Hand raising kittens involves more than just making sure they are kept fit and physically healthy.
There is also the matter of making sure they grow up to be happy and confident cats that are comfortable in the company of humans and other animals.
Orphaned kittens may grow up in isolation away from their brother and sisters and be used to the company of just one or two humans, who feed and look after them.
This means that they do not receive the benefit of being around other animals and can become quite afraid of the wider world if they are not socialized early on.
Kittens are born without having any sense of fear, which is great news for us humans, as we want the kitten to see us as their friends and not as a big scary giant.
These first few weeks are a vital time to socialise the kitten to humans and other animals.
Without this contact during this time a cat may never become accustomed to people and so become feral.
It is very rare for a feral cat to become truly domesticated.
My sister homed a feral kitten; he was older than seven weeks but even though he lived in a domestic situation from that young age he never really got on with people. In fact the only person able to go near him was my sister, everyone else would end up covered in scratches!
The first seven-weeks of a kittens life is known as the "sensitive period", this is when experiences during this time will effect and mould the sort of cat they will grow up to become.
If you want your kitten to grow up to be a cat who:
Then it is up to you to provide good kitten care and a variety of experiences during this sensitive period. Raising kittens this way will help to ensure you have happy cats in the future.
During the first seven weeks of your kittens' life it is important that you expose them to as many experiences as possible, so that they can learn that such things and people are not a danger to them. You should therefore ensure that:
The more experience's introduced during this "sensitive period" the better, and it is a very important step in raising kittens. As the kitten has no fear during this time they will explore and get use to all the sounds, smells and different types of creatures in their world.
When re-homing a kitten from a shelter or from a breeder it is important to find out as much as you can about their upbringing so far. Kittens that have not been properly socialised will need far more of your attention and even then they may never become easy pets to live with.
Please read my other pages for more great tips about Kitten Care