There are many misconceptions relating to the development of felines in a captive environment, such as our homes. We all know that cats, when compared to other popular pets, such as dogs, are more independent. However, for some, it comes as a bit of a shock to realize how dependent these little balls of fluff are on us.
This article, I hope, will clear this up a little. For some questions about kittens, you have to be careful how you answer as the answer may only be relevant to one breed, or indeed a random selection of cats within a breed. Therefore ultimately not answering the question at all!
However, this isn’t the case here – so let me explain what the truth is and why.
When will my kitten become more independent? Independence within a kitten is linked to confidence. This confidence may be traced back to the socialization period during the first few weeks of their life.
Kittens should stay with their mother for 12-weeks
Firstly, I wanted to put this at the top of this article as it’s important. How quickly kittens are removed from their mother can have a profound impact on the personality and arguably the health of your kitten. These first few weeks are the most important time in their whole lives.
This socialization period is the time when they encounter new things for the first time and when decisions are made (by them) whether something should be considered as a threat, or not.
Immerse the kitten, safely, with new experiences such as interactions with other animals (such as dogs) and let them meet with noisy children. Vacuum around them and play music. If these things happen at this time there is a significant chance that when those same things happen later, they will be more likely to take it in their stride.
The reason why this is relevant to this article is that your kitten, their confidence, which can be translated as a form of independence, is essentially formed during this early period. Take them away from their mother too early or bypass this socialization period and you may have a cat that never feels comfortable outside of that which it knows intimately.
In the wild, kittens usually stay with their mother
Let’s briefly talk about how independent a Ferrel kitten would be if living in the wild. Firstly, cats that are bred are released from their mother at around 12-weeks (see above point). In the wild, it doesn’t work like this. Many people seem to think that a similar process occurs in the wild, i.e. the kittens will be forced to move away from their mother at an early stage and fend for themselves.
But, if you think this through it doesn’t really make sense and indeed, this isn’t what happens. A mother will feed its young of course, as it must and will look after them during the first weeks. Eventually though, this feeding will slow and then stop. From here, the young cats will need to find their own food (or pinch some of their mums!).
The ability to hunt isn’t taught as such, it is part of the genetic make-up of all felines that they naturally just know how to do and preying/stalking on small rodents comes very naturally to them. They will need to be successful at this to survive.
So, feral cats are independent and very different from our pets…or are they? Well, no – not really. The big difference here is that we keep these kittens/cats in a confined location typically, so how can they be expected to be truly independent?
Kittens won’t ever be fully independent with us
For most of us when we think of being independent we are talking about not having a requirement to be looked after by anyone else. So, how is it possible for a kitten to be classed as independent when we are restricting its movements and restricting its natural instincts to hunt?
Think about what we typically provide for our pets:
- Food – your kitten will never have to hunt again in its life. Although it would rather like to, given the opportunity. If you let them outside you’ll quickly see this behavior demonstrated as they stalk little insects and leaves that moved strangely in the wind.
- Activity – as they won’t be getting their exercise by hunting, we cater to this ourselves by playing with them. You will observe them hunting during play but sneaking up on the toys before wiggling their bottoms and pouncing on them.
- Shelter / Warmth – it goes without saying that most people who have cats as pets keep them indoors.
However, maybe we don’t want them to as independent as they would be in the wild. Maybe we just want them to have a bit more confidence, can we do that? Read on to find out.
Can I make my kitten more independent?
There are some ways that will definitely give your kitten more confidence if applied in the right way. Note that if your kitten hasn’t been properly socialized, although you will definitely see an improvement by doing these simple things, it may take longer, depending on how nervous the kitten is.
So, how can you make your cat more independent and confident? Just make sure you always do the below:
Never stare at your cat
This is one of those hacks that not many people are aware of but to me, it’s almost a superpower and you shouldn’t underestimate its power! We do go into more detail about this in the article here (opens in a new window). Essentially, when two cats face off they stare at each other intently, until one finally backs down.
Staring at a kitten can be seen as threatening behavior and you don’t want them to associate this feeling with you! So, apply the next tip…
Blink slowly and yawn
When a kitten or a cat looks at you, very slowly blink. Make it a very deliberate action, slowly closing your eyes before opening them again. Then, when you open them again, slowly look back at them. You’ll notice their eyes are fixed on you intently.
What this is saying to them is that you don’t see them as a threat and they shouldn’t see you as a threat either. Combine this with a long yawn (I bet you’re yawning right now after reading this). This is another positive sign – if the large creature opposite them is relaxed enough to yawn, it obviously can’t be a threat.
Teach children to be calmer around kittens
Now, this is a tricky one. Obviously, kids being kids, they will do what kids do. This usually means there will be a fair amount of running around the house and quite a bit of noise. So, we’re not saying that you should try and get them to stop!
What you should do however is educate your children. They can still have fun but just encourage them to show a bit of respect for the kittens when they’re in the same room.
Conclusion – when will your kitten become more independent?
Hopefully that’s cleared things up a little – independence in a kitten can be linked to confidence. This confidence can often be attributed to a good socialization period during the first few weeks and months of their life.
If you want to help your kitten become more independent and confident there are some simple things you can do to help. These things will work if you persevere with them but remember, they won’t get there without your help!