Socialising Puppies And Kittens

1st June 2023

Socialisation describes puppies and kittens having pleasant encounters with different people, animals and situations, so that they learn to react appropriately to these things in the future. Puppies and kittens with poor early life experiences are likely to grow into fearful adult dogs and cats, with an increased risk of having behavioural problems.

When is the critical period for puppies and kittens to be socialised?

The critical period in which puppy and kitten brains need to be exposed to a wide variety of experiences is between 3 and 12 weeks of age in puppies and 2 to 7 weeks in kittens.

What sort of things should puppies and kittens be exposed to during this time?

Some of the things that puppies and kittens should get used to include:

  • General household noises (vacuum cleaner, washing machine, doors closing, taps running, cooking noises)
  • Gentle handling by a variety of people (men, women, older children)
  • Gentle brushing and checking of ears, eyes, mouth, paws and tummy
  • Other animals of the same species

What does this mean for potential pet owners?

Most puppies and kittens go to their new homes towards the end of the socialisation period. This means that we are reliant on the breeders of these pets to have provided good socialisation environments. Puppies and kittens that have been reared in sheds or pens away from the rest of the house are unlikely to settle easily into a family home in the future. If you are rehoming a pet, don’t be afraid to ask to see where the pet has been reared.

What about hand-reared puppies and kittens?

Sadly, sometimes puppies and kittens are orphaned and have to be hand reared. It is very important to take advice on socialising these babies from a very early age, to make sure that they grow up to be well-rounded, confident pets.

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