If you think that getting a cat would spare you the patience and energy you would need for socializing a dog, for example, you are wrong. Kittens require just as much socialization as dogs if you want them to grow up into happy and healthy pets that get along with the members of the family, as well as with other pets you might have. That’s why you have to be prepared for that commitment before even considering bringing feline friend into your home.
There are several factors to consider when socializing a cat. First of all, you need to understand your cat’s background. You need to understand cats as animals as well as your particular cat’s nature if you’re going to socialize it. Cats are hunters and they are very territorial – this means the will want to spend a lot of time on their own, and they will want to protect themselves if they believe they are in danger. But they are also social animals and they like to spend time with other animals – other cats in most cases – but if properly socialized, they will get along with people and other animals as well. However, the perfect time for socialization is in the first 2 to 7 weeks when they are the most prone to influence.
Here is how you can approach your kitten’s socialization:
Be patient – In the very beginning, when you first introduce a cat into the household, it will take time for everyone to get used to the new situation. It’s important to take it slow at this stage. Don’t force interactions between your new cat and other animals or members of the family. Let your cat settle naturally and explore the new environment. When she realizes she is safe in this new setting, she will slowly start getting to know everyone around her.
Set up everything for a new cat – When the new pet comes into your home, everything already needs to be prepared if you don’t want any unpleasant surprises. This goes especially if you already have other pets. Make sure each cat has her own litter box and her own bowl of food. This is the best solution so that both cats can have enough time to get used to each other and to have their private space. Prepare a lot of toys as they will make the new setting more appealing and they are likely to bring the two cats together to play.
Introduce the cat to another cat – As we already mentioned, it’s best to keep the cats separated at first. As they are territorial, they could get hostile towards the stranger in the house. Introduce them to each other’s scent by swapping their toys at first and make a slow first encounter. They should first see each other without interacting. Once you’re confident, set up a date, but make sure to stay present throughout to control the situation. Extend their playdates overtime and only leave the two cats alone at home if you’re positive there won’t be any problems.
Introduce the cat to a dog – First of all you must be certain that your dog will eventually accept the cat. Some breeds never manage to socialize successfully with cats due to their nature and breed. If you’re sure the two will get along, introduce the cat to your household. Be very careful in the beginning. Both your cat and dog can react unpredictably so make sure to leave your cat plenty of room to get away and keep the dog on a leash so she can’t chase the cat. Over time, the two will get used to each other, but don’t leave them unattended unless you’re absolutely sure they can act nicely around each other. And by no means leave them alone at home if they don’t get along.
Introduce the cat to your children – It is best to introduce the cat into the family when your children are old enough to follow your instructions. That is the best scenario both for your children and for the new pet. Babies won’t know how to behave with the animal and they might hurt the cat, while the cat may hurt the baby if threatened. So pay attention to how your children are behaving towards the cat no matter how old they are, and react immediately if you see they are mistreating the animal, or if the cat is hostile towards them.
Introduce the cat to other people – When you want to bond with your cat or arrange some bonding time with other members of the family, there are several ways you can do this. For example, cats are famous for their grooming habits so they not only enjoy being groomed but it also helps their health and brings them closer to the person grooming them. It goes without saying that cuddling and petting a cat goes a long way in bringing the owners and pets together, just make sure you touch the cat only in places she allows you to (it is usually the head and neck area that they find the most enjoyable). Of course, you should always reserve some time for playing with your kitten and it’s best to do it after a meal because they react best to socialization. Don’t hesitate to talk to your cat, as well, and you can even take her for walks.