The case for Kitten Kindergarten
It’s a familiar sight: puppies learning to sit, stay, and play well with others in the corner of your local pet store. Everyone knows puppies grow up to be better dogs when they are properly socialized. Puppy classes are an important part of socialization for dogs. But what about kittens? Can they benefit from group socialization when they are young? Dr. Kersti Seksel thinks they can, and she is one of a growing number of veterinarians offering Kitten Kindergarten (Kitten Kindy in Australia, where Dr. Seksel practices). At this year’s American Association of Feline Practitioners meeting, she discussed the development of kittens and the ways kitten classes can benefit cats, their pet parents, and veterinarians.
Experiences help kittens develop resiliency, or ability to cope with different situations. These experiences are especially important during early development. The phases of a kitten’s social development according to Dr. Seksel are demonstrated in the graphic, below. These phases are the neontatal period, from birth to two weeks, the transitional period, from two to three weeks, and the socialization period from three to seven weeks. During weeks nine to fourteen your kitten experiences the time of peak social play.
Dr. Seskel’s Kitten Kindergarten classes are three, one-hour, weekly sessions. The first week parents come without their kittens. This helps keep the group focused on important information about cat development, husbandry, and behavior. Subsequent classes focus on training tips and cover potential behavior problems. The classes are as much about educating cat parents as they are about socializing the kittens. The classes give cat parents the knowledge they need to successfully raise a kitten and prevent behavioral issues to the extent possible.