you pet them, they may unclamp their tail from being wrapped
tight around their hind legs, they may move/adjust their feet on your lap to get more comfortable and they
may rub their face along your scrubbling hand when you pet their cheeks. When they show you these
relaxing signs, loosen your grip on the scruff hold, scrubble it as if you never really wanted to 'hold' them
there and just make it part of the handling process.

You have reached a crucial and pivotal point in releasing the kitten at this stage!

At this point, you still need to watch the kittenís body language because you wonít have control of them
when you release the scruff-hold and you need to continue to make this a Good Experience for the cat.
Use both hands to lightly pet and scrubble the fur. You may still want to stop the attention before they
are ready, but you can watch to see if they are asking for more attention. You can let them get up from
your lap and leave of their own accord. You can also ask them to come back by wiggling your fingers in
invitation to come back and step onto your lap so you can rub their face/cheeks with your fingers. Maybe
just hold your hand up and let them rub their face into it. You can hold your hand to the side and wiggle
your fingers in invitation for them to follow your hand off your lap for attention and then lure them back
onto your lap by following your hand.
As you handle the kitten more and more, and the kitten allows more and more handling, then you can move
on to allowing the kitten to have a bigger area to explore. Maybe a bathroom AND a bedroom. Once the
kitten comes to you consistently and confidently, then they can move on to exploring more of the home.

I have a method that I call Kitty Cat Boot Camp for teaching cats how to be handled and socialized. If you
are interested, I'll post a link, but it is a lot of information, mostly about feral cats, but ALL of the
socialization information still applies to *every* cat.
Let me know if you are interested,
heidi =^..^=

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-21-2009, 04:24 PM
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Re: best way to socialize a kitten?

I believe in being gentle, using interactive toys, and food. I do not believe in grabbing cats or kittens by the scruff of the neck and forcing them. Although it enables vets and mother cats to handle kittens or cats who are out of control, I would consider it an absolute last resort. When one of my cats was in a convulsion, wild-eyed, and all claws out...not even being aware of what was happening, the vet held him by the scruff of the neck to protect both me and him. That's what I mean by a last resort.


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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-21-2009, 11:58 PM
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Re: best way to socialize a kitten?

I believe you are imagining myself sitting in a room and randomly grabbing kittens as they
fearfully run past me, laughing uproariously at their fear and plopping them on my lap to
roughly maul until I release them and grab the next one that races past...
NO! Absolutely not, and I am offended that you may think this is so. That image is so far
off the mark as to be, well, I just don't have an appropriate descriptive. I am horrified at
what you described and what you possibly think it is that I do when socializing cats, and it
is certainly not something a cat-lover such as myself would ever condone and especially
not at a forum that is about cats and for the people who love them.

I do not advocate "grabbing kittens/cats" in any manner such as you describe. I believe
you have misunderstood. In fact, 'grabbing' in such a manner as you described would be
completely counter-productive in addition I believe you are misinformed as to the proper
uses of a scruff-hold; which are myriad beyond only [paraphrased] 'what the mother cat
does' or 'in times of emergency by a vet'. A scruff-hold can be, and is, an effective tool.
One that is utilized with care and compassion exactly as the mother cat uses it with her
kittens. The mother cat doesn't use it to restrain an out of control kitten, she uses it to
hold the kitten still so she can *groom* it. I do the same thing with a scruff hold; asking
the kitten to be still while I *handle* it. Veterinarians and pet-owners use it regularly to
examine and administer medication in addition to using it to safely restrain cats in times
of great stress, but it is hardly a last resort. The entire socializing process is one of gently
helping the cat to accept human contact and giving it time/opportunities to learn that
contact and handling can be pleasant.
In order to socialize a kitten/cat and get it
accustomed to being handled, you must handle it, and the best results are gained when
the handling is consistent, patient and gentle. I see absolutely no way at all in which
"grabbing" a kitten/cat could be beneficial for socializing in the context you described.
Surely, you have misunderstood.

From the Feral Cat Forum about "Taming Feral Cats": viewtopic.php?f=22&t=36326
The link in that post:
A quote, specifically about handling reluctant kittens, from that linked article:
The Taming Process - Handling
Once it remains calm during stroking, you can work on picking it up. Grip it securely by the
, as its mother would, and place it on your lap. Hold it securely, stroking it and talking
... you may need to use gentle persuasion or restraint if it seems uncertain about
staying put
, but never attempt restrain a scared or struggling cat.
...which is exactly what I advocate, exactly what I described and this particular expert
website certainly didn't describe this step of the socialization process as "a last resort".
In fact, it is a *vital step* in helping the kitten learn to become socialized; which means
to accept handling and become a confident and relaxed household member. When
socializing kittens and cats, we must work hard to keep all experiences positive and build
on the Good Things the kitten/cat experiences with our handling.
I certainly hope I have cleared up any misunderstandings about the methods I use.

*multiple edits trying to get text to fit the page in a readable manner not requiring scrolling.

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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-22-2009, 01:21 AM Thread Starter
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Re: best way to socialize a kitten?

I'll give that a try. I do have another problem with her. we dont know how, we never see her doing it but we keep finding her outside. I think my boyfriend isnt paying attention because I know I am when I come and go by myself or with the dogs. I came home today and couldnt find her. she luckily came back tonight clawing at the back door. we need to figure out how she's getting out and stop her, I've had a bad experience with an outside cat(wasnt outside by choice) and I dont want to loose another one.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-22-2009, 01:58 AM
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Re: best way to socialize a kitten?

Oh boy! Yeah, I'd be finding her 'escape point' REAL quick! Usually, older cats are able
to be okay outside, in safer areas, but I think it is much more dangerous for small kittens
like your little baby. I'm with you: she needs to stay inside. Check windows and screens.
Next is the doors. We *constantly* listen for the snick of the latch catching. If we
don't hear it, we come back and pull/push on the door to be certain it is closed. If we are
following each other in/out, we *both* keep an eye on the door to be sure no cats get
out and/or warn whoever is closest to the door that the other is further away and a cat is
heading for the door. If we are further apart when following, 1st in/out will pull the door to,
but not closed, however that 1st person *still* remains aware of the door to be sure the
other person comes out and not a cat.
This is something that has to be learned, but it really doesn't take long for it to become
habit. Our biggest fear is guests who *aren't* pet-aware like we need to be. I have rudely
yelled across the property for someone to "SHUT that DOOR!" Usually it is visiting kids who
forget, but some adults also aren't very diligent about the door. So, we just remain watchful
and always double-check behind guests. Guests *staying* with us, are usually family and
they already understand about keeping the pets inside.
Sphinx is an unusual name, and I like it! Best of luck with your adorable kitten!
heidi =^..^=

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-22-2009, 02:08 AM Thread Starter
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Re: best way to socialize a kitten?

since its a new house we dont keep the window/door screen open, they're not really good so we know its not that, I think he's not paying attention when he lets the dogs in and out. My older cat was stolen in my apartments, that was my bad experience. The place we moved to now is the edge of farm land, and we know there's coyote's around i've seen them and I dont want to risk it. *sigh*
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-22-2009, 03:16 AM
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Re: best way to socialize a kitten?

Oh, yes. Coyotes are bad and will make a meal of a kitty if they are hungry.
You may need to sort of put-your-foot-down and explain the dangers to him
in order for him to be more vigilent about the door.
I'm sure he'd feel very guilty if something happened to her.

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-22-2009, 03:20 AM Thread Starter
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Re: best way to socialize a kitten?

I've tried that, apparently it doesnt work. I'll keep trying, I told him when we buy the house in a few months that I want to put up purrfect fencing he says no now but if he doesnt pay attention to if she's getting out i'll make him do it
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-22-2009, 03:38 AM
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Re: best way to socialize a kitten?

Darn straight!
He's got TWO choices:
1. Be certain the kitty doesn't get outside.
2. Make an enclosure so if she *does* get outside, she is safe and contained.

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