Companion Animal

Independent Study 490A: Does Handling of Kittens Improve Over 10 Consecutive Days of Handling?

  • Stephanie Ball (Iowa State University)
  • Reid Den Herder (Iowa State University)
  • Holland Dougherty (Iowa State University)
  • Anna K. Johnson (Iowa State University)
  • Mick McAuliffe (Animal Rescue League of Iowa)


The adoptability of an animal from a shelter largely depends upon its socialization and friendliness towards humans. For kittens, habituation and proper socialization is an important part of ensuring that the adult cat it will be able to interact properly with humans, thus reducing its chance of being relinquished in the future. In addition, kittens that have been relinquished or placed into a shelter are often subject to several stressors that may impact not only the well-being of the kitten but impair further socialization attempts. The objective of this study was to determine if the kittens’ responses to handling tests improved over a period of 5 consecutive days.

This study was conducted at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL-IA), and involved 17 neonate kittens of mixed sex and breed, between 6 and 8 weeks of age, and the treatment consisted of ten consecutive days of handling. During treatment kittens were exposed to several handling tests. Data will be presented descriptively. Kittens over the five days scored on average a 1 for the majority of handling tests which indicates a calm kitten. Right teeth scored in the 2 range on days four, eight and nine, left teeth on days six, eight and ten and left ear on six and eight respectively indicating more resistance to the handling procedure. On day five, kittens allowed their rear and front feet to be held the longest for both rear and front feet. From days six to ten the amount of time kittens were willing to have their paws held fluctuated and there was no defined pattern. On day 10, front paws were held on average for 6-s and rear 4-s. In conclusion, for the majority of the handling tests, kittens remained calm. For restraint of the paws, kittens allowed their paws to be held the longest on d-5 and then over the remaining 5-d the willingness to have their paws held fluctuated, ending on d-10 for all paws scoring at 5-s respectively. This may indicate that kittens were less tolerant on having their paws restraint over the later part of the 10-d period. This data could be useful in further developing socialization and acclimatization programs for kittens in shelters, thereby increasing their adoptability and overall well-being, both in the present and the future.

Keywords: ASL R2700

How to Cite:

Ball, S. & Herder, R. D. & Dougherty, H. & Johnson, A. K. & McAuliffe, M., (2012) “Independent Study 490A: Does Handling of Kittens Improve Over 10 Consecutive Days of Handling?”, Iowa State University Animal Industry Report 9(1). doi:

Download pdf



Published on
01 Jan 2012
Peer Reviewed