How To Get Your Hands on A Hands Off Cat

Helping Under-Socialized Kittens In Shelters


For this unique CAABChat we welcome Ms. Adi Hovav and Dr. Jessica Lockhart, CAAB.  Both of these experienced individuals work for the ASPCA, and presented this talk at our recent IFAAB (Interdisciplinary Forum in Applied Animal Behavior) invitational annual meeting.  They’ve graciously agreed to share the information with our CAABChat Listeners!

 Here’s what Adi and Jessica will be chatting about:

While under-socialized kittens don’t make up a large portion of the population of cats in municipal and rescue shelters, they do require a significant amount of behavior resources.  These kittens have experienced limited to no handling by humans prior to entering a sheltering facility. This lack of experience with people presents challenges to all aspects of handling from health care to routine interactions with adopters. At the ASPCA we have implemented some novel approaches to help improve the socialization and human interaction with kittens and young cats. In this Chat, we’ll discuss some of our newest approaches to working with and rehabilitating under-socialized kittens.


1.        Intake assessment: age, history (if known), medical status

2.        Enriched housing: hiding spots, double cages, volunteer interactions

3.        Separating litters vs keeping together: experience demonstrates that separating speeds up socialization process though initial separation can be stressful and separating means taking up valuable cage space, had success reuniting pairs and the socialization progress sticking

4.        DSCC work: focus on cage opening, petting, primarily using food or toys as reinforcers

5.        Keeping in cage vs housing in free roam cat room, latter had negative impact on some—drifted further towards un-socialized

6.        Home fosters: challenge of socializing to just that home and that family, re-entering shelter is stressful, need to consider age, realistic about how much attention can be given in shelter, placing with appropriate foster, in general cats that are under 3 mos transition back to shelter successfully and ready for adoption.

The Chat is now completed and the replays are available at the bottom of this page.

Listeners loved the Chat!  Here are some of their comments – 

“Adi’s videos were very good to specifically show the techniques she used.”

Listeners said the most important things they learned were –

“That there are methods that have worked with hundreds of cats and many volunteer foster households.”

“About separating litters.”

“Use of laser pointers can help with undersocialized cats – hadn’t thought of that.”

Couldn’t make the live chat? No worries, purchase the replay now for only $15.00 through PayPal – You don’t need a PayPal account – you can pay with your credit card


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  Click HERE to watch the video replay.