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Importance of Socializing Your Cat


Importance of Socializing Your Cat

Postby admin » Sun May 22, 2016 9:43 pm

Cats have unique social and behavioral characteristics. Understanding and learning to interpret those unique behavior cues from a cat’s perspective, factors greatly into proper socialization of your cat.

Understanding Your Cat’s Behavior

The needs of today’s cats have changed little from those of their wild ancestor, Felis lybica, the African wildcat.

Cats are solitary hunters, spending much of their day searching the environment for hunting opportunities. They need to protect themselves from perceived dangers, which include unfamiliar individuals or environment.
Cats are territorial animals. They feel threatened when their territory is disturbed, either by another animal or physically.
Cats use scent, posturing, and vocalizations to communicate their unhappiness if they feel threatened.
Cats are social animals, but their social structure differs from ours. Cats may be content as a single cat or living with other cats, preferably related cats such as siblings.
What is Socialization?

Socialization usually occurs during the early weeks of a cat’s life starting between 2 to 7 weeks of age. During this period, the cat learns to become used to sights, sounds, and smells as well as how to interact appropriately with other cats, people, and other animals. Kittens can do this easily until they reach the end of the socialization period where they become naturally wired to be more suspicious and cautious of things they haven’t experienced yet. This serves an importance purpose and highlights the importance of understanding a cat’s perspective—a young kitten has a fearless, exploratory nature during the socialization period but suspiciousness sets in after the socialization period has ended so that the cat reacts more cautiously to new things in the environment that can be dangerous, like potential predators. This defensive behavior may not be obvious or easily seen.

Tips on Socializing Your Cat: Environmental Enrichment is KEY!

The optimal time to begin socialization 2 to 7 weeks of age and the prime time to help encourage your cat to be comfortable being held, picked up, and touched. Most cats prefer the head and neck for physical touch. Cats may become upset and even aggressive when people try to pet them in other areas (e.g., increased arousal and rolling skin when the back is touched; clasping human hands and arms with feline claws when touched on the stomach after rolling onto their back). It’s important to avoid any rough handling, sudden or erratic movements, or loud voices, which may cause your cat to suddenly become fearful or aggressive.

Making sure your cat’s environmental needs are met includes not just the physical surroundings– indoors, outdoors, or both – but their social interactions with humans and other pets as well. Cats’ individual preferences determine how much they like human interactions such as petting, grooming, being played with or talked to, being picked up, and sitting or lying on a person’s lap. To a large extent this depends on whether, as kittens, they were introduced to and socialized with humans during their period of socialization age. It is important to remember that every cat interacts differently and to respect the cat’s individual preferences. Remember to remind guests and all household members not to force interaction and instead let the cat initiate, choose, and control the type of human contact. Download the AAFPs brochure on “Your Cats Environmental Needs” for more information and helpful tips.

What if My Cat Wasn’t Socialized as a Kitten?

If you have an older kitten or cat who has missed out on early socialization, don’t fret. Behavior can be modified and socialization is still possible, it just may take longer for an adult cat to become comfortable with surroundings and people. Keep in mind that while your shy cat may eventually become comfortable with a small number of people, an extremely fearful adult cat is never going to be a social butterfly.

Online Resources:
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
Article with detailed information and tips on socialization.

“Your Cats Environmental Needs”
AAFP brochure for cat owners that addresses a cat’s basic environmental and social needs and how to meet them.
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