How to Socialize Cats

There are many things a kitten needs to get used to. These include unfamiliar smells and noises or strange people and other animals. Read here how you can socialize your cat and help them get used to it.

Moving a cat into your own home is extremely exciting for both animals and humans. This not only applies to the new cat owners, but also to the cat itself, who first has to get used to their new home, the strangers, and everyday life. How well the cat gets along with her family and other animals in the future depends on how well she is socialized. But what exactly does that mean? How and at what age is a cat socialized? Is it also possible to socialize older cats?

What Does the Term “Socialization” Mean?

In general, the term socialization describes the process of getting used to the community and taking on certain behavioral requirements. So the cat has to learn that it can trust its new family and that it does not have to be afraid of strangers or animals. She learns that small children are sometimes noisy, that household appliances make loud noises, and that driving a car in a transport box is not bad. She learns where to eat, how to use the litter box, and how far she can go while playing and romping. In the best-case scenario, cats get to know all of these things in their first three months of life. In order for the cat to appear relaxed in the future, it is important that the animal comes into contact with several people, animals, sounds and smells at an early stage. It is also important that these encounters are as positive as possible.

Socializing Cats: Why is Socialization Important?

If a cat has not been properly socialized, it is very possible that the animal will exhibit behavioral problems later on. They react very shyly, become anxious and nervous quickly, and are often aggressive. While some behavior is still harmless, like sucking on the pillow, other peculiarities can make a life together more difficult. It becomes difficult if the cat scratches furniture and walls or leaves urine on the carpet. This also applies if the cat shows or bites its claws in play when strangers want to stroke it. Extensive socialization is therefore essential for a harmonious and stress-free coexistence between humans and cats. This benefits not only the owner but also the animal itself, which will go through life in a friendly and relaxed manner.

The Foundations of Socialization are Laid in the First Months of Life

How the character of a cat develops later also depends on its environment and experiences. The first three months of life, more precisely the period between the fourth and twelfth week of life, are particularly influential. The experiences that the little cat gathers in this phase are firmly stored in the brain and have a great influence on later life. In the best-case scenario, the cat is still in the care of its mother during this time. Because the mother cat plays a very important role in the socialization of her kitten.

The Role of the Cat Mom

Responsible breeders give their kittens away at the earliest when they are twelve weeks old and leave them close to their mother until then. The mother is the most important caregiver and role model for the kittens in the first few weeks. The kitten watches her deal with her siblings and people and takes on this behavior. If the cat mom is relaxed with her human owners, she can be petted and from time to time seek their proximity. So your young will soon gain confidence in the two-legged friends. The kitten education is also initially taken over by the cat’s mother. In the game with the siblings, the mother shows the little cat how far she can go. If she bites or scratches too hard, the cat mom steps in and naturally sets her limits.

Socializing the Cat: The Responsibility of the Breeder

For the socialization of the kittens, it is therefore important that the mother cat is properly socialized. If you want to buy a kitten from a breeder, you should pay attention to how the mother animal behaves. If the mother reacts shyly or aggressively, takes refuge in the furthest corner, or hisses, she passes this behavior on to her young. If the cat is petted by the breeder and she looks at the visitor curiously, it indicates that the cats are growing up in a species-appropriate environment.

How Can I Help My Cat Get Used to It?

The separation from the cat’s mother and the move into a new home means a big turning point for the little cat. Of course, she first has to get used to the strange surroundings, the people, the smells, and the noises. The better she has been socialized by her mother cat and the breeder, the easier it will be for her to get involved in the new and unknown. However, this does not mean that only the breeder and the cat mom should socialize the cat. Although the foundations are laid in the first weeks of life, socialization can and should be continued even after the twelfth week of life. Now the responsibility is in your hands and you, as the new owner, can do a lot to make the new life easier for your cat.

Five Helpful Tips to Get You Off to a Good Start

Offer Your Cat a Safe Haven

Even if the kitten is curious, sometimes the many new impressions just get too much for her. Then it is important that she can withdraw to a safe place where she can have peace and quiet and can process the experiences. Even before your cat moves in, you should think about where this place could be. A basket with a soft blanket in a quiet corner of your home is ideal. In addition, you should provide hiding places and places at heights, because many cats feel safer on higher levels. This can be a scratching and climbing tree, for example. You can also put a cat blanket on a windowsill or a safe shelf.

If your cat is already used to the transport box, you can leave it in the room at first. So she can escape into there at any time if she should ever get frightened. A large, upside-down cardboard box with a small opening and a soft blanket inside are also popular as a hiding place.

Leave the Beginning to Your Cat

When socializing with your cat you should be patient. This also applies to acclimatization. The important thing is that you never push or force your cat to do anything. Never drag her out of her safe hiding place just because her visitor wants to stroke the new kitten once. Respect when your new animal roommate needs peace and quiet and would rather retreat first. A cat doesn’t get tame just because it’s constantly being picked up! Instead, go about your normal activities around the house, and just by your presence show her that you are there and that she can come to you if she wants to. At some point, your cat’s curiosity will prevail and it will dare to get out of its hiding place on its own.

Go at Eye Level

To relieve cats of shyness, it is helpful to be on eye level with them. This will make you appear less threatening and it will be easier for your cat to approach you and be petted. For example, just make yourself comfortable on the floor in front of the sofa. Sit on the rug or blanket, read a book, listen to the radio, or watch television (quietly). When the cat approaches, first let it sniff your hand and then slowly stroke its back and cheeks. Reward every approach your cat makes with praise, gentle pats, or even with a small treat and show her that you are happy to be around you.

Show Your Cat a Lot of New Things – Without Overwhelming Them

In the first few months of life, you should show your cat a lot of new things, such as music, cars, and other people and animals. This should make the cat lose its natural distrust. However, don’t overdo it. After all, your cat needs time to process the new impressions. Be patient and carefully introduce your cat to new things. Watch your cat closely and leave him alone if he signals that he is nervous. Once she has gained confidence in you and your family and rubs against her leg purring, she is surely ready for a stranger’s visit. Invite young and old to your home so your cat learns that people are different. however, a huge party with many people in a small space and loud music at the beginning would overwhelm them.

Keep Calm and Be Patient

Just as human beings are not created equal, cats are not created equal. While some cats are very open-minded, others are naturally fearful. Respect your cat’s individuality and be patient if you don’t get used to it right away. Because some cats have already got used to their new surroundings, their new family, and their everyday life after just a few weeks. However, it takes other cats two months or more to slowly gain confidence. If you treat the cat lovingly without harassing it, yelling at it, or being annoyed when it is hiding or making a mistake, it will come out of cover.

Can You Socialize an Adult Cat?

Unfortunately, not every cat is lucky enough to grow up in an environment where socialization is important. Some cats are separated from their mother too early after birth, grow up without contact with their siblings, and are on their own from the start. The older the cat is and the worse its experience has been, the more difficult it is for it to regain confidence.

You can still socialize with older cats, but this requires a lot of time and patience. But if you give the cat the time and space to withdraw and always treat it lovingly, you will notice at some point that the cat slowly opens on its own. Once the ice has broken, older cats are often particularly cuddly and very affectionate.

Socializing Your Cat: Patience Pays Off

Either way, being patient will pay off when it comes to socializing your cat. Do not ask that your cat can do everything right from the start, that everyone can stroke it, or that they get on well with the children and other animals right away. Be careful and let them slowly arrive in your new home.

When bringing together other pets, for example, it makes sense to initially keep them in separate rooms. You should first try to approach each other through the smells of each other. Let your dog or your older cat sniff at the transport box of the “newcomers”. Give the new cat one of the other’s toys or blankets to smell. Associate the smell with something positive – for example by placing the object near the food bowl. The animals slowly come closer to each other through their noses and notice that the other is not a threat.

We wish you and your cat a successful and relaxed start!

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

Leave a Reply


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *