Kitten season is upon us! We’re here to help you learn how to socialize shy kittens to help them find their FURever home!
Kittens will display different signs to show they are shy or fearful of humans. Behavior such as hissing, spitting, striking, or running and hiding are all signs of fearfulness. This behavior lets you and your foster know the kittens have most likely not had human interaction. They will need patience and love to help them understand they will be safe and taken care of by their human family.
A loving foster family could be the perfect place to get them acquainted with people and to help them enjoy their sweet kitty life. Once with their foster family, here are the steps they can take to socialize the shy kittens:
1. Provide a safe, quiet, small space.
To start the socialization process you will want to give the kittens a safe and comfortable place for them to interact with their human caregivers. The space should not make them feel threatened or trapped. A quiet bathroom or bedroom with minimal furniture to hide under provides a great place to start. Give the kittens a soft and warm place to sleep. A blanket in their carrier or a box with low sides is perfect.
2. Let the kittens decide when they want to approach you.
Start by sitting with the kittens in their safe space. Bring a book or a laptop to work on along with your patience. Let the kittens adjust to a human presence in their space. Don’t try to grab the kittens or make them come up to you. Instead, allow the kittens to approach you. Move slowly and talk quietly. You will also want to bring food with you during these times, explained in the next step…
3. Start socializing with the kittens by bringing them their meals.
Bring food with you every time you interact with the shy or fearful kittens. While socializing the kittens, set meal times, and bring food with you and leave with it. This will allow the kittens to associate happy, feeding time with your presence.
At first, put the food as close to you as possible while still allowing them to feel comfortable enough to eat. The first couple of times the food might be across the room from you. Read your book, do your work, and let the kittens eat. Each time you bring them food, bring their meal a little closer to you. You can eventually move the food dish into your lap or on your legs, and let the kittens crawl up onto you to get their meals.
As they become more comfortable, try rolling some kibble to the kittens. They may be fearful at first, but keep doing this until they understand what is going on. Then start rolling the kibble shorter distances, drawing them closer to you, and possibly eating out of your hand. You can also put their wet food onto your fingers and let them come up and lick it off.
4. Introduce playtime with the kittens.
Once the kittens are comfortable being around you at mealtime, it’s time to start using playtime as a way to make them feel comfortable with human interaction. Spend a couple of hours a day playing with kitten toys and rewarding them with food when they approach you. Try using toys that draw them close to you like wands with feathers or other soft plush toys on the end. At this stage, the kittens may begin to allow you to give pets and scritches, eventually leading to being able to hold them and nap time in your lap.
5. Handle the kittens with a lot of love, care, and patience.
Once you have built up trust with the kittens, like with any person, it is crucial to keep this. You may start introducing other people or children. Inform them the kittens need gentle touches and light holding. Children interacting with the kittens should be old enough to understand how to safely interact with the kittens.
Hold the kittens close so they feel warmth and hear your heartbeat. All of these sweet interactions with the kittens will help prepare them for their FURever homes.
Want a complete guide for fostering kittens? Check it out here!