It seems that the majority of TV animal therapy deals with problematic dogs. There's a certain logic to this. Dogs get out and about in the world more than cats do, and an aggressive dog can cause more problems for your visitors than an aggressive cat. Having said that, it's still important to have a well-socialised cat. You don't want the cat to be afraid of visitors. There's also the possibility that you might need to board your feline at a cattery where it will need to be handled by strangers and will live alongside unfamiliar cats. So what are some of the easiest ways to socialise your cat to get it used to both humans and other felines? It's certainly easier to socialise a kitten, and yet old cats can still be taught new tricks.
When you get a kitten, it's quite possible that your friends and family will want to come and meet the newest addition to your family. This should be encouraged, while still allowing the kitten enough time to rest each day. Like dogs, cats are less likely to be afraid of strangers if they meet a lot of new people during their formative weeks, just after adoption. If you've adopted an adult cat or have an older cat that would benefit from a bit of extra socialisation, then a different approach is needed. Your guests should still be encouraged to interact with the cat, but it needs to be on the cat's terms. Allow the cat to sit next to people on the sofa and to be stroked. The cat might not necessarily appreciate being picked up and held by strangers at this stage, so this is something that should be built up to. By allowing a number of different people to play with and eventually hold the cat, the cat will eventually lose its apprehension when it comes to strangers.
Note: If you have a particularly timid cat who becomes fearful around strangers, you should consider placing the cat in a wire-doored carry box, which can then be closed and placed in the room when you have visitors. The cat will slowly become used to having strangers in the room. The door can then be opened, allowing the cat to begin interacting with your guests.
Introducing Other Cats
Cats are not pack animals as dogs are, so it's not in their nature to be fascinated by other cats and to automatically attempt to play with them. Cats will automatically be exposed to socialisation in their first weeks of life as they will be living alongside their brothers and sisters. It's possible for these social skills to be lost once the kitten has been weaned and adopted, so it's up to you to continue to grow these skills. Schedule a play date with other cat owners. Ensure that your kitten's vaccinations are up to date, as well as the vaccinations of any visiting cat. If you don't know any other cat owners, contact your nearest cat club. They might know of some local cat playgroups designed specifically to allow your cat to develop its social skills. Still, it's obviously much easier if you have a few friends with cats who can bring their felines for a visit. Cats should be supervised during these play dates. Keep a spray bottle of water handy so you can immediately stop any territorial aggression. This is more likely to happen with adult cats, but these play dates can still be effective way to socialise cats of any age.
Note: Do not attempt to take your cat to one of the many cat cafés that are opening throughout Australia. These venues allow customers to enjoy a coffee while interacting with one of the cats that already lives at the venue. Outdoor cats are not permitted.
Once your cats have become used to both humans and other cats, it can be a big weight off your mind. You know that your beloved feline is happy when it comes to people and other cats, and it certainly makes it easier to board your feline if necessary.