Friday, 3 August 2018

Kitten Academy: Producing friendlier pets and happier owners

Follow the progress of kittens Apple and Apricot over the next few weeks in our Kitten Academy series.

The transformation in Apple and Apricot since they began the socialisation programme four weeks ago is truly heart-warming to see.

Not only have they grown bigger and fluffier, they’ve also become much more confident with all the new experiences they’re being introduced to.

Apricot caught red-pawed pouncing on her sister's tail
As soon as their pen door opens, Apple sticks her head up and then comes running over, particularly if you have a toy she can play with. Her current favourite is a plastic straw, which she watches intently as you move it across the floor and then pounces on. She also tries to run off with it and chew the end, so the socialisers need to keep a strong grip on it to prevent her from swallowing any plastic.

Apricot also likes to play with the straw, but Apple isn’t so good at sharing. That’s when it helps to have two socialisers working together, so one can distract Apple while her sister gets some playtime.

Apricot giving her unimpressed face when her sister is hogging the straw
It’s already clear to see that a structured socialisation programme really works in producing friendlier and more relaxed kittens. Although they would still rather be playing than being picked up, Apple and Apricot aren’t distressed when being handled and will tolerate a quick fuss before going back to their toys.

Not all cats will respond in the same way to socialisation, as genetics and the circumstances of their birth play a role in shaping their personalities too, but without handling early on they would become much more fearful of humans.

Another benefit of kitten socialisation is that it helps them to form a stronger bond with their new owners. In fact, studies have shown that properly socialised cats provide more emotional support for their owners, helping them to become true members of the family.

Apple having a rare moment of calm between play sessions
This is also great news for rehoming charities like Cats Protection, as owners who are well-bonded with their cats are much less likely to give them up, reducing the number of moggies that end up in our care.

It really is a win-win-win situation for everyone as the kittens are more relaxed, the new owners get friendly pets, and the kitten socialisers get to see the real difference they’re making to cats’ lives.

It certainly is a lovely feeling when Apple and Apricot jump onto your lap, showing that they trust you enough to let you stroke them.

Annie is grateful for a break while the socialisers kitten-sit
Meanwhile, Annie has started to spend some time in her own separate pen, which is just as well as the kittens are getting more energetic by the day. She’s still getting regular fuss but enjoys a break from having two little ones pouncing on her and chewing on her tail. After doing such a wonderful job as mum, she deserves a well-earned rest.

Come back next week when Apple, Apricot and Annie will be neutered, microchipped and vaccinated ready for their forever homes!

For more information about caring for kittens, visit the Cats Protection website.

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