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It is well-known that some human contact including petting and touching is necessary to socialize kittens to be comfortable around humans. I have no experience with this and work a day job, what is the typical amount of time I need to spend with them together or one-on-one from birth until 8 weeks+ to help prepare them for living with people?

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E.B. Karsh did a study on the effects of human contact on kitten behaviour published in 1983. Some essential, and interesting, learnings from that include:

  1. Kittens handled only 15 minutes a day from birth through to 12 to 15 weeks would accept human affection, but would tend to wander and return rather than staying in place.

  2. Kittens handled for an hour or two for the same period would be sufficiently relaxed to curl up on people and sleep.

R.R. Collard, in 1967, noted that more handlers tended to make kittens more comfortable around humans.

There are a number of additional studies that show very early and regular handling have a positive effect on kitten development, so the upshot of it all is handle them frequently and for long durations right from the start all they way through their development.

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  • That is fascinating, the litter I'm helping to feed has 6 kittens and of those 2 will come to me on their own, 3 are neutral, and the last one will hiss at me if I get close. I may decide to pick up the last hissing kitty with gloves if handling is so important! – WRiker Oct 13 '14 at 9:24
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    @WRiker - you're clearly seeing the kitten personalities here. The litter has two kittens who are naturally sociable, three that could be sociable with a bit of effort, and one who is rather standoffish. If you want the standoffish one to be socialized, you definitely need to work more with it. – Kate Paulk Oct 13 '14 at 11:06
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    re: the hissing kitty, you should try to let her come to you instead of forcing her to; it's very likely the kitten is just more scaredy than the rest, and letting her associate your scent with feeding time, play time and enjoyful petting time is how you'll win her over. Specifically for petting, put out your hand for her to smell, and let her rub on it first instead of touching her. Once she allows you to touch her, try to remain on the head area. – surfmadpig Oct 14 '14 at 1:41

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