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Sacred Birman kittens with mother black and white

Kitten socialization and play

Socialization should start as early as possible to avoid any unwanted behaviors and help them develop into confident, even-tempered adult cats. Find out how and why you should socialize your kitten.

Kitten socialization FAQs

While kittens are often seen to be independent, it’s important to guide their behavior early on in life, set simple rules, and encourage sociable habits. Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about socialization and tips on how to get started.

In the first few weeks of your kitten’s life everything is new. Effective socialization helps them to understand new surroundings and approach different people, places, and situations without fear. It also helps them to form healthy behaviors that will impact the rest of their lives.

At first, kittens are socialized by their breeder or shelter, as well as their mother, and litter mates may follow their example when it comes to habits and behaviors. Once they move into your home, you'll need to complete their socialization, and by doing so, limit unwanted behaviors and help them settle into their new life.

Socialization is a core developmental stage, and without it your kitten will struggle. Effective socialization helps them (and you) in a number of ways:
  • Removes the fear and nervousness of new experiences
  • Makes them feel at home in their new surroundings
  • Helps them to get used to other people, animals, and places
  • Teaches them which behaviors are right and wrong
  • Keeps them more curious and inquisitive in adult life

Your kitten will learn most of its social behaviors in the first three months. So, the sooner you introduce your kitten to new experiences, the better. One good way to tell if your kitten has been properly socialized and find out about their personality is to observe their reactions.

There is a simple test. If your kitten is happy to run up to you, seeks attention, and rubs up against you, there's a good chance that they have had a good basic socialization. However, if they are shy and try to run away when you approach, you will need to start from the beginning.

Kitten sitting indoors with a little girl

The basics of socialization

To be able to successfully socialize your kitten and introduce them to new sights, sounds, people, places, and smells, there are a number of things to take into consideration.


Respect their independence

Your kitten organizes its life around four key areas: The feeding area, the sleeping area, the litter box area, and the play area. When socializing your kitten, it's important that you respect these different territories and your kitten's day-to-day activities.

Ginger kitten playing with a toy on a white rug

Reward good behavior

Letting your kitten know that they have done something right is an important part of the training process. Try using a snack, a healthy treat that you know they like, or giving them extra affection when they behave as requested. All of these will act as an incentive for your kitten to repeat good behavior.

Sacred Birman kitten being held by its owner

Start early

Young kittens are fast learners, so it's a good idea to start socializing them as soon as they come into the home.

Tabby kitten indoors interacting with its owner

Make time to play

Playing is key to your kitten’s socialization, as it allows them to explore their surroundings, develop their physical capabilities, and form a strong bond with you.

Grey and white kitten playing with a ball indoors next to a window

Fill your kitten's life with new experiences

A kitten that's been in contact with different people, noises, and experiences from a very early age will be far more confident and comfortable. One of the key things here is ensuring that they are used to meeting and being pet and handled by new people.

That being said, if you do too much, the kitten might be overwhelmed and develop a negative association with the person or experience. So, be careful that your kitten always feels safe and pay close attention to their body language.

A ginger and a black and white kitten standing on a step outdoors
Tabby kitten playing in a kitchen with a ribbon on string

How to look after your kitten’s mental and physical well-being

Mental and physical exercise is key to kitten's early development and long-term health. Therefore daily exercise, play, and stimulation are vital. Keeping your kitten active can help them to:
  • Stay healthy
  • Learn new skills
  • Keep mentally agile
  • Explore their surroundings
  • Avoid obesity
  • Protect themselves against health problems later in life
  • Build a strong bond with you



When your kitten is playing they are getting mental and physical stimulation and practicing natural behaviors. So, you should aim to play with your kitten two or three times a day for around 15 minutes each time.

Tabby kittens playing together on a grey sofa

Running and chasing games

The sight of a moving object immediately unleashes your kitten's desire to run and chase. Toys that will keep your kitten moving include:

  • A mechanical or moving mouse
  • A scrunched-up ball of tissue paper on the floor
  • Flashlights
  • Wand toys
Siamese kitten playing indoors with a red ball


Kittens love to climb, which is why cat trees make a perfect perch for your pet. Here are some other ways to encourage your kitten to stretch themselves and climb:

  • Placing a cushion on a high shelf that they can reach without injuring themselves
  • Tall scratching post towers

Be aware, though, that kittens may not have perfect coordination and are more likely to fall. In the early months, supervision may be necessary.

British Shorthair kitten standing on a cat tree next to a window

Making mealtimes active

Cats hunt in the wild, and you can easily replicate this at home by choosing games and toys which release small amounts of food when your kitten carries out a required action. This makes your kitten more active during mealtimes and offers both mental and physical stimulation. Alternatively, you can hide their food and encourage them to track it down.

Black and white kitten standing inside playing with a ball

Signs that your kitten needs more exercise

If you’re wondering whether your kitten needs more exercise, here are a few of the tell-tale signs to look out for:

Excessive weight gain

Destructive or aggressive behavior


Disinterest in toys and games

Maine coon kitten black and white

Training your kitten

Training your kitten should start as early as possible to help avoid any unwanted behaviors and help them develop into confident, even-tempered adult cats.

Royal Canin Cat Food for Kittens

Tailored nutrition for kittens

ROYAL CANIN® kitten nutrition supports growth and development by providing all the nutrients essential to a kitten's needs in the first year of life.