Independence is a quality often connected to cats. While they may be self-sufficient in a lot of ways, cats are social creatures. Respecting a cat’s individual personality is key to a successful relationship, as some cats may be more outgoing than others, just like people.
If you’ve adopted a kitten, starting socialization as early as possible can have long-lasting positive effects. The more a kitten is gently handled by people during this time, the more likely she will be friendly as an adult. It’s best if your kitten interacts with a variety of people so she doesn’t only feel comfortable with one person. This is also a great time to expose your kitten to other pets, as long as those pets are gentle. Once your cat has received proper vaccinations and your vet says it’s ok to do so, invite friends and family over to meet your kitten, and if they have cat-friendly pets, invite them to tag along, too.
For adult cats, try introducing new things to keep her curiosity piqued while staying safe. New toys, treats and smells, like autumn leaves brought inside or even your guests themselves, can help provide socialization. Try to get your cat to like her carrier by leaving it out when possible, and providing treats when she chooses to explore it.
Whether you have a kitten or an adult cat, it’s important to make social interactions with other people and pets as positive as possible. If your cat is comfortable and there is no risk of accidentally escaping, try to keep your cat in the room with you and your guests. Provide hiding places, such as a box or under a couch, and places where she can observe without interacting, like a windowsill or high shelf. If possible, limit the first houseguests your cat meets to a small, quiet gathering. Ask your guests not to approach your cat until she seems comfortable with their presence. At that time, they can give your cat a treat and pet her gently. If she shows any signs of stress, leave her alone to retreat to a safe place.
Cats can also learn to enjoy the company of other cats. Again, the earlier and more often they are exposed to other cats, the more likely they’ll be friendly with each other. However, cats like having their personal space, too. Who doesn’t? If you have multiple cats, give them plenty of comfortable places to nap, climb and perch by windows, so they don’t compete over territory. If disputes arise at mealtimes, you may need to feed them in separate rooms. Cats can also get jealous, so be sure to give each cat one-on-one attention and playtime.
Getting your cat to embrace her social side may take time and patience, especially if she’s an adult. Remember not to force it. Give her time and space, and reward social behavior with treats. She will eventually open up and show everyone the personality you’ve already grown to love.