Kittens are irresistible for more reasons than one. Not only are they covered in fuzz with big eyes and precious pink paws, they’re also little bundles of curious energy, eagerly exploring the world around them.
While many cats grow up to be calmed-down, affectionate versions of their kitten selves, others can become skittish of strangers, and some are downright grumpy. So, what changes: why are kittens sometimes friendlier than cats?
To a kitten, the world is a new, adventurous place. Like with children, every first experience and accomplishment is exciting, and it’s fun to be excited! Not to mention, these cute babies get lots of positive attention from everyone they meet. No wonder they’re always happy!
But as a cat — or any animal, for that matter — starts to learn more about the world, they’ll begin to associate certain experiences with certain outcomes. For instance, your young kitty may love to meet new people until she gets cornered by an acquaintance or a child pulls her tail. From then on, she may associate unfamiliar people with feeling unsafe–and your once-social kitten turning into a feline who fears strangers or kids.
It’s also important to note that kittens are most impressionable from the age of 2 to 14 weeks, and one bad experience can affect them for life.
“The main socialization window for kittens is from 2 to 7 weeks of age, but it can extend up to 14 weeks. During this time, your cat is most receptive to new experiences.”
If you’ve just brought a new kitten into your home, you can take steps to help encourage him to be friendly as he grows. Handle him gently (don’t scare him with sudden movements or rough play), shower him with affection, encourage him to stay near you, and invite friends of all kinds to come over and do the same.
So what do you do if you already have or decide to adopt an adult kitty who’s more of a reserved type than a social butterfly? Don’t worry, it’s not too late! It may take a little more time and patience, but you can start to turn your him around with the right steps.
Make sure your companion associates you with all the best things in life. Depending on the cat, it may be treats, catnip toys, or playtime. Reader’s Digest even suggests offering up a slow blink. If it’s strangers that make your kitty dive under the couch, have your guests coax her out with her favorite things while maintaining a calm demeanor and allowing her to approach them. The trick here is to change her associations until she realizes that strangers mean new friends to play or give her treats. Follow these same steps yourself if it’s you that your cat tends to ignore.
Just remember that at the end of the day, every cat has a different personality, just like humans. And as we all know, some are naturally friendlier than others. Your cat may never be the type to run up to everyone who walks through the door, and may not even move from her napping spot to greet you – but that’s okay! As long as she feels safe and loved, chances are, she shows affection in her own special way.
Do not think you are not a bad cat mom or dad if you raised your grumpy cat from kittenhood. While it’s our job to be our cats’ advocates, there is only so much we can control; if the noise of your rambunctious grandchildren sends your kitty under the bed, there may be no changing it. But as long as she has a safe space to go and remain undisturbed, she’ll feel secure in your home and with you for life.