February 2020 News from Belle Mead Animal Hospital

The Importance of Puppy and Kitten Socialization

If you are considering bringing a new puppy or kitten into your home, you should also consider the importance of their socialization, which is critical to their health and welfare. Socialization helps kittens and puppies learn to be at ease in their expected living environment through exposure to different humans, environments, surfaces, sights and sounds, and to novel objects.

Cats and dogs that have limited socialization can become intolerant of other animals, humans, and/or unfamiliar places or sounds; these animals may have a poor quality of life and difficulty receiving appropriate medical care due to their fears. A study on the relinquishment of dogs and cats to shelters found that 40% of dogs and 28% of cats were surrendered for behavior reasons, with aggression identified as the most common reason in dogs and the second most common reason in cats.

How to recognize Normal Puppy and Kitten Behavior

An eagerness or willingness to investigate a new environment is considered normal behavior by a puppy or kitten. Even if startled, normal behavior is a display of rapid recovery and re-engagement with their surroundings. Puppies and kittens should not show aggression.

In contrast, fearful puppies and kittens typically show a reluctance to explore their environment. They often hide and stay close to their owner or refuse to leave the carrier. Signs of distress in puppies include panting, pacing, vocalizing, lip licking, and freezing. Kittens may try to hide or freeze. It is abnormal for a kitten or puppy to startle and not recover.  Any aggressive behavior should be addressed early, as the animal will not grow out of the problem behavior without proper intervention by a trained professional and helpful advice to the pet owner.

Kittens do require daily attention and gentle, hands-on guidance to develop into well-socialized adult cats at ease with their environment, other animals, and humans. Socialization occurs rapidly in kittens. Studies indicate kittens handled by humans for 5 minutes per day from birth to 45 days of age more readily approached strangers and novel toys as compared with kittens that were not handled. Kittens who were not handled until over 7 weeks old were less likely to respond to new stimuli. Kittens that receive only minimal socialization by 8 weeks of age are more likely to be aggressive and may accept only 1 or 2 humans in their social circle.

Recommendations for Pet Owners

At BMAH, puppies can be enrolled in Puppy Socials taking place on Wednesday evenings from 6:45 pm to 8:00 pm conducted by the trainer at Make Sit Happen LLC. Every week, puppies between the ages of 7 to 19 weeks have the opportunity to play, learn about bite inhibition, learn impulse control, and interact and socialize with other puppies and people. This is a critical time for puppies to learn about the world around them, and the lessons learned stay with them a lifetime.

Owners will learn about puppy/dog body language and get answers to questions about potty training, biting, nipping, chewing, grooming, proper and improper behaviors, feeding, and exercise. Questions are welcomed by the trainer.  Please call Make Sit Happen at 908-359-9228 (not BMAH) to reserve a spot and get further details regarding proof of vaccinations required, cost, etc. Spots fill up fast, and there is a limit on the number of puppy spots available. Spots will be filled on a first come, first served basis.

Pet owners can also to bring their pet to BMAH outside of the appointment time so the puppy or kitten can receive positive attention and treats by our reception team, which can help create a positive lifetime association with the hospital.

Pet owners are encouraged to try to expose their new puppy or kitten to different adults and children as often as possible. Early, positive exposure to children is advised because children look, sound, and move differently than adults. Always supervisor your puppy or kitten with a child and help the child learn the proper way to interact with the pet first. Be sure to read Kids and Pets – Advice for introducing a new pet into your home before you begin.

In addition, if abnormal behavior is observed, referral to a veterinary behaviorist may be needed for early intervention, which is more likely to result in a meaningful, positive change in long-term behavior. We offer Pet Behavior and Consultation for Dogs and Cats at BMAH and can guide you through the process.

Our commitment to your pet

Although the socialization stage is important, owners should understand that meeting the social and behavior needs of their pet is an ongoing commitment that requires working with their pet not only during its socialization stage but also during adolescence and beyond. We at BMAH are committed to helping you establish a life-long, positive relationship with your pet and supporting your efforts in positive pet socialization throughout your pet’s life.

Recommended Reading:

Getting Puppies Off to a Good Start

Why Puppy Socialization is So Important

Kitten Development, Socialization and New Cat/Dog Introductions

Use the BMAH Website as an Educational Resource!

Did you know you can now Search our website for particular topics of information and advice? Visit our Learning Center > Search this Site and enter a word or words of the subject you want to learn more about. We are constantly adding new material to our website and improving functionality to help serve you better.

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