Socializing Your New Cat



December 14, 2020

We love our felines friends but bringing a cat into your home is like bringing in a bit of the wild. These fluffy, captivating mini-predators haven’t been living domestically with humans as a species for as long as dogs have, so they’re a bit more of a wild card. Each cat’s personality is different but expecting them to be immediately comfortable and affectionate with us, other animals in the home, and other people, is a tall order. Just like us humans, some cats need a bit of time to warm up. Here’s how to make it happen!

Socializing a Kitten

The best-case scenario when socializing a cat is to start when they’re young. Their third through ninth weeks of life are their most impressionable. If you bring a kitten into your home at this age, and use these early weeks to gradually get them used to different people, this is your best shot at having a well-adapted, sociable cat.

When you first bring a kitten home, give him a couple of days in a designated “kitten room” in your house, where he can be comfortable enclosed and begin acclimating, before being overwhelmed with introductions. Then you can start to spend substantial time with him, by speaking softly and moving slowly, keeping music and the TV down low.

Associate your kitten’s tastiest food with you when trying to socialize him. Reserve wet food initially for when you go in to spend time with him. Offer it to him on a spoon, then eventually see if he’ll take it while sitting in your lap.

Start by petting your kitten gently, and only work up to holding him as he becomes comfortable. And play with him! Spend a couple hours each day being around him—talking, playing, and gradually introduce him to kids and other people. Once you feel your kitten has sufficiently warmed up to you and associates you with good vibes, you can expand his world by letting him roam the rest of your house.  

Socializing an Adult Cat

Can you teach an old cat new tricks? Alternatively, can you “make your cat friendly?” It can be much harder than working with a kitten, but rewarding nonetheless. Cats are naturally more timid than dogs. And for those cats that are no longer wide-eyed, up-for-anything kittens, change is tough. Respect your new cat’s personality. Some will simply never be lap cats. But there are training exercises out there that you can attempt to see if they’ll help your cat open up with people.

When you bring home a new adult cat, patience will be your best friend. Being uprooted and planted into a new home would be stressful for anyone. You can’t blame them if they’re disoriented, hides, or even displays some naughty behavior for the first several weeks. They should grow out of it as they become more comfortable.

If your cat is comfortable with you, but not good with guests, you can try having them play with a wand toy. Or when you have people over, keep your cat in a carrier in the same room as you, but at a distance. Partially cover the carrier it so it feels like a cozy den. Or play the radio every day to get your furry feline used to different voices.

Introducing a New Cat to Your Other Pets

If possible, getting something with your new cat’s scent on it before they come home, and letting your other pets get acclimated to the scent, can be a great help here. When new kitty comes home, keep them in her own room for some time.

Eventually, close the “old pets” away temporarily and let the new cat out to check everything out. Then do the reverse—keep new kitty secured and let old pets into the room your new cat has been staying in to do more scent acclimating. When it’s time for the big reveal, you can have an old cat meet your new one through the mesh of a carrier. And if introducing a dog, keep him on a leash around new kitty, and only give them free rein around each other when you’re confident they’ll be calm and non-aggressive with each other. And always give your new cat a high place to escape to.

Hissing and coarse language between an old cat and a new is totally normal at first. The experts say to give it two weeks. If cats don’t seem somewhat comfortable with each other after that time, reassess. Usually, given time, cats will determine a pecking order and be able to live together.

And if you’ve got a cat that’s so antisocial that you fear getting to, and being handled by, a veterinarian may be more drama than it’s worth, check out the many options available these days, including house calls. With Bivvy’s cat insurance, you can go to ANY vet your still-socializing cat is comfortable with. For less than $1 a day, our affordable pet health insurance has got your back for covered vet expenses.

Cat socializing is not for the faint of heart but is well worth the effort. You’ve got this!