Last week, the people who work here in Portland with me thought I had lost my mind. A client came in to ask for help placing a pregnant queen that she had found in her backyard. After concluding that she was quite healthy, FELV/FIV negative and very sweet, I ultrasounded her and found 5 kittens maturing normally.
This is a common occurrence at this time of year, but I made an unexpected decision. We know that the critical socialization period for kittens is between 2 – 8 weeks. Portland kittens are just like all kittens. If they are handled for 45 minutes or so per day by different people and in the presence of a queen who is comfortable with people grow up to be the best companion cats. If socialization has begun during this sensitive period a kitten’s reaction to humans will continue to change over the next couple of months, evolving until the kittens are about 4 months old.
Cats that have been held by more than one person will more easily generalize their behavior to most humans and will be more outgoing. They are more affectionate, purr more often and play for longer periods.
Knowing this, I thought we should give these Portland kittens the best possible start we could, by adopting them and raising them in the hospital. Of course, this is not ideal as she could not be vaccinated and might be exposed to other cats. Yet, we knew we could raise those kittens to be really great companions, knowing what we do about raising them successfully. We had plenty of people to work on it!
A wonderful client stepped up and adopted our pregnant queen, vastly improving her chances for good health. We talked about how to raise the kittens and what to look for. Once the kittens are 2 weeks old, each should be handled by different people for about 45 minutes a day in the presence of the queen. The people should be both male and female, young and old. Coincidentally, the owner’s adolescent grandchildren were due for a visit and would be eager to help. We are certain these five Portland kittens will be terrific companions for the right people
Most people have a favorite color or appearance for the cats they adopt, orange tabby, tuxedo, calico, etc. The most important characteristic though is personality. All cats are individuals. These kittens have the best chance to be sociable, confident and easy-going, just the traits for the best housecats. When you look for a new Portland kitten to adopt, rather than look for physical traits, take some time with them. If the kitten approaches you with confidence, likes to play with people, and/or purrs when petted gently, this is a really good fit.
Look for these kittens in a foster home where there has been adequate individual time for each kitten to learn to be comfortable with people. Take the time to observe the kittens with the litter and their mom. Sit quietly and watch which kitten approaches you. Watch which kittens are willing to play in your presence. Pet the queen and see how she reacts to you. If she is confident, she will have shown the kittens that they need not be fearful.
If you have an older cat at home, consider adopting two from the same litter. They will have each other for rough-housing, the vigorous play that kittens need to mature well. The older cat will appreciate the show and the ability to decline to engage with these crazy youngsters. With our busy lives, it is important to provide a rich life for your beloved kitties, but that is a blog for another time.
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