The Importance of Socializing Early
Like with any kind of training, cats learn lifelong habits best at a young age. Socializing your cats is no different. Ideally, kittens should start socializing at two to seven weeks old. For most cat owners, that means socialization begins even before bringing their new friend home. It’s critical to keep practicing meeting new people and introducing them to other cats and dogs as they get acclimated to their new living space.
If you’re welcoming an adult cat or a mature cat into your home, it’s not too late to socialize them; although, it might require more patience. Whether you’re introducing your cat to family members at home, friends or other pets, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Pay Attention to Body Language
Observe your cat’s body language when they meet a new person or animal. Cat body language is very different from dog body language, so make sure you’re familiar with the ways cats show they are comfortable or scared.
- A comfortable cat will have their body relaxed, ears and tail up, and they might vocalize their contentment with purring.
- A fearful cat will have their hair standing on end, ears back and they might back away or cower. Anxious cats might also hiss and show their teeth.
Include Different Kinds of People
Help your kitten or cat feel confident to meet any stranger by introducing them to different kinds of people: men and women, children and adults, etc. In addition to guest diversity, make it a point to have visitors frequently. The more your cat gets used to the idea of guests, the more likely it is they will feel comfortable around them.
Give Them a Safe Space
When you start socializing your cat or kitten, it’s important to have a safe, quiet space for them to retreat. This space can be a room in your home or a cat condo. Especially in the beginning, your cat might be shy around strangers. Giving them a place to hide out for a while can help them feel more secure. Do not force your cat to interact with guests. Allow them to warm up to strangers on their terms.
Remember, even the most social cats need their alone time. If you have multiple visitors, your cat or kitten might feel overwhelmed and need time to recharge.
Don’t Punish Your Cat
If your cat shows fearful behavior such as hissing when meeting new people or pets, refrain from yelling or physically disciplining them. This can cause your kitten or cat to have negative associations with strangers, affecting future relationships with people. Instead, project a sense of calm and remove your cat from the room where there’s company (preferably to their safe place).
Tips for Socializing With Other People
Again, it’s important to acquaint your cat with women and men of all ages. When introducing your feline friend to a new person, have your guest give them a favorite reward, such as a cat treat. This can help your cat create positive associations with that person.
Remember to take things slow. If your cat or kitten exhibits fearful behavior, end the interaction immediately and make sure they have access to their safe space.
Tips for Socializing With Cats and Dogs
Just like socializing with people, the sooner your cat or kitten is acquainted with other pets, the better. Follow these steps for introducing your kitten or cat to other dogs and cats at home.
- Step 1: Introduce your new cat or kitten to your home without other pets around. This will allow them to get used to the scent of other animals, so they are, in a sense, meeting them before formal introductions.
- Step 2: Once your cat has a chance to smell the other pets in your home, slowly and calmly introduce them. If you have more than one cat or dog, introduce them one at a time.
- Step 3: Keep in mind that a little confrontation at first is normal, including growling, hissing, swatting, and hiding. If you suspect your kitten or cat will attempt to injure other cats or dogs in your home, intervene right away ¬– do not force interaction.
Warning: Do not leave your cat or kitten unattended with other pets until you know how they behave when they interact. For your pets’ safety, prevent a situation where they could become fearful and injure each other.
Not All Cats Are Social
It’s okay if your cat isn’t the life of the party when it comes to meeting houseguests; moreover, you can’t expect your feline friend to get along with every cat or dog they meet. Our cats have their own unique personalities, just like us. So, don’t be discouraged if your kitten or cat doesn’t warm up to friends and family right away.
Even if your newly adopted cat did not have much socialization in their kitten years, they can still be wonderful pets; they just might not be as outgoing when meeting new people.