Getting a new kitten is a very special time! It’s a time of fun and excitement but it’s also a time to read up on how to give your baby the very best start possible. So how do you raise a kitten to be a cuddly cat? What you do now—or neglect to do—can spell the difference between having a well-adjusted, well socialized, cuddly and affectionate cat or one who is timid, fearful, and shows very little signs of affection.
A well adjusted kitten is more likely to grow to be a cuddly cat.
Raising a well adjusted cat begins even before you bring your kitten home. It’s never a good idea to take a kitten away from its mother and litter mates before it’s 8 weeks old. Naturally, if it’s a rescue kitten this may not be possible but according to the American Animal Hospital Association nursing kittens not only receive protection against many diseases from their mother in her breast milk, but are less likely to have behavioral issues later.
Taking a kitten away from its mother before it’s properly weaned at around 8 weeks can cause a kitten to be less healthy and less socialized. Kittens first learn how to socialize by interacting with the mommy and their siblings. Proper socialization will go a long way to raising a kitten to be a loving cuddly cat.
New Experiences And People
Gently exposing your kitten to new experiences, animals (if safe) and new people will help your kitten develop positive behavior towards people and other pets. Kittens who are not properly socialized may be a timid or overly aggressive kittens and grown cats.
The American Veterinary Medical Association tells us that kittens learn socialization between 3 and 9 weeks of age, but you should provide socialization opportunities throughout the first year of life.
Slowly and gently, while always keeping your baby safe, expose your kitten to members of your household and then friends and family members who live elsewhere.
Also expose it to other pets in a safe manner by holding and petting the kitten while a dog or other cat checks it out. Be forewarned, kittens can and do freak out on occasion when introduced to other animals. It’s best to keep the kitten in a carrier or cage/small pen. This method works well because they can check each other out and kitty is entirely safe. As they get to know each other you can put the kitten on the floor but do not leave them alone. Slowly introduce the kitten to new experiences like going to the vet for a checkup or visiting your child’s classroom.
It’s hard to not be tense and a little fearful when exposing your baby to other animals. This is natural but try to remain calm because your kitten will sense your fear and tension and follow suit. As natural as it is to want to protect a little kitten, it’s not good to overprotect. Supervise, protect, keep the kitten out of trouble but resist the urge to be an overprotective mommy.
Male kittens are much more likely to explore and find the new experiences a great adventure. Females are sometimes shyer and more frightened in the beginning and their new environment may seem to be a scary place. I had a female Siamese kitten who lived under a TV cabinet for the first 3 ½ days that she was home. I provided her with food, water, toys, a furry teddy bear to simulate her mother and a small litter pan. She did emerge to use her pan only an inch away. She did what she needed to do. She was left to come out in her own time. She ventured further and further out into the room and then the whole apartment.
In general, males just want to have fun, the female cats are created to protect their young and can be more cautious and also more aggressive and fearsome even as kittens. So be prepared to get scratched the first few times you pick her up. Don’t discipline her for that. Just gently put her back down.
Hands Are Not Play Things
To raise a cat that responds well to petting the kitten needs to be taught that hands are not playthings. Avoid playing with the kitten using your hands (or feet) and allowing the kitten to bite and claw them. If you allow your kitten to play rough with you it will do this as an adult.
Use only toys to play with your kitten and do not allow it to put its mouth on you. If you allow a kitten to bite and scratch it will do this not only when playing but also out of frustration and/or anger.
Usually kittens learn this hurts from its litter mates but not always and especially if the kitten is taken away from its mother and siblings too soon. I’ve heard of people biting their kitten, this will only make the kitten avoid you. Family members may also avoid you!
Handle As Much As Possible
To raise a cuddly affectionate cat, you need to handle your kitten as much as possible especially between 10 and 12 weeks of age according to the American Animal Hospital Association.
Help your kitten get used to being groomed, petted and picked up. Talk to it in a soft soothing voice and praise your kitten softly while being handled. Even if the kitten seems skittish don’t shy away from holding it, petting, and handling it. Just don’t force it if the kitten really isn’t in the mood to be touched. With lots of gentle practice your kitten will grow comfortable with being held.
In the beginning don’t give baby a lot of space. Kittens are easily overwhelmed. Although I later learned this to be true, my own kitten taught me this long before. They often know by nature what they need. When they are brought to their new forever home, they need a world as small as they are. If given the entire house to roam around in they tend to get stressed out, hide and can even develop behavioral issues including shyness and fearfulness and it won’t grow to be the friendly cuddly cat you’re hoping for.
Give the kitten one small room with everything it needs—litter pan, toys, bed, food and water, kitten sized scratching post, or cat tree. Leave the door open ajar and let baby wander from the room on its own with supervision in its own time. But return it to its room when you’re not home and at night.
After a week or two the kitten will explore but it needs to know it can return to its safe place when stressed or frightened, on its own as needed.
Living in a rather small apartment I didn’t have a room for this, so I bought a small puppy kennel. My kitten quickly learned this was his little space with everything he needed, and he slept there at night and went to his safe place when frightened. It worked great with three kittens over the years and I would highly recommend it. Even more so if you have other pets in the house.
When handling your kitten be calm and confident. They can sense emotions such as fear, anxiety, or nervousness and can make them feel less than safe with you. When holding your kitten don’t force it, when your kitten has had enough let it leave. Kittens and cats in general hate being forced to do anything.
How to Raise a Kitten to Be a Cuddly Cat – Points to Remember
- Create opportunities for your kitten to get used to your lap on its own terms.
- Never chase it down and force it to sit on your lap.
- Turn off distractions of things that could startle it like the phone, TV
- Keep other pets out of the room.
- Choose a time when the kids are at school and you are alone with your kitten.
- Choose a comfortable place.
- Keep some kitty treats in your pocket. Catnip can attract your kitten.
- Read or do some other quiet pass time. It’s important that you are relaxed.
- When the kitten jumps up on your lap give it a treat and softly talk to it in an encouraging manner like ‘’good baby’’ or ‘’oh, what a good boy/girl you are.’’
- Pet it gently. Breath slowly and above all be calm. No fast moves.
- Have relaxed open body language. Don’t stare at your kitten, they find that threatening.
- Never discipline your cat harshly or let anyone else do this. This will teach your cat that you, or people in general, are threats. And the cat will keep its distance. Teach by reward when it does good and no reward when bad. Even an loud angry ‘’bad cat!’’ can make you a threat in your kitten’s eyes.
- Be the mother-figure. Feed your kitten, give it treats, play with it, give it a lot of attention and affection. Yes, it okay to kiss your kitten. Pet it often (petting is the equivalent of the mother licking her kitten and is soothing and calming).
Are male or female cats more affectionate and cuddly?
Neutered males are usually more loving and less shy and timid. Personally, I’ve had more female lap cats (spayed of course) but not by much. Three of my four males are/were cuddly and the fourth was super affectionate, very sweet and insanely intelligent but not a lap cat. He was taken from his mother too soon and neutered late at 9 months perhaps this had something to do with it. Or it might have just been his own unique personality. All three females were lap cats. It has more to do with the individual cat, perhaps the age of neutering/spaying, the degree of socialization and the breed.
The cuddliest cat breeds are:
Ragdoll #1 cuddliest. Followed by Siamese, Sphynx, Ragamuffin, Scottish Fold, Persian and Himalayan, Tonkinese, Burmese, Birman, and Main Coon. Notice 7 out of 11 are Siamese breeds.
So, if you want a cuddly, sweet, affectionate cat choose well, read up, talk to breeders, be willing to put the time and effort into bonding and raising your kitten to be cuddly, neuter/spay young, and as for male or female, it’s probably a toss-up! I wish success in raising your kitten to be a cuddly cat.