According to a study conducted by Professor Hannes Lohi’s research group at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Faculty of Medicine as well as at the Folkhälsan Research Centre, cats have less behavior problems if they are allowed to stay with their mother until 14 weeks of age.
Professor Lohi’s group studied about 6000 cats and learned that behavior problems are more widespread than expected. They found that 80+% of the cats surveyed had mild behavior problems while 25% had serious behavior problems. The problems included shyness, wool sucking, excessive grooming and aggression.
The study found that cats weaned under the age of 8 weeks had more aggression issues and other behavior problems. Those weaned at 14 weeks had fewer behavior problems.
Early weaning seemed to manifest itself in aggression which according to the study, suggests changes in the neurotransmitters of the basal ganglia. What this means to the person who owns a cat who exhibits aggressive behavior as a result of early weaning, is that the behavior is not a result of the cat’s experience but is rather “hard wired.” Behavior modification in this case will not produce the same results as it will with a cat who is aggressive because of trauma or experiences.
This should be taken into consideration when adopting kittens who are very young and/or who were feral or barn cats. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they may have been forced to be weaned prior to 14 weeks.
Allowing kittens to stay with their mother and litter for two more weeks is an inexpensive, easy way to help cats and cat owners have a long happy relationship.