We tend to think of cats as aloof, frightful creatures, running and hiding whenever someone new comes to the house. Dogs generally crave being social more than cats do, but cats can be loving little furballs whenever company comes around as well. Here’s a few ways to keep your cat more comfortable in social situations.
1. To start, to plenty of “cat-friendly” behavior on your own
The first step to socializing a cat is to make them perfectly comfortable around you alone. If you live on your own, talk to yourself in a calm voice frequently. This will make the cat realize that voices and conversation are normal. Place treats around you and engage in behavior that is welcoming to a nervous kitty: watch television with low volume, read, do crossword puzzles, or sit on a comfy couch while on a laptop or tablet. This will encourage a cat to explore away from their “safe spots” and feel comfortable being out in the open around people.
2. Place an enclosed shelter that the cat can see out of in the main room
Cats love to be able to look out at a world that cannot intrude on them. A small carrier with the cat’s essentials can help a cat get used to social settings without making them uncomfortable. Place the cat in the carrier when small groups of people are over, along with food, water, and a litter box. This way, the cat is still a part of the gathering without having to be in the center of it. Gradually, your feline friend will become more comfortable with people moving around, talking, the sound of the television, and other, everyday situations that may have caused them to run away in the past.
3. Ignore antisocial behavior, reward social behavior
One big mistake is to force a cat to interact. Cats can be very stubborn, and grabbing them out of a hiding place and bringing them into a situation they do not want to be in is a recipe for claws. If your cat does not want to be in a social gathering, let them make that choice. However, when they do start to get involved, lavish them with praise and their favorite treat. Teach them that things are better when they are social, and they will want to be social more often.
The best thing to remember is to be patient! Some cats, especially those who learn these behaviors very early in life, warm up to social situations very quickly. Others may only ever get to the point of tolerance, and may never truly be happy being at the center of a large group. The key is patience - do not get angry or force your cat into situations they do not like. That can set back weeks of progress. Continue to work with them, and your cat will, hopefully, learn to engage in good social behavior for years to come.
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