When picking up a kitten from the animal shelter, there isn’t much in the way of instructions.
One of the reasons people love cats so much is that they practically take care of themselves. But bringing a new cat home and leaving it to train itself can be a huge mistake. Cats need much of the same training as dogs to get them off to a great start, beginning with proper socialization. It’s easy to teach your new furball how to make friends.
Adopt a Pair
Cats are seen as solitary creatures only in need of the occasional head scratch—on their own terms, of course—but they can actually be social butterflies when given the right guidance. Adopting two cats instead of one is a great way to make sure your cat is comfortable around others. This works best with kittens, who can grow together and become best friends, but can still help with grown cats who aren’t aggressive or too shy.
Have a Cat Party
Your cat needs to be around people in order to get used to them, and what better way to make this happen than to throw a party? Call up a group of your fellow cat lovers and have them over for drinks. This will give your cat a chance to interact with multiple people at once to see how they adjust to the group. Introduce them to each person slowly, one at a time, until you're sure they'll get along.
Don’t Force Things
If your kitten or cat is an introvert it can be disastrous to try and force other cats on her without permission. Rather than drop your cat in a room with another feline, try introducing them slowly. Place them in separate rooms in the house and let them find each other at their own pace. You might consider keeping them separated by a door for at least one night. They’ll be able to smell each other and get used to the idea of one another before actually coming face to face.
Create a Safe Space
Your cat needs to feel like it has a place where it can be safe from other animals and even you. Set up a room in your house where only your cat is allowed to go for the first week after bringing it home. This way it has a place to retreat when it becomes overwhelmed. Do not invade this space except to clean up an accident.
Cats also need to learn to socialize with humans, and the best way to do that's with bribery. Use treats as a way to cajole your cat into trusting you. Reward your new pet with a tasty treat each time is comes to you voluntarily, and it will associate you with good things instead of seeing you as a threat.
One of the mistakes many cat owners make is letting their new furball set the ground rules—they get scratched once and then don't want to handle the cat after that. This is counterproductive, as you want your cat to be accustomed to your touch. Have daily sessions where you hold your cat and gently stroke the top of her head. Hold her in your lap when you can and, if she reacts negatively, scold her with a “NO” then put her down. If she lets you hold and pet her, reward her with a treat.
Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible.