Socialising your kitten or young cat
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Socialising your kitten or young cat

Cats
General
Pet Psychology

When you first get a new kitten or young cat, it is important to allow them to adjust to the large upheaval that moving into a new home with a new family brings, and to allow them to become comfortable in their home and feel safe, secure and happy. However, once your kitten has established themselves within the family, you should spend some timesocialising them, both with other people and other animals.

A cat or kitten that only spends time with their own family and does not get used to visitors, strangers and other animals when young will be much harder to socialise when they get older, and teaching your cat to feel comfortable and confident with other people and animals is an important part of their development and future happiness. Even if you rarely have visitors to the home and live far from any other animals, the chances are that at some point your cat will run into other people and pets, and they will be much more likely to find this acceptable and not become stressed if they have positive experiences of doing this when young.

Read on for more information about how to socialise your kitten or young cat, and why this is important.

Other people

Get your kitten used to the presence of other people within the home as early as possible, and make sure that this is a positive experience for your pet. It goes without saying that the guests that you invite into your home should be happy with cats and interested in meeting your kitten, but they should also be prepared to be patient, allow your cat their own space, and wait for your cat to come to approach them.

Learning that visitors to the home will make a fuss of them and give them attention can go a long way towards teaching your kitten to actively enjoy having guests over, and feeling comfortable when strangers are in the house.

It is also a good idea to introduce your cat or kitten to children, if you do not have children of your own. Any children that visit your house should be familiar with cats and trustworthy in terms of knowing how to handle and treat your cat (and when to leave them alone) or otherwise, should be closely supervised and coached when around your kitten.

Cats generally dislike a lot of noisy, rowdy children running around and frantic activity, but it is wise to get a fine balance between going over the top and artificially making your cat’s environment too quiet and insulated, to the point that when things do get busy or noisy, they are uncomfortable because it is unfamiliar.

Other animals

You should not bring any strange cats into your cat’s own home unless they are going to be a permanent fixture or a very regular visitor, but it is an excellent idea to get your cat used to meeting dogs on their home territory. Make sure that any dogs that are invited into your kitten’s home are safe around cats and know how to behave with them; never bring in a dog that is too rowdy, liable to chase your cat, or otherwise unpredictable.

Your cat should be confident around dogs unless the dog is displaying the warning signs of aggression or a propensity to chase, and this can help to keep your cat safe around dogs outside of the home as well. For cats and kittens that are unfamiliar with dogs, their first instinct is often to run, which can lead to even dogs that would not otherwise purse them giving chase. If your cat is used to dogs and keeps a wary eye but without panicking, this is exponentially less likely to happen.

If you are lucky, your kitten or young cat may actively come to enjoy the company of some of the canine visitors to your home, and get involved in playing with them. It is also worth noting that some bold kittens or cats that are used to having the upper hand with dogs might end up bullying or scaring good-natured dogs who will not snap back, so keep an eye on the balance of power and don’t let your cat or kitten go too far!

Keeping your kitten safe and happy

Whenever strange people or animals come into your home, it is important that you do not force your cat or kitten into interactions with them, trap them, or push them outside of their comfort zone. Make sure that your cat or kitten can always retreat to a safe place away from the action if they wish to, and always ensure that guests wait for your cat to go to them, rather than moving into your cat’s personal space and trying to force attention on them.

Don’t expect your kitten or cat to be highly social and welcoming on the first visit- for many felines, they need some time to get used to the idea of other people being in their home, and work out who they like and don’t like. Your cat may choose to watch what is going on from a distance, gradually coming closer over time, which may take several visits to achieve.

Build up positive associations with visitors for your cat or kitten, speak kindly to them, and if it proves effective, offer cat treats to your guests to help to coax your cat over.

Make sure that your cat or kitten is always rewarded for successful interactions, and never punished or pushed around as part of meeting newcomers.

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