Question: How can I get started with less stress at the top of our socialization sessions? When feeding them by hand, it all goes well once we get started, but the first time I reach at them they seem wary of my finger until they realize it's dipped in baby food. Thanks, Sally, Omaha
Answer: Dear Sally,
It is helpful to know that kittens appear to be farsighted. When showing them a treat, let them see it at a slight distance before you reach in close. They seem not to be able to focus their eyes well up close. If you drop a treat or it falls off your finger they seem not to see what is literally, “right under their noses.” With baby food, I wait until I'm in the room with them to pop the jars vacuum seal. They learn this sound very quickly and associate it with the good times ahead. I sometimes blow the smell over their way too and show it on my finger from a distance and calmly reach toward them without staring at them. These are both good "warnings" not to be afraid of the hand reaching at them.
My opthalmologist tells me that adult cats have a strong and flexible eye lens which can focus both near and far. Although not designed for small detail, feline eyes can detect very slight movements both near and far. This is a crucial ability to have if you need to be good at hunting both up-close in the underbrush and across a field.
Also remember some of the things we've discussed in previous entries which are: make a calm quiet entrance with, no direct eye-contact. Don't move fast but don't move like a predator stalking it's prey either. Resist the urge to clean up the place before you start if they are already skittish. Just come in and get started with the food as calmly and quickly as you can.