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PDSA cat behaviour

Kitten socialisation

What is socialisation?

The experiences a kitten has during the early weeks of life are crucial in shaping their behaviour as an adult cat.

Kittens have a sensitive period (their first 8 – 10 weeks of age) which is when they get used to the things around them. Once they’ve experienced things during this period, called the ‘socialisation period’, they are less likely to be scared as adults. During this period kittens need to get used to people, other animals and everyday sights and sounds.

Why is it important to socialise my kitten?

Good, early socialisation leads to friendly, well-adjusted cats. Sadly, without positive early experiences, cats can become nervous, which often leads to behaviour problems.

Whose responsibility is it to socialise kittens?

Most kittens are still at home with their mother during the socialisation period, so it is up to the owner or breeder of the litter to make sure that the kittens are well socialised. If you are thinking about getting a kitten, check that they have been exposed to different people and other pets, as well as normal household sounds at the breeder’s house. If they are not properly socialised, you may have problems later. You should continue to give kittens lots of positive experiences when they arrive at their new home.

Image of a suitable toy for kittens and cats


Is play important for cats?

Most cats love playing, which provides good exercise and allows them to behave naturally. Many people think that kittens stop playing when they get older, but many adult cats enjoy daily play with their owners, using suitable toys.

What are the best types of toys for kittens and cats?

The best types of cat toys are those that encourage chasing and hunting-type behaviour. Toys that do this are those that move quickly and unpredictably. Good examples are fishing rod-type toys, or balls intended for cats and kittens. Suitable cat toys are available from most pet shops and pet supermarkets.

Scratching (claw conditioning)

Why do cats need to scratch something?

Scratching (or claw conditioning) is part of normal cat behaviour and is used to keep their claws healthy and leave scent marks.

What type of scratching post is best for my cat?

A scratching post needs to be stable and tall enough for your cat to exercise at full body stretch. If it doesn’t allow this, the cat may choose your furniture instead!

Cat flaps

Should my cat have a cat flap? 

A cat flap can be a good way of giving a cat free access to a garden but can also cause problems if other cats are using the flap to come into the home. This can be very stressful for cats and can be linked to stress-related medical problems. If this is happening you should consider using a cat flap that is operated by a collar or microchip.


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