Bringing a new cat home is a tall order for everyone involved. Cats are notoriously shy when they first meet new people or fellow pets. The different socialization strategies depend on whether you are bringing in an adult cat with pre-existing habits or a kitten just beginning to learn about interacting with others. If a cat is not properly socialized with other animals in the house, it can mean a terrifying life in hiding.
The goal is to integrate and socialize everyone, so the animals are both cute and happy. Your pets may not all become BFFs, but if they understand each other’s boundaries, they will learn to share the living space. What are the best methods to give your pets the best opportunity to be comfortable in your house?
Introducing a Kitten
Elevation and Isolation
Set a pet crate up off the floor. Kittens feel safer when elevated. Allow a couple of days in isolation before bringing them out to meet the family. A big change of scenery can be overwhelming and difficult to process.
At first, keep your new kitten or cat shielded from loud noises. Speak softly and maintain a positive tone. After a few days, try leaving the TV on so they can get used to human voices and sounds.
Early positive experiences go a long way in determining the kitty’s perception of the world. Try to avoid scolding but do provide snuggles.
If you have a litter of kittens that are slow to socialize, separate them so they learn to depend on people. Spend one-on-one time with the kitties. This will create a bridge of trust between kitty and human.
Like human babies, kittens love food. Use wet food as a special treat, but only feed them when you are present. This allows the kittens to associate you with the treat. Keep the food close so they must be near you while they eat.
Don’t let the kittens eat food off your fingers. Do not let the kitten bite or scratch your hands, even in a playful manner. This teaches the kittens that not only is it okay to be rough with humans, but it is fun.
Play with the Kitties
We know this one is difficult to do, but you need to spend time playing with the kitten (or kittens)! Plan to spend about two hours per day interacting with your kitten. Once the kitten is comfortable enough to snooze on your lap, it is time to take them out of isolation and into the open house.
Meeting Other Pets
The kitten must be comfortable around every person and pet in the house. If a kitten is not properly socialized with other household pets, the cat could grow up living in fear of a fellow pet.
Make sure you supervise the introduction of the kitten to its brother or sister. Many grown cats (especially if neutered) will take on the role of protector for a kitten. If things do not go as planned during the initial meeting, be patient. Do not force the friendship. It can take time for one to warm up to the other. Sometimes they simply tolerate one another. Forcing the issue can cause unnecessary conflict.
Adopting a Grown Cat
Adopting a grown cat means socializing a cat with an established perception of people and other animals. You do not have the luxury of working with the cat from its formidable days. Here are tips for properly acclimating an adopted adult cat to your home.
Let it Explore
Let the cat get familiar with its surroundings. Let it get used to all of the nooks and crannies of its new home before you introduce it to any other pets. Keep any other pets, especially dogs, isolated to another room while the newest addition settles in.
Introducing Your Dogs
Keep control over the dog in case it thinks an aggressive game of tag is the ideal way to meet the new cat. As with kittens, forcing this relationship could damage any chances of them getting along. If the animals are slow to take to one another, respect that.
Keep a cheery voice and positively reinforce all pets involved. Show them all that getting along is a rewarding experience. It can put them in a better mood and help them take to each other.
Preventing Territorial Issues
If you have multiple cats, give them separate food and water bowls to prevent any disputes. Some experts even suggest you provide separate litter boxes for individual cats. Cats do not just use their litter box for relieving themselves, they also find refuge in their personal space, and sharing makes them uncomfortable.
If you have any questions about proper steps to acclimate your new family member, contact our team at Longview Animal Hospital. We are happy to help lend guidance. And don’t forget, if you have a new puppy or kitten in your household, use our coupon for 50% off your pet’s first annual wellness visit (a $24.75 value).