Not knowing anything about kittens, I thought it might be helpful to read some books to learn what I'm in for. So, I headed to the library and found, I Just Got a Kitten. What Do I Do?: How to Buy, Train, Understand, and Enjoy Your Kitten by Mordecai Siegal. Review in a nutshell: the book is interesting but lacking. Many of the questions I have about kittens remain unanswered. Topics are briefly touched on and I am left wanting much more.
For some reason authors of cat books feel the need to fill their books with mostly general information, even when they are suppose to be about a specific topic, like this one. Some general information would be fine, but when the majority of the book is general, it's annoying! I could go on about this, but I will save that for another post.
In the midst of the general stuff I did find some interesting tidbits.
The start of chapter one was of particular interest, especially with regard to my work as a mental health counselor. I have recently been learning a new treatment modality which takes into consideration early trauma factors such as the conditions present around pre-birth, birth and immediately afterwards. The author touches on this topic in relation to kittens.
"As a kitten grows into an adult, some aspects of its disposition actually depend on its very first moments of birth. It is easy to understand how inherited behavior and breed characteristics combined to create that kitten in your arms. What is seldom considered is how an easy or difficult birth and first hours of life can impact your kitten's capacity for survival, which includes seeking warmth, food and safety. It helps a great deal to understand the implications of those first few hours of life and longer. Understanding will help you cope with "cat problems" with patience, kindness, and effectiveness. A kitten that was born easily and with no complications, that was never bullied by its littermates when seeking its mother's warmth and milk is certain to have a sweeter, more delightful personality. If the opposite is the case, the kitten may grow into a shy, timid, fearful, or even aggressive cat."
The author goes on to describe in detail the feline birthing process, both with and without complications. He concludes with, "If a kitten's first moments of life involve a struggle to breathe or some other physical trauma, the stage could be set for a less-than-desirable adult temperament. A kitten that is among the last to be born and is prevented from getting to the mother by the others in the litter, even for a short time, or cannot find its way may become a shy, timid, or aggressive cat" (pg 7-11).
The author doesn't provide any references, so I don't know if his thoughts are based on research or purely conjecture. But the idea is intriguing. Early trauma sets the kitten up for a more challenging life. Could the same be true for humans? I think the research is starting to indicate that this is true.
I really like his statement about putting into perspective the cat's current behavior problems in light of past trauma. In other words, approach the challenging cat with compassion, kindness and understanding rather than anger and contempt. I believe the same approach works well with humans as well.