Socializing Your New Cat

Socializing is the process where an animal is prepared for living with humans by being introduced to as many different experiences as possible, allowing them to build up positive associations with them.

Kittens

The main kitten socialization period is between two and seven week weeks of age, this is the period where a kitten should experience as much as possible so that it is prepared and is able to cope with them at a later stage in life. This includes meeting different people, being handled and experiencing the different sights and sounds that occur in a normal home environment.

Some cats that miss out on these early experiences become very scared of human interaction and can take a long time to learn how to interact with humans. Some cats never get this socialization and become feral.

Taking on a nervous cat

If you take on a nervous cat or one who has not had much human socialization then you can begin a socialization program. This will take time and patience and should never be rushed – each individual cat will take a different amount of time to become confident around people and can take anywhere from several weeks to several months. In these
instances the cat should be kept in one room with plenty of hiding places and all its resources (food, water, litter trays, toys, bed and scratching post). It is easier to teach your cat that humans are okay when it does not have the run of the house and outside.

Time

After the first few days, begin to increase the time you spend in the room with the cat. Don’t try to force the cat to spend time with you, it needs to be the cat’s choice to come out and see you. Begin by sitting quietly in the room, reading a book or gently talking to the cat. You can gradually increase the time you spend in the room and move closer to where the cat is hiding each day. After a while the cat may become curious and come out to investigate who you are and what you are doing. If they do come out to investigate, try to avoid rushing to stroke the cat immediately as this may just reinforce the cat’s fear that people are scary. Your cat will let you know when it is ready to be stroked.

Human body language

If you can see the cat’s face, avoid direct eye contact as this is threatening behavior to a cat. Instead try blinking softly at the cat, then turning your face away and licking your lips. These are all body language signals that cats use to say they do not pose a threat; this will help you let your cat know that you mean it no harm. Eventually the cat should respond to your blinks by blinking too.

Food rewards

Try to find out what tasty treats your cat likes. These can then be offered to help you build up a bond. Begin by placing the tasty treat at the edge of the cats hiding place and moving your hand away so the cat feels safe to come forward to eat it. Eventually your cat should come forward as you go to place the treat at the entrance and may even take it from your hand.