To socialize a cat means gradually adapting them to human touch, smell and sounds, and overall presence. It's a process influenced by many aspects of a cat's life and requires time and effort from compassionate individuals.
Start from the Beginning
A cat's personality is mainly developed in the first eight weeks of its life. Setting health concerns aside, here are some things you can do to help socialize your kittens.
Your first important task is to provide proper nourishment. Since a mama cat can lose weight while nursing, allowing them to bulk before delivering, some foster homes change their pregnant foster cats back to kitten food to get those additional calories. Studies have shown that a malnourished mama cat is much more short-tempered with its kittens and provides less mothering. As a result, their kitten may be developmentally delayed—slower to open their eyes, walk and play. As they mature, such kittens show poorer ability to learn, higher levels of aggression and anxiety, and are more anti-social towards various other cats.
No Place Like Home
Avoid the empty room/sterile box set-up, especially for two to eight weeks kittens. Kittens kept in busy atmospheres for the first two months of their life are less nervous later in life. Provide a lot of sensory stimulation. You can leave the radio or television on sometimes.
Put papers, old towels, or carpet squares as flooring. Small cardboard with a cut on the side as an opening can act as a den once the kittens are mobile. However, do not utilize produce boxes, for they might have been sprayed with harsh pesticides.
Participate in gentle handling immediately. Early human handling results in better socialization. When the kittens are a couple of weeks old, you increase the number of people who care for them daily to help them trust everyone.
Keep the Clowder Close to Mama
Kittens learn by observing how an adult feline operates, so it is necessary to keep the litter with the mother until they are eight weeks old, which is also about successful weaning for many kittens. Kittens will get the hang of using the box, how to cover their waste, how to hunt, what foods are safe to eat, and who is ideal as a friend by observing mama. Kittens also learn how to handle tension and irritation. Since mama cat controls the "milk bar," they don't always get the chance to feed until satiated.
Last but not least, keeping littermates with each other until they are 8 to 10 weeks old is essential. With their interactive play, kitties learn to regulate clawing and biting. They also know to extend their acceptance of others as mates at this time.
Hand-raised single orphans or those separated from their mama cat before eight weeks are usually hyper kittens that can not handle stress. As adults, they tend to be aggressive and scared of people and other cats. They are also partial to developing asthma-like respiratory problems. Frequently, orphans can be spared this fate by including them in one more litter or, at the very least, fostering them in a house with various other cats as role models.
Improving Socialization for Adult Cats
Felines are dignified creatures. Many humans impose on them highly intimate actions even before being properly introduced. We scoop them up, hug them, and will feel hurt if they reject our affections. We try again, and they rake claws, leap, or hide under the couch.
Fleeing for the safety of the closest piece of furniture when the company arrives might mean your cat is undersocialized. This behavior is typical among ferals and strays, but family felines can act similarly.
At five weeks, kittens start mingling—getting to know and deal with both human beings and other cats—with open paws and minds. This window of opportunity last until they reach three months old. The window might be closed or locked if they are older than a year and newly re-homed. The window might even be bolted with a feral cat; however, there is still a window!
Understanding how to interact socially with a cat should all be based upon one principle: Reinforce social behavior; ignore asocial behavior. You can't force or punish a cat to become social. Put your emotions aside and consider the cat's history. And focus your attention on the cat's behaviors.
Introducing Cats to the Household & Other Pets
It will be ideal if your kitten gets engaged with a selection of people so they don't only feel comfortable with one person. When they are weaned adequately from mama cats is also an excellent time to subject them to other pets, as long as those pets are gentle. As soon as your cat has received proper vaccinations and your veterinarian states it's okay to do so, welcome family and friends to socialize with your kitten, and if they have cat-friendly pets, invite them too.
For adult cats, your visitors can gift them new things to sustain their curiosity while staying safe. New toys, treats, and scents, like catnip or silvervine given by guests, can help them socialize.
Whether you have a kitten or an adult cat, socialization with other people and pets is essential. If there is no danger of your cat accidentally escaping, try and keep your cat in the room with you and your guests. Provide places to hide, like a box or under a sofa, and areas where they can observe without interacting, like a windowsill or high rack. Restrict the first houseguests your cat meets to a small and relatively silent group. Ask your visitors to approach your cat when they appear comfortable. They could give your cat a treat as well as pet them gently. Leave the cat alone to retreat to a safe place if you observe any signs of anxiety.
Cats can learn to enjoy the company of their cats. Again, the earlier and more frequently they are exposed to multiple cats, the more likely they'll be friendly with each other. But it's important to remember that cats like having their area, too. If you have numerous cats, provide plenty of comfortable locations to nap, climb, and perch by windows so they do not compete over one area. If fighting develops at mealtimes, you should feed them in different places. Cats can also get envious, so give each feline attention and play.
Fast Fact: 5 Quick Tips for Socialization
Here are five easy-to-remember tips when socializing your cat:
- Cats are easier to socialize in groups, so if you can adopt two simultaneously, go all out!
- Try rod-style toys that separate you and the cats when presenting toys.
- Start working on socialization in a small area first.
- Hold your horses, and do not take any setbacks personally.
- Also, take a look at this blog for more tips on how to introduce pets!
Getting your cat to welcome their social side may take some time and persistence, especially if they're adults. Do not force it. With time, effort, patience, perseverance (and treats!), your cat will ultimately open up and show everyone the personality you've already grown to love.