During this COVID-19 pandemic, the government has requested everyone to social distance ourselves to help flatten the curve for this contagious virus.

While social distancing for us is important during this time, puppies and kittens should not be social distancing themselves when they are young since interacting with other pets is integral for their growth. The period where puppies and kittens should be interacting with other animals and strangers, not social distancing, is from 8 – 16 weeks of age.

For both puppies and kittens at 8 – 16 weeks of age, they have a critical period of socialization in which their ability to learn their surroundings and behaviour are heightened. During this specific period, they are highly responsive to social cues, strangers, and their environment; allowing them to learn how to interact with other animals and strangers. Furthermore, by interacting with other animals, the puppies and kittens will pick up social cues from them and learn how to properly behave in many common situations. This is an integral part of their lifestyle as understanding how to interact with strangers will allow for a stress-free visit to the vets! In addition, they will be friendly when strangers come to your house or even when you take them to grooming, boarding or to the park. If puppies and kittens are not allowed to learn these social cues from other animals during their socialization period, there will be a chance that they grow up aggressive and scared when strangers or other animals are around.

Even though allowing your pet to be social when they are 8 – 16 weeks of age is important, it is also crucial to perform the necessary steps to prevent your puppy and kitten from contracting diseases from viruses from the other animals. During this period, your puppy and kitten will be getting vaccines to allow them to be strong against diseases; but these vaccines are most likely incomplete during their socialization phase. As such, precautions must be taken when introducing your puppy and kitten to other animals. One way to do this is to allow your puppy or kitten to only interact with animals that you know are up to date on their vaccines. This may include your family’s pets, your friend’s pets or even certified classes. As long as the other pet is up to date on their vaccines and the environment is cleaned after every usage, your puppy or kitten should be safe to learn their social cues and behaviour without worrying about them getting sick.

While we are socially distancing ourselves during this pandemic, remember that your puppies and kittens will need interactions with strangers and other pets when they are 8 – 16 weeks of age in order to grow up to be a friendly, well-loved pet to all!