If your cat is reacting negatively to change, he may be in need of social enrichment! Here are some techniques to try.
Cats are notoriously creatures of comfort and feel more secure when the status quo is unbroken. They usually don’t respond well to changes in their environment, and their usual reaction to any unwanted changes is to distance themselves. They can simply retreat to a nice and safe hiding place or, if pushed further, they can even react aggressively. There are some social enrichment techniques that can be used to help your cat adjust to change more easily. Before we dive into these, let’s see why cats are the way they are.
Why do cats run and hide
For our feline friends, hiding, even for long periods of time, is a normal response to a frightening or new situation. Sometimes, however, cats can become fearful and timid due to an underlying illness. If such behavior is new, have your cat’s health checked by a veterinarian.
New people or pets
Some cats may also react to the presence of a new person in the house (such as a visitor or a baby) by running away and hiding. Introducing a new dog or cat into the house could certainly elicit the same reaction.
Other frightening / surprising events
A cat that is allowed to roam outside may be surprised by another animal or a stranger and pull into the house and hide. Such experiences can lead to fear which leads to continued shyness. A sudden thunderclap, engine flashback, or firecracker could send a fearful cat under the bed for weeks.
A phobically shy cat suggests that good socialization did not take place when he was a suckling kitten. Good socialization occurs when a variety of people cuddle and handle the animal at a young age, when the kitten is sniffed and touched by other animals, and when exposed to a wide variety of noises that occur. in daily life. These things become much less frightening when experienced in the safety and comfort of their mother and / or familiar humans.
Socialization of the kitten
The most sensitive period in a kitten’s development is between two and seven weeks of age. During this time, a kitten should be given more and more gentle handling. Up to the age of three months, a cat should already have had many positive experiences with other animals and humans, as well as a wide variety of other activities – being carried, going to the vet, riding in a car. , etc. All of this is designed to foster an outgoing nature.
When the main fear is people
When a cat is afraid of people, a slow, consistent method of reconditioning is needed. Enlist the help of a friend, preferably a female, as lower voices are more threatening to a cat. Sit calmly on the floor and gently and patiently bring them in with toys and treats to repackage them and associate new people with positive experiences.
Alternatively, when you have guests, place your cat in a comfortable, large, partially covered carrier and keep her in the room with you. This familiarizes them with the sound of guest voices while still allowing them to stay hidden. Gradually increase the gentle interactions of guests through the crate door before finally letting your cat out. It’s a slow process, and you may even have to rely on natural calming products to help you out, but it can be very effective in the long run.
Other social enrichment tips
- Keep the radio on for several hours a day to desensitize your cat to a variety of noises
- Make gentle eye contact, but blink slowly and often to indicate you’re not a threat
- Spend time lying with them, or even under the covers
- Speak in a soft, soothing voice
- Move predictably and slowly
- Present them with padded fleece sticks and feather chopsticks for inspection; gently touch the sides of their face with the chopsticks and gradually slide your hand along the chopstick until you can stroke their chin and cheeks
- Give food, treats and catnip, etc. while socializing with people
- Keep their daily basics such as feeding times and litter locations as predictable as possible
- Consider bringing in a veterinarian to make house calls if needed.
Make sure you provide your cat with a cozy haven in which to relax, especially during times of stress. It should be an enclosed space large enough to include a bed, water bowl, and litter box. Give one anxious cat a place of their own to rest can make it easier for them to go out when they feel calmer.
Ideally, good socialization should begin soon after a cat is born, but a variety of factors can still cause them to feel shy and fearful. As long as they feel safe and you follow proven social enrichment steps with gentle patience, it should only be a matter of time before your cat is much calmer and more confident.