Smitten by Kittens?
With “kitten” season just around the corner here is an update for potential owners on how to select behaviourally resilient and cuddly kittens and to limit conflict in multi-cat households.
How Cats Think
Cats, unlike dogs or humans, are not socially obligate. This doesn’t mean that they cannot establish or maintain healthy relationships with other cats or humans but that they will readily adapt to and may prefer a solitary existence. Feline social interactions are characterised by low intensity high frequency interactions.
Feline behavioural responses to potential conflict are limited. Appeasement or submissive type behaviour which aims to gather more information or diffuse escalating situations is rare. Inhibition or freezing “statue still” is more common but avoidance or escape behaviour is the cats’ preferred behavioural response. Repulsion or aggressive behaviour is the choice of last resort and once activated can be hard to diffuse.
A kitten’s main socialisation period is between 2 and 7 weeks of age and occurs almost entirely at the breeder’s home. Ideally choose kittens from a rearing environment which has offered short but frequent sessions of lifting, gentle restraint and touching all over.
This helps kittens deal with the inevitable human owner want of picking them up for a cuddle. Most cats find this behaviour oppressive and restrictive as it prevents them from using their prefurred defence strategy of escape.
Cats don’t need company but many owners “think” that they do. If you want a harmonious multi-cat household your best chance “ethologically” is a set of siblings. Social compatibility between disparately aged or unrelated cats can be a lottery but you can set the house up to maximise success. Ensure each cat has free and immediate access to resources, privacy and the ability to escape from potential stress. This usually means at least one litter tray per cat [plus one], feeding separately and away from doors and water bowls plus lots of elevated spaces for cats to escape to, sit or rest upon. Feliway pheromones can help ease conflict.
Early age neutering [around 16 to 20 weeks] helps cats retain a kitten “mindset”.
Smitten by Kittens?