So, now you’ve gotten your new clawed-companion home and settled, what’s next for the
two of you? (Aside from chasing mice...) Well, now would be the perfect time to begin
socialising your kitten if you haven’t started doing so already. Sometimes it happens on its
own, other times you may need to encourage it slightly (especially when dealing with a
stray). In any case, socialising your kitten at a young age is as essential as providing food or
water for them to eat and drink; it helps them to become friendly, playful and considerate as
they grow older.
Without further ado (sorry to anyone hoping for lots of ado), let’s go through the basics of
socialising your new fanged friend.
In this guide, we’ll assume that your new forever-friend will be spayed at some point, has
been vaccinated and is in the process of receiving their boosters. They must have these if
you plan on allowing them anywhere outside your home. Young kittens are highly
susceptible to diseases and viruses as their immune system can’t fire on all cylinders yet.
As such, great care must be taken to ensure that your kitten is more than able to fight these
nasties on their own. If you need any help with boosters and vaccines, you can always give
us a shout anyway or have a looksie here!
What is Socialisation?:
Cat socialisation is the process of building trust with your cat and acclimating them to the
people, environments and animals in your home. A cat who was never socialised can be
timid, distrustful, scared or aggressive. A well-socialised cat is more likely to be loving,
trusting, affectionate and well-behaved. It’s especially important to socialise your cat if you
have young children in the house so that they won’t be scratched or bitten during play.
If adopting a kitten, socialisation is likely to be easier if you adopt a pair of kittens. They can
keep each other company when you’re not around and are less likely to engage in the type
of destructive behaviour that arises from boredom (the devil makes plenty of work for idle
paws and sharp claws...).
Naturally, your success in socialising your new furry friend will largely depend on their own
personality and genetic makeup. However, all is not lost if you find that your kitten is rather
boisterous or very shy — plenty of play and interaction with humans will bring out the best
in them anyway. Habituation and localisation will also help make your cat a better pet.
These two things occur naturally as your cat becomes familiarised with your home.
How Do I Socialise My Cat?
A good place to start is by getting your hands on some really tasty treats. Treats can be a
lifesaver when it comes to any form of training (for cat and dog both) and we are firm
believers in reward-based training as the best way to teach a pet.
So, with treats in an easily accessible location (but not in direct line-of-sight of your cat),
start by petting in places where you feel a cat would normally like to be petted. Avoid areas
like the paws (and toe-beans), the tail, the stomach and the hind area. Once your kitten
starts coming to you for pets, then you can think about moving on to those forbidden areas.
Though be careful, petting some of these places may engage your cat’s play/prey drive and
you may get a bite or a scratch. In this case, it is imperative that you firmly tell your cat
“No”, but refrain from shouting. After a successful petting session, give your friend one of
the aforementioned treats and allow them to bask in the glow of a job well done!
Once you feel that both you and your cat have gotten a firm grasp on petting (not literally), it
is now time to start lifting, picking up and holding your cat. Mastering this early will ensure
that your cat never feels uncomfortable when being shooed from a forbidden room or from
the picked leftovers of a freshly made chicken-fillet roll (as my brother would have the
misfortune to be able to tell you...). Besides, holding a cat or kitten is not only good for
them, it’s also good for you and your mental health!
With these basic socialisation techniques in your repertoire, you can finally think about
playtime. Cats are predators by nature and require their prey drive to be satiated in order to
feel happy. This can be done with your hand (either gloved in Kevlar) or with a toy of your
choosing. From experience, cats don’t care much about how it’s done, just so long as
they’re having a good time. You’ll know you’re doing a good job anyway by how much your
cat wants to kill whatever it is you’re annoying them with. As with the petting sessions, you
should not reinforce bad behaviour. If your cat properly attacks you during play, tell them
“No!” and end playtime immediately.
By now, you and your cat should be thick as thieves, joined at the hip and friends forever.
You’ll know your cat has been successfully socialised by how often they approach you,
whether they meow to get your attention and if they “yummy” you (yummying is the
kneading action cats perform when they’re extremely happy).
Whether you’re thinking about getting a kitten or adopting a stray that has wandered into
your life, we’re sure that this guide will be worth more than its weight in gold in helping you
prepare your new friend for the journey ahead of them. Should that journey include any
accidents or illnesses, you can always pay us a visit or give us a call; we’re always on hand
to help you and your pet. Finally, if you’re unsure of where to start in your search for a
clawed companion, why don’t you give the DSPCA’s website a visit? They’re constantly
updating their site with furry friends that are looking for their forever homes and a loving
owner, such as yourself *wink-wink*.
We wish you and your new friend the best of luck in learning to live with one another, but
we know you won’t need it!