Just like the human baby, the kitten is not “finished” at the birth yet : he completely depends on her mother (or a maternal substitute), and still has to develop physically and mentally. He will moreover keep evolving throughout his life. Did you know for example that even an old cat can still learn things ?
During certain short phases of the kitten’s development, learnings specific to every period will be facilitated. Outside these phases, these learnings can only be made with difficulty, or then will be imperfect. He is thus crucial not to miss these stages : we’ll tell you about it more in detail in a next article.
How is developing the cat’s behavior ?
Every cat has his character and behavior of his/her own, but all the cats share some behavior appropriate to the species “cat”.
Several behaviors are present since birth : some will last all the life (for example yawning), while other will disappear later (for example the reflex of suction).
Innate or acquired ?
The reflexes as the reflex of suction or the locomotion are innate, but the majority of the behaviors are mainly acquired. The characteristics of a breed regarding behavior are rather the fruit of the choice of the breeders as for their breedings, and the genetic transmission plays here a role less important than an environment. On the other hand, the physical characteristics of a cat (size, color, form of ears, length of hairs, …) are very strongly under the influence of the genetics.
Can my cat forget some behaviors ?
Yes : learnings realized by habituation or by socialization with other species must be maintained throughout the cat’s life.
Habituation consists in being frequently confronted in a progressive, repeated, and positive way with situations, noises, visual stimulations, …, in order to develop your capacity of adaptation to live in diverse environments. A positive strengthening encourages the cat to redo (or not) an action according to the obtained result (attention, treat, …).
A big part of the learnings by habituation is made between the 2nd and 9th week of life (mainly between the 3rd and 7th week), but it’s as well by habituation that we can teach something a grown-up cat : the wished behavior will be every time strengthened by a reward.
This way of doing can be used to accustom the cat to an object which let him react (vacuum cleaner for example), but warning ! If you go too fast, if you force your cat, you’ll obtain the inverse result : your cat will have aggravated reactions, will be even more frightened, and can even be aggressive. It’s what we call the sensitization.
The period convenient to the learning of “friendly species” is the same that the one for habituation : between the 2nd and the 9th week of life (mainly between the 3rd and 7th week). During this phase, the kitten learns to become friend with humans, but also with other species if there is in his environment (dogs, rabbits, …).
Again, a frequent, repeated, and progressive confrontation, made by positive interactions with any sorts of people (or of species) will allow afterward a good cohabitation with these people or these species (and the absence of predation). Humans’ big variety is necessary in any case to obtain a cat with a real sense of himself : children of any ages, elderly, men, women, with or without glasses, with a cane or a wheelchair, …
This capacity to recognize “friendly species” can be developed afterward, but it’s even much longer, much more difficult, sometimes impossible for some cats.
The momcats and the humans by whom cats are born thus have a big responsibility on their future well-being ! And when you’ll have read our article on the kitten’s development (coming soon), you’ll also understand better our unlimited admiration for the humans who take care of orphan kittens.