Have you ever noticed that some cats are very friendly and others are extremely standoffish? There is even a myth that cats are not supposed to be outgoing and human centered. That is not true. Cats can be extremely loving companions. Siberian Forest Cats are not just hypoallergenic they are also by nature very friendly cats and we make a point of trying to help them build on that predisposition to love interacting with people.
The secret is to make sure they get a lot of socialization when they are young. Between the ages of 2 to 5 weeks a kitten is in its prime socialization period. If they get lots of love and attention at that age they are very loving and centered on humans. If you wait longer to start socializing them then they are more of the mindset that humans are good because we provide food. If you wait too long even that is not enough to get them to like you.
Cats who do not get enough socialization before 14 weeks will end up feral. I don't care what you do at that point if you haven't started socializing them when they are younger they will always be first and foremost a wild animal. You can tame a wild animal and it can learn to be with people but the results are not the same.
When the kittens are very tiny we do not like to touch them too much. There is always the risk of their getting sick from germs on our hands. No matter how much we wash our hands it never feels fully safe we do make sure to gently touch their heads a couple times a day and to give mom lots of love so that they get used to our smell on her.
They also are in the middle of our home so they hear all the sounds and conversations that come with human life. When they get older the sounds of a family cooking, reading and talking will be mixed with memories of their mother's soft warm fur and the satisfaction of nursing. This creates a positive association with humans from birth.
At this point kittens are busy with the important business of figuring out how to use those tiny legs and eyes. They are still not up to really playing but just like a human infant they are extremely curious about what is going on around them. They spend a lot of time just watching us. We like to bring them with us when we are doing sit down tasks. For example, as I write this I have a litter of 3 week old kittens sitting on the bed next to me. They are too young to play in the sense of wrestling or chasing things but they are nosing around investigating my laptop, clothing and the blankets we are sitting on. One little guy is intent on climbing my sleeve and keeps trying to eat my hair. We make sure that each day they get some one on one time as well. We hold them, talk to them and cuddle them. (I know we work way too hard, don't we? What can I say running a cattery is a hard life.)
Really it is just teaching them that the world is a good place. We make sure that cat carriers are not terrifying by letting them play in them. We offer treats while the vacuum cleaner is running. We play music in the background. We give them occasional baths so they are not terrifying. And, of course, we play with them and cuddle a lot.
Just like children, kittens need to learn rules. There are not a lot of rules but scratching the furniture and getting on counters are not allowed. How do we reinforce that? First and foremost we just redirect them with a firm "no". Later when they are older and more stubborn we use a spray bottle full of water. If they persist in disobeying we gently spritz them with water and make a hissing sound. This is not only a gentle way of showing you are in charge but it also is far more effective than trying to chase the cat, catch it and put it in time out.
I know that there will be a lot of people who will at first want to overlook minor infractions but you get the pet you raise. If you head off the little problems then the bigger ones never happen. Always remember that hitting a cat or throwing things at it is counter productive. The spray bottle will do the job without risk of injury and you do not make your kitten afraid of you. Also, remember that bad habits cannot form if they do not get the chance to start. If you leave piles of clothes around you create temptation to use them instead of the litter box. If you leave a half eaten sandwich on the table you are rewarding the cat with food for getting on the table.
Positive reinforcement is also important. Put out lots of scratching posts and spray them with cat nip spray. Designate areas you would like them in more than others and tuck wash clothes sprayed with the same catnip spray away in those areas. Make sure your kitten knows where the litter box is. Siberian Forest Cats are a breed that is eager to please you so it is not hard to keep them on the straight and narrow.
We have dogs in the cattery to help the kittens learn to relate your canine companions. Snow Flake is a Great Pyrenees. Pyrs are livestock guardian dogs known for their gentle nurturing nature. They are approximately the size of a German Shepherd. PopTart is a beagle who is not much bigger than an adult Siberian Forest Cat. We felt that the combination of a large breed dog gentle enough to avoid a risk to the kittens and a playful high energy dog would help our kittens adapt to pretty much any dog in their new homes. Do not worry, both dogs were raised in the cattery and have very good kitty manners.