Little baby kittens are so adorable!! Their fluffy hair, big round eyes and bouncy play makes them simply irresistible!! Families looking to adopt a kitten often want to take them home as soon as possible hoping to enjoy every minute of kitten cuteness! But beware, removing kittens from their mom and siblings too early can lead to problems.
Typically, kittens become interested in solid food around four weeks old. From about 4-8 weeks old they will continue nursing while eating kitten food. Usually around 8-10 weeks old the mom will discourage nursing and the kittens will no longer need nourishment from her.
Many people think that when a kitten starts eating food on his own, then it is time to find him a home; however, mom and siblings still play an important role in raising a well-adjusted kitten. Kittens separated too early puts them at risk for development, social and health issues. It really is best to wait until the kitten is at least 10 weeks old before separating from his mom and siblings.
Kittens go through a socialization period from 3-9 weeks. During this period kittens are eager to explore and play and show little fear to novel items, including people, other animals, experiences, and objects. This is when they learn to communicate and be respectful of other cats and they learn how to play appropriately. These important lessons transfer to human interactions, too.
Kitten siblings give valuable feedback to their littermates when playing. If a kitten bites his sister too hard, she will cry and stop playing. The kitten soon learns that a hard bite will end the fun. The mom cat also acts as a disciplinarian, keeping the young kittens safe and secure. Mom will correct any inappropriate behavior. If a kitten doesn’t have these valuable experiences, he may not develop good manners.
It is also important during the 3-9 week socialization period for kittens to have positive human interactions. This helps them to develop good “people skills”. The more positive exposure a kitten has to humans of all ages, other pets and novel situations, the better adjusted that kitten will be. Meeting different kinds of people – young, old, men, women, tall, and short will help the kitten acclimate to a variety of people.
Separating kittens from their mom and siblings is a stressful time for a little kitty. Suddenly the only life they have ever experienced is gone – no mom to comfort him, no siblings to entertain him, no pile of friends to snuggle with. Sure, there are people to play with, but they are not with him 24 hours a day. Waiting until a kitten is at least 10 weeks old, when he has the health and emotional foundation to set him up for success, will help the little one to be a great addition to a human family.