Did you know that kittens learn feline manners through their playtime? As they interact with one another, they give each other strong cues not to bite or scratch too hard. A single kitten, growing up alone, never gets to interact with its own species. It may not learn appropriate social manners and its behaviour can be rough around the edges.
Kittens that grew up alone can be aggressive towards other cats. It may even be rude to you, the primary caregiver. This is what's called the 'Single Kitten Syndrome' or ‘Single Cat Syndrome’. It’s sometimes referred to as the ‘Tarzan Syndrome’ – a cat with poor social skills and manners.
Kittens learn the most during their formative months, below 6 months old. It is imperative that kittens below 6 months are properly socialized to avoid the single kitten syndrome.
Common bad behaviours of the syndrome
Smack or hiss at other cats.
Overly aggressive during playtime. They do not understand when enough is enough.
Excessive neediness toward their human caregivers to the extent of biting or clawing to get attention.
Destructive – extreme chewing on furniture, shoes, curtains, wires.
Marking territory by missing the litter box.
How to Fix It
1. Adopting two kittens
Raising a single kitten may seem like a good idea but it requires more work from you. A pair of kittens will keep each other occupied. They will entertain and exercised each other even while you’re busy or away. As they play, they pick up social cues from one another, and learn proper social behaviours. This is important if you do not want them to develop the single kitten syndrome.
A solo kitten will require your constant attention. You need to spend ample playtime with your kitten to avoid pent-up energy that can become destructive. Your kitten will depend entirely on you, to teach her social manners.
The downside to adopting two kittens is the need to provide more – more cat food, more litter boxes, feeding stations, water bowls, scratching posts and cat towers. You will need more space too, as these items must be spaced out around the house. The cats must be able to reach these items without having to bump into each other. Having said this, kittens growing up together are usually friendly towards each other. As such, certain things can be shared like the cat tower. A multiple-level cat tower is best to provide some personal space for each cat. Choose one that double-up as a scratching posts as well, like the PetRebels Natural Eco Lovers Caribbean Love 141 Cat Tower.
2. Kitten play dates
If you have a solo kitten and adopting another kitten is out of the question, then the solution is to arrange regular play dates for your solo kitten. Talk to a friend or neighbour with kittens. If they too have a solo kitten, they may even welcome your idea of having a regular meet-up.
3. Spend time with your solo cat
Your only kitten requires attention and training from you. They need an outlet to release access energy. Set aside time daily to play with your kitten. 3 to 4 playtimes daily is good. Use this playtime to teach her good habits as well.
Grab or wrestle roughly with your kitten. Your kitten will respond accordingly and play rough with you too.
Use your fingers, hands, or feet as toys. It may seem harmless at the time, but that will soon change when you have a large adult cat that chases, bites and scratches people.
Force your kitten to play or be trained when they are tired. Cats are individuals and each have different energy level. Be patient. Find the right balance for you and your kitty.
Provide a variety of toys with features that will arouse her curiosity and get her pouncing and chasing. Here are 2 such options designed to trigger your kitten’s hunting instinct and one of them, the KONG Purrsuit Whirlwind Cat Toyis a battery-operated toy. The other is the Kong Moppy Ball Cat Toy (Blue).
Practice gently touching her paws and protracting her claws. This will help improve your trust level with your kitten. She needs to know that your hands are gentle, loving hands and she will reciprocate accordingly with appropriate claw usage.
Gently pet her face, head, and back with your hands during playtime.
4. Taking your cat outside
For adult cats with single cat syndrome, a change in environment can help. Taking a walk outdoors might not be for the purpose of physical exercise, but rather for mental stimulation and enrichment. Do understand that not all cats want to go outdoors. Do not force your cat to walk if she doesn’t want to and unlike dogs, walking a cat is not an easy task.
Cats should be trained indoors first, be comfortable on their harness before heading outdoors.
Do not hook the lead unto your cat’s collar. Your cat may easily slip out of her collar. Always wear a properly fitted body harness, with the lead hooked unto the harness. Red Dingo Classic Cat Harness and Lead (Hot Pink) is a complete set that comes with a body harness and a lead. It comes in a variety of colours too. Pick the one most suited for your cat.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and have been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.