Just like it is for puppies, proper socialization is important for kittens. Kittens can be intimidated by sudden movements, loud noises, or strange people. Socializing takes patience and dedication but your hard work can result in an affectionate and confident feline companion. If a normally outgoing kitten suddenly begins acting shy and different it is important to bring them into your veterinarian as there could be a medical reason for the behavior change.
Safe room: When you first bring a kitten home keep them in one room, preferably a small room and one that does not have heavy traffic through it such as a spare bathroom. The room should have a litter box, food, water, toys, and bedding in it. Try to remove or block all potential hiding spots. Spend time in this room interacting with your kitten as she grows confident in her surroundings. It is helpful to just go into the room and sit quietly while reading, for example, so that your kitten can become used to your presence.
Using a cage: As you begin to expose your kitten to more of your home it is helpful to utilize a cage. The idea is to set up your kitten in a wire cage that is open on all sides in the middle of the room. The cage should be large enough to include a litter box, water, food, and blankets but not so large that your kitten can avoid interaction. The cage provides a sense of security without letting the kitten hide in reaction to noise, movements, and people. While your kitten is in the cage you can use toys and treats to coax and motivate positive interaction. Remember to use slow and measure movements and to not press for interaction if your kitten is resisting. Patience is key!
Play therapy: Kittens love to play! An excellent toy to use is a feather wand or cat dancer. The idea here is to interact with your kitten using the wand. Sit still in one spot and avoid direct eye contact. Using the wand begin to engage in play. As your kitten becomes caught up in the fun slowly move the interaction closer and closer to you. This should be done gradually and may even need to be spread out over a few play sessions. At some point your kitten will be playing near you without fear. Then it is time to attempt touch. Slowly reach out towards your kitten, without touching, as they play with the wand near you. If your kitten runs away, stop. The goal is to keep moving closer without your kitten running away. Work towards being able to pet your kitten as they are caught up in the positive endorphins of playtime; helping your kitten associate petting with a safe and positive experience. You can also use treats to reinforce this behavior. Again, patience is key. These exercises will most likely need to be repeated often and over time.