Socialization

Many many years ago we had a cat named Scuzzy (don’t ask). Scuzzy was a common domestic but there was nothing common about him. He had had a twin brother that got taken off our back door step by a large timber wolf that ran out of the woods and snatched him. It was northern Alberta and the only wild life we had were wolves, bears and ravens but we had lots of them. Scuzzy witnessed his brothers fate that day.

A year or so later I am outside and Scuzzy is playing in the grass. I heard the barking before I saw the dog and when I turned and looked there was a large Doberman coming at a full run for Scuzzy. I was surprised as I hadn’t seen any Dobbies since moving north but I was not particularly worried as Scuzzy had plenty of time. That soon changed when I realized he had no intention of running from the dog. Instead he started walking towards the oncoming dog who quickly came to sliding stop in confusion.

As Scuzzy advanced he was very calm, no raised hair, no arched back. When he got to with in a few feet of the dog all of that changed and he went into full attack mode. I had been running over to save our cat but slowed and watched in amazement as Scuzzy attacted a full grown Doberman. As amazed as I was though I’m pretty certain the Doberman had me beat.

He was barking as he backed up but when Scuzzy came in for another try at him he decided he wanted to be elsewhere. He turned and ran. I stood there with a big grin on my face as I watched my cat chase a Doberman out of the yard.

That memory was triggered as I researched cat socialization and read a similar story that happened to an animal behaviorists when he brought a pit bull into a friends back yard.

I didn’t realize it that day but what I was witnessing was one of the ways a well socialized cat reacts to a clear and present danger. Scuzzy had never been around a dog or even seen many, none to my memory, except for the wolf that ran out of the woods that day and took his brother. He reacted like the little predator that cats are. I had been mostly a dog person up to that day but from then on I paid much more attention to cats.

There are two key factors that are crucial raising a cat that reacts with the assurance and confidence that takes them to the next level and a good breeder plays a crucial role in both. The first is genetics and and the other is socialization.

Genetics

is of course the largest element. It not only defines the animals physical appearance, but personality traits as well. Among the many breeds of domestic cats there are wide range of traits that are associated with specific breeds.

A breed is man made distinction that is defined by a breed standard. Each breed has a series of understood traits, physical and behaviorally ,that help define that breed. Recessive genes or genetic mutation or drift can cause aberrations resulting in any specific member of a breed displaying deviations, but over all members of a breed will show good consistency and dependable results. Ethical devoted breeders of course play a large role in this.

For this discussion its the behavioral traits we are interested in. The traits that create what we refer to as its temperament. Most people are familiar with the wide variations in appearance amongst the breeds but few are aware of the large differences in personalities.

Some examples would be

  • Abyssinians are very active, friendly, curious and playful, and almost dog-like, but are usually not lap cats.
  • Siamese are affectionate and intelligent cats, renowned for their social nature. They are extremely vocal, with a loud, low-pitched voice. They have a great need for human companionship.
  • The British Short hair is an easygoing breed. It has a stable character and can easily live in an apartment setting. It is not terribly demanding of attention and it is not normally destructive or hyperactive, although it can be playful.
  • The Russian Blue is an intelligent and active animal that typically displays a sensitivity to basic human emotions. They are known for getting along very well with other pets and children in a household but are usually shy around strangers.

Many people choose their cat based on its appearance when they should be placing more weight on personality traits. It is not their looks that will allow them to fit into your environment, it is their personality and a great many aspects of that personality are defined by breed specific traits. There is a breed of cats suitable for almost any situation. Of course there are aberrations occasionally but for the most part it holds true. As I breeder I do my best to try to steer people to the right choice as a Bengal is not the correct companion for everyone that is attracted by their appearance.

Although each breed has its own specific traits, as well as shared species traits, these preprogrammed elements of an animals makeup can be altered by a variety of external influences as they grow. In the case of physical elements, injuries, disease, parasites, vitamin deficiencies and a host of other things can alter an animals from achieving its genetic blueprint. In the same way the physical development of an animal can be modified so can its social development.

So this has been a long winded method of leading up to the fact that although a specific breed like a Bengal, may have certain behavioral traits that makes it the perfect choice for you it still requires care to insure those traits develop correctly. A large part of that care is something we call socialization. ( I think this has to be that longest intro to a subject I’ve ever written 🙂 )

Socialization

is the key to a kitten maturing into a great companion and it begins at birth. There is no more important factor in the proper socialization of a kitten then the interaction its siblings and their mother. Other then a medical emergency or death, there is no good reason to remove a kitten from its mother before twelve weeks of age. That is a basic rule but some kittens should be left for longer and some breeders have a preference for keeping kittens up to sixteen weeks to ensure optimum health and socialization. If you wish to read more on the issue of 12 weeks click here.

this page is under construction 🙂 sorry but I’m still working on it.