Socialization techniques will help you prepare kittens to be placed for adoption. This can be a long, time-consuming process depending on the age and temperament of the kittens and should not be taken lightly.
Initial Confinement: If you are dealing with a litter, separate each kitten if possible and if you can’t, make sure you spend quality time alone with each one. Keep kittens in a small room, like a bathroom, or preferably in a cage where you will have easy access to them and they won’t be able to hide in a hard-to-reach spot. Also keep them away from any other animals in the home. This small space will calm them and allow them to easily find their food, water, and litter. Allow them one hiding place for security, such as a box or carrier. Provide soft comfortable bedding. Consider leaving a radio or TV on when the kittens are alone to get used to human voices. For young kittens, a ticking clock wrapped in a towel sounds like a mother cat’s heartbeat and is very soothing. Litters can be put back together after a short adjustment period.
Touch: Safety first. Aggressive feral kittens can hurt you badly if you are not careful. Wear gloves or protective clothing if you feel it is needed. Hold kittens as much as possible after giving them an initial two-day adjustment period. If a kitten is feisty, papoose in a towel with only the head out and hold her while doing things around the house. Pet kittens by reaching from behind the head and gently rubbing around the face, chin, and behind the ears. Hold kittens while talking softly and petting for about 20 minutes at a time, and repeat this often throughout the day. All young kittens should be picked up often to be petted, brushed, and played with so they are used to this behavior when they grow up.
Feeding: Food is the best tool for socialization. You may keep dry kitten food out all day, but when you feed wet food, stay in the room while the kittens eat it. They will soon associate you with food and begin to trust you. If they are very timid, try to first give them food on a spoon through the cage. After holding kittens, reward them with some canned cat food or chicken flavored baby food on a spoon.
Play: Encourage kittens to play with toys at around three to four weeks. It is important that you don’t let kittens play with your hand or bite or scratch you. This is especially important when raising single neonatal kittens without siblings.
Introductions to the home and others: After kittens are comfortable enough with you to fall asleep on your lap or purr in your presence, they can move from the initial confinement space to a larger, kitten-proof room. Introduce kittens to as many human friends as you can to adjust them to strangers and unexpected circumstances.
When deciding what to do upon finding kittens, it is also important to think ahead for them. Can you provide them with a foster home? A permenant home? Will you have the time, resources, and energy to find these newly socialized kittens a home?
Depending on your initial decision, you will end up with either socialized, well-adjusted kittens who you can easily adopt out, or a colony with fully sterilized, vaccinated feral cats and kittens. Either decision is correct because, as you have read, taking on the task of raising kittens or socializing them is no easy feat. Be secure that you made the best choice for your circumstances and don’t second guess yourself. Kittens can pull at our heart-strings, but in the end, doing what is best for you will ultimately be what is best for the kittens.