How to Socialize an Adult Cat
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If you have decided to adopt or foster an adult cat but you cannot socialize them with fellow cats or dogs, you have came to the right place. In this AnimalWised article we will tell you all the factors that influence the socialization of cats and your best options to integrate them into your home.
When someone picks up a street cat and takes them home, they have to be aware that these animals possess a more or less consolidated behavior that can be very difficult to change (sometimes impossible). If they are docile animals, there is no problem. However, they may be aggressive or fearful, which can make it very difficult for them to live with humans. Read on and discover how to socialize an adult cat.
When does a cat's personality develop?
The cat is a solitary and territorial predator. They may at times share territories with other cats (over all related females), but hierarchical tensions are frequent.
In cats there are different variables that influence their behavior, the most important being known as the "sensitive period of socialization." It is a time that elapses from the second to the seventh week of the cat's life. During this period of maturation of the central nervous system, the cat begins to develop mature senses that allow them to explore the environment. This makes them familiar with their surroundings. Such as, relating to other cats, other animals, places, smells, food or the presence of humans, among many others.
During this period the animal has multiple experiences and receives a lot of information from the environment that surrounds them - there is no fear response until the end of this period. Everything that "lives" during this short space of time, will mark the future behavior of the cat. In addition there are other factors that influence the behavior of a cat, which we will go into below. For example, using positive reinforcement is a way to guide your cat towards a desired behavior.
What other factors influence cat behavior?
On the one hand, a mother feeding, during gestation and lactation powerfully influences the learning ability of kittens and prevents fear and aggression. Therefore, poor diet during this period results in cats with poor learning ability and fearful and / or aggressive responses.
The docility of the father greatly influences the future behavior of the litter. A docile father and socialization with the presence of humans will give rise to very docile cats. A very docile father will likely have little docile kittens. Although it will be the period of socialization that sweetens this behavior.
One aspect that must be taken into account is that the most aggressive cats are those that in principle have greater reproductive success. They think they have the "right to mount more cats in heat". Although the sexual behavior of the cat makes other less aggressive males have the possibility of transmitting their genes. Discover here some advantages of sterilizing a cat.
Is it difficult to socialize an adult cat?
The best advice that can be given is to collect the kitten during the period of socialization. This is the way to ensure that the animal can coexist with humans in the future. However, the behavior of the parent influences them. Unfortunately this variable cannot be controlled, as we cannot tell who the father is. Cats can have different parents despite being in the same litter.
In the case of wanting to adopt an adult cat, the criteria of choice is rather complicated. A cat that approaches a human spontaneously is a good candidate (in principle they are calm and curious). Yet, later new problems can arise as they try and adapt to their new territory, the presence of other cats, etc. However we encourage you to try.
Tips to socialize a cat
The basic and essential requirement of this process will be the patience and affection that we must offer our cat. Socializing this animal can be complicated but not impossible if we dedicate the right time and energy. If you have doubts or the situation is complicated, do not hesitate to consult a professional to help you.
To win the trust of the cat we will use some of the tricks mentioned above such as offering moist food that the cat considers irresistible (preferably from our hand), talking softly or playing with them. However not all cats will accept this intimate behavior with the human being. We must be patient and respectful and never force the animal to do something they do not want.
With other cats
Perhaps your cat is aloof with people but relates wonderfully with other felines since they have always lived in colonies of cats. If you do not know anything about their past and you are thinking of adopting another cat or you already have one, we recommend the following:
First of all you should know that cats are tremendously territorial so you should prevent them from acting so at all costs. They will eventually get used to the smell of the new member of the family. Use a bed for a few days and change it so they discover that there is another cat living in your home.
Let them look from a distance and observe their behavior. A glass door, for example, is perfect to see how they can be. Even if you observe positive behavior, do not introduce them immediately, let a couple or three days pass.
Cat fights are terrible, so you must be present during their first encounter. Put a leash or harness on both cats (although we know it will be somewhat uncomfortable) in order to stop an attack if it happens.
With a dog
The procedure of socializing a cat with a dog is very similar to the one we have explained previously. First it will be basic that both understand that there is another animal living in the same house. Giving them clothes with the smell of the other on their bed is a good way to start.
Then we must ensure that there is eye contact between them to observe their reactions and check what each one does. Finally security in their first encounter will be fundamental to avoid a mishap.
Leaving some time between each step will be essential for both to tolerate each other and begin to accept. Never force an encounter if both try to flee, the consequences could be very serious (even for you).
How can a street cat be socialized?
The behavioral change of an adult animal is quite complex. On the one hand we have to develop a strategy of patience in order for the animal to gradually become desensitized to certain stimuli.
The presence of a human at all times, at a prudent distance and without negative consequences for the cat, can help them trust. At this point we must remember that the cat is not as social as the dog. So frequent calling, caresses and an attempt to play with them can be dangerous for the well-intentioned owner.
Once the desensitization begins, it is possible to start rewarding the cat with something that they like (especially food) when they perform well. This is called "operative conditioning of positive reinforcement". If the cat associates any behavior with the treat, they will repeat it again.
The response of cats to these strategies is usually very individualized, so it is not possible to establish how long this will take. Find out more on how to tame a feral cat.
What if I can't socialize my cat?
In these cases it is best to go to a professional to advise us on some tricks or advanced guidelines that we can follow.
If you want to read similar articles to How to Socialize an Adult Cat, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.