So you’ve just adopted that adorable cat or kitten from your local no-kill animal shelter but find out that the poor animal has some living adjustment challenges. Or you just found a stray cat, advertised it in the paper seeking its owner, only to find out no one ever claimed it. Upon discovering that the cat you just acquired has come from an abusive household, or worse yet, dumped onto the side of the road by an uncaring person, you will have to spend a little bit of time socializing your new pet. This means that your cat will now have to learn the rudiments of communicating with you as the owner of the cat, and also learn to get along with any other pets you might own, such as another cat or dog. What are the first steps you want to take when socializing your cat?
The first thing you do is to move slowly around the cat if it startles easily. Speak softly to your cat. If you have already given your cat a name, call it by its name. If the cat comes to you on its own, then that is a good sign. If the cat does not come to you, do not force it; instead, try approaching the cat a few hours later. Sometimes the cat may just come to you on its own when you are occupied doing something else. Should the cat come to you, make eye contact with it. When you look at the cat, blink naturally; never stare back at a cat. If the cat makes eye contact with you, then that is a good sign, but if the cat does not make eye contact with you, than he or she is not quite ready yet. Learning to make eye contact with a cat may take some time, and your cat will need some time for that in addition to getting used to its new environment. Never act nervous around your new cat as the cat can sense nervousness.
Once your first steps are successful with your cat, you will pet the cat. If the cat is fearful, approach the cat with the back of your hand so the cat can sniff it. If the cat accepts your smell, and moves closer to you to be petted, you can pet the cat by stroking the back of its head towards the tail. Use gently motions and never press down on the cat’s body. After you pet your cat, you can pick up the animal by the middle of its body with two hands. The cat may try to jump out of your hands, which means that it is not quite ready yet to be picked up. The cat may even try to run and hide from you. There are a number of steps that you can take to teach your cat to like being picked up.
When your cat is in your presence, sit on the floor when you work with it so that the cat is at your level. Again, communicate verbally with your cat in a soft voice as you go through the exercises with it. Pick up one of the cat’s front paws a few inches off the ground then set it down. Gently lift up the paw without forcing it. By doing this, the cat is getting used to your touching it. Repeat the procedure with the cat’s other paw. Try lifting up both the cat’s front paws off the ground with your hands, then set them on the ground again. The next step is to touch your cat as if you are going to pick it up. Place both hands on the side of your cat but do not actually pick up the cat. Instead, you will remove your hands from the cat’s body. Repeat this motion a few times more. It may take some time to get this far with the cat and the cat may not allow you to progress this far. Eventually you will come to being able to pick up the front part of the cat by the body while its hind legs remain on the ground. The cat should not be afraid so long as you do not let go of it while holding it. Always replace the cat on its four legs when you do pick it up. Once the cat becomes comfortable when being picked up by its front end, you can gradually move into picking up the cat and moving it from one place to another. Try training the cat over a period of several days if necessary.
Finally, there is nothing like having a cat in your lap, enjoying your pats. Pick up your cat and place it in your lap as you sit on a chair or the couch. Place a folded blanket or towel on your lap to give the cat some support. Continue to pet the cat from head to tail and talk to it. Most cats like to have their chin scratched, too. If your cat is really comfortable in your lap it may start to knead your arms or lap with its paws. Cats do not use their claws to knead, so you do not have to worry about being scratched. Always remember to praise your cat and give it a cat treat, such as cat candy.
While you are in the process of socializing your cat, there are certain warning signs from your cat that you will want to look out for. If your cat suddenly becomes wide-eyed, hides its head, has its whiskers back, the ears down, the tail wagging, becomes stiff, looks like it is ready to pounce or strike, you may want to continue the socialization procedure another time. Also look out for verbal signs such as hissing, spitting, or growling. Do not mistake drooling for spitting; some cats do drool, but that is a sign of contentment, especially in mature cats. Always avoid being scratched and bitten by the cat; if this happens, wash out the cut immediately with cold water and give it minor medical attention.