Cat Socialization – Pet tip 225
In order for cats to become great trouble-free pets, one of the key elements is socialization.
Socialization is a huge topic when it comes to dogs, but is often (and unfortunately) sadly neglected when it comes to cats. When we refer to socialization we are really talking about the cat being comfortable in a variety of situations. These situations include, new humans entering the cat’s household, new humans petting the cat, brushing the cat, bathing the cat, clipping the cat’s nails, traveling with a cat in a car, taking the cat with you to someone’s house etc. The more experiences the cat is exposed to in kittenhood, the more likely the cat will become friendly, well socialized and easy to manage.
In terms of becoming comfortable with humans, the key time for human/kitten socialization occurs when the kitten is between 10-12 weeks of age. At this time the kitten should be held, petted, brushed and played with by different humans. This will get the kitten used to humans and will help the cat to become friendlier to new humans it will encounter as it grows. If a cat has never had this type of socialization during kittenhood (like with feral/stray cats) it will often be wary of humans for the duration of its life. Of course it is possible is rehabilitate an unsocialized feral or stray cat but it is far more difficult and time consuming.
Getting a cat socialized with other cats or dogs is also best done during kittenhood. Puppies and kittens growing up together often become great friends. Keen supervision is required though especially at the beginning stages to make sure that they get along. If the cat was not socialized to dogs during kittenhood, it can still learn to get along with a new dog but it will likely take more time. Introduce the two gradually and make sure you supervise them when they are together especially at the beginning. You should also research the dog breed to feel comfortable that it is good with cats. Not all breeds of dog are good with cats as the predatory instinct of some dog breeds is very strong, to the point that a dog may instinctually chase and harm a cat that it knows.
Getting a second cat where both are adults can also be done successfully especially if the introduction is gradual. The resident cat may exhibit new and undesirable behaviours (like marking, hiding, hissing etc.) and you should ask your vet for some tips on making the transition go smoothly. Eventually most cats tolerate each other and sometimes become great friends, but it can take from a couple of weeks to a few months.
As mentioned in the first paragraph the optimal time for socializing kittens is between 10-12 weeks of age. This is the best time to integrate a cat into your lifestyle through socialization. Because everyone has a different lifestyle, different people will want to socialize a kitten to different things. If you like taking walks for example, now might be a great time to practice walking with your cat on a leash. If you like traveling, take your cat out (always in a carrier) for short car rides. Always be patient and if you need additional guidance consult your vet.
© Pets.ca 2010