New situations? No problem (sorta)!
Hey Good People!
Picture this: the Christmas party. Making your way through a crowded space where you know exactly two people — neither of them to be found. Now you’re faced with three options: park yourself by the charcuterie table, head out earlier than planned (without the host noticing and yelling “Leaving already?” over a sea of heads), or...make friends.
If that scenario had you relive the horror of being in unfamiliar territory, and thank your lucky stars that ugly sweater parties aren’t happening this year, imagine how kitty feels when you introduce them to a new person or environment?
Socializing a cat can go very well, or very badly, depending on circumstances that range from past experiences, your expectations, and kitty’s own personality (hey, we love our #grumpycat no matter what!). As long as you stay patient (i.e. letting your cat get accustomed to the new space/pet in their own time) with the occasional treat, everyone will get along just fine—eventually.
It’s worth mentioning again, especially if your idea of how kitty should behave doesn’t align with who kitty is. Like people, some cats prefer to show their love and affection from afar. If kitty’s new to your place, introduce them to a single area and let them explore on their own. If you have the space, setting up a cat room is the perfect way for them to manage their interactions with you.
If you have other kitties, introduce everyone gradually and leave the door open — it gives everyone a chance to leave if they’re not feeling the new-new just yet.
Let Kitty do the Approaching
This might sting a little, but your new fur baby might not be all over you as soon as you bring them home. If kitty runs away every time you’re around or try to go near them, try sitting in one spot for a bit and allow them to come to you.
Unlike our dog pals, cats take more time to build a relationship with — you have to earn their trust before they give you their love.
A little positive reinforcement (*cough* bribery *cough cough*) goes a long way! A key aspect of getting kitty to claim their new space and fur siblings as home and family is helping them associate positive experiences with those things.
An occasional treat for allowing you to pet them, or even leaving a treat close enough to them (but far enough from you) to enjoy for being out and about brings you both a little closer to living together happily.
Photo by Ivan Radic via Flickr.
Think About Stress
Hopefully that Christmas party scenario put yourself in kitty’s shoes for a hot, sweaty minute. Being somewhere completely new — spaces and strangers alike — can be frightening, and unfortunately, not everyone is going to be nice to the new kitty on the block at first. If kitty’s on the receiving end of aggression from other pets, they’re going to have a hard time showing you any love. That kind of stress can also take a toll on kitty’s health, affecting their mood, appetite and sleep patterns.
Find the tension source, manage the behavior of the more aggressive cat and then maybe your newbie can start to relax.
Even a well-adjusted kitty can start acting up in new situations. If you’re introducing a new kitty to the fur family, one habit your established cat might get into is peeing outside their litter box to mark their territory.
Make things easier for everyone by getting separate litter boxes for each cat you have in your home. It does mean more work for you, but the peace of mind (and peace and quiet) will be worth the extra scooping.
Photo by Jon Ross via Flickr.
Schedule a Checkup
Cats withdraw when they’re not feeling well, so it might be a good idea to have your vet give kitty a once-over to rule out any underlying health problems.
No one is at their friendliest when they’re sick.
The End Result
You’ll know the hard work is paying off when kitty doesn’t mind being around you or in another room, and when neither the old guard or the newbie start hissing at each other when they cross paths. Some cats get along so well they sit down and groom each other, but keeping our expectations at ‘hey, they didn't fight today!” is the realistic, and safest bet.
We’re not the greatest at dealing with new situations. More often than not we spend more time dipping a toe than diving in headfirst, and that’s okay! Working through the discomfort, being patient with yourself and embracing the setbacks are what makes the experience worth having. You and kitty can do this!
Photo by zaimoku_woodpile via Flickr.
Writer. Pet Enthusiast. Ambivert.