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Socializing a cat and including other people, other animals, preventative care practices, traveling, and other experiences early in their development is a pet parent must. Here are the steps to socializing a cat, allowing them to be more comfortable with new friends and new experiences as they grow through the rest of their life.
Before introducing a cat to new people and situations, there are a few things that to should have on hand:
A comfortable, calm environment
A safe space for the cat to escape to if necessary
Stress and anxiety supplements for cats can help during socialization, training, or adjustment periods.
While the best window for socialization is between two to seven weeks, most kittens remain easy to socialize up to 12 months old.
Can older cats be socialized to new pets or environments? While young kittens are the easiest to socialize, this doesn’t mean that pet parents can’t or shouldn’t bring an adult cat into the family. Socializing an older cat is entirely possible—it just requires a bit more time and patience.
Here’s how to train a cat and how to socialize a cat in several different situations.
Start by getting a new feline companion used to family members around the house. Always use a quiet, calm voice and slow, gentle movements. Make sure that young children understand these rules, too.
To start cat training, get down on the floor and slowly extend a hand toward the cat. When they approach, let them sniff or smell the hand before reaching at them. Only if they stay nearby is it okay to pet them gently. As they relax, gently pick them up, supporting their feet, and continue to pet them. If they struggle or become agitated, calmly let them go and try again later. Family members can also earn a cat’s trust by playing with them using toys.
Reward positive, social behavior with treats and head scratches. If a cat decides to run and hide, don’t chase after them. If they scratch, a firm “No!” can help to discourage unwanted cat behavior.
If other family or friends visit frequently, pet parents will want their cat to feel comfortable when these people are over. Have guests use quiet, calm voices in the house. Allow the cat to approach them rather than forcing interactions. Territorial creatures feel the most confident when they can interact in the space on their own terms.
Introducing a cat to other animals is also important, especially if a pet parent has other pets around the house. Again, pet parents should not force these interactions, rather allow safe and separated spaces to gradually introduce the animals to one another.
When socializing a cat with another cat or dog, make sure to remain present during the interaction. Before beginning the cat socialization, make sure that all animals are fed and that they’re comfortable.
If there’s a dog, consider taking them for a walk and playing with them to tire them out a bit. Pet parents might also want to keep a dog’s leash on so that they can maintain control of the space if they happen to lunge or become too worked up meeting the cat.
The earlier pet parents take steps to socialize a cat and get them used to new people, animals, and experiences, the more quickly the cat will become comfortable. Speak calmly, move slowly, and—most importantly—be patient. Eventually, a feline will feel right at home with their pet parents, family, and environment.
For cats that have trouble socializing or adjusting to new scenarios, stress and anxiety medication can help.