How to Socialize a Cat Using Localization

Despite your cat's aloof attitude, she really is attached – to you, to the other members of your family, and especially to her environment. Part of socializing a kitten is localization: the process of becoming attached to specific environments. If you're wondering how to socialize a cat who's new to your home, begin with localization.

By starting with the environment first, you can gradually build up to the social interactions that may seem scary to your kitty at first. Not only will this allow your cat to become acclimated to the important areas of your home that are now hers – like the litter box, thank you very much – but also it will reduce her stress.

PrettyLitter How to Socialize a Cat

While your newbie kitty is getting used to all the new noises and other living things – four-legged or two – around her, she'll be able to take comfort in the environment you've created for her. Without further ado, here's how to socialize a cat using localization.

How to Socialize a Cat Using Localization

The first step is to understand that cats are territorial little buggers. If you've ever had a toddler who went through the "mine!" phase, that's cats. Indefinitely.

The following tricks will appeal to your cat's egocentric (but adorable) mind while using the veterinary concept of localization to socialize her.

Food Placement

The best way to keep your cat happy and engaged? You guessed it... food. One of the most powerful localization tactics is to create a space that's just for your cat's food.

The spot should be accessible at all times (i.e., not behind a door that is closed at night or when you go to work) and out of reach of other pets or human children. Also, keep your cat's food stored in a specific place so she knows that when you head for that corner cabinet or pantry door, she's sure to get a treat.

Use a regular feeding time as a way to keep your cat on a healthy schedule (and to avoid 3 AM meowing-fits).

Finally, be sure to get a separate food bowl for each of your cats. Cats are territorial and when they start stepping on each others' paws – especially for food – things can get ugly. If your cats don't do the whole "sharing" thing well, give them each a dedicated food spot in a separate part of your home. However, some cats enjoy shared nibbling time and prefer their bowl to be next to their friend's bowl.

Household Odors

Humans like for their homes to smell warm and inviting. For many, this means whipping out the essential oils and diffuser. However, this can be dangerous for your cat and can seriously disrupt the socialization process.

While it seems like something natural and good for humans should be good for our little fur balls, too, that's not the case with essential oils. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association says that essential oils can be "harmful" and "toxic" to all pets, not just cats.

Rather than trying to fluff your home up with good smells, use safer tactics to get rid of odors throughout your home while designating certain spaces for your cat to leave her scent and make herself feel at home.

To eliminate odors, try:

  • Sprinkling the bottom of your trash can with baking soda
  • When the weather is friendly, open a few windows to let in a nice cross breeze
  • Clean up any spills or debris right away before it's allowed to become food for bacteria
  • Use a tin of coffee grounds with holes poked in the lid near the litter box (or use PrettyLitter)
  • Grind softened rinds of lemon, lime, or orange in your garbage disposal
PrettyLitter How to Socialize a Cat

Then, give your cat a specific spot in your home – ideally a perch like a cat tree or large window sill – where she can get cozy on a small pet blanket that holds her scent. This will ensure she has a reliable place to call her own and relax when the going gets tough (like between feedings).

Sounds

Cats have extremely sensitive ears. While some noises are out of your control, making a deliberate effort to reduce loud noises can help your cat begin to feel safe in her environment as she becomes more socialized.

For example, make sure to turn down the volume on the TV before pressing "Play" on your favorite shows and movies. Turn the ringer down on your phone and, if possible, mute your microwave buttons and alarm, as well. Let your cat escape to a quiet room before turning on the vacuum.

If your cat is already afraid of loud noises, there are ways to desensitize her naturally without having to resort to medications like tranquilizers.

Ultimately, your cat wants to be a healthy, well-socialized kitty. It just takes some time and a bit of effort on your part to help her get there. By starting with localization before moving on to socialization, you'll have a healthy, happy kitty on your hands in no time.

Do you have questions on how to socialize a cat? Whether you're adopting or your furry momma cat has just popped out an adorable litter of kittens, it's an important process. Let us know how we can help in the comments below.




Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

Author



12 Responses

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

April 17, 2019

@Cherie – Thanks for sharing your story. Just like us humans, meeting new people (or cats) can be a scary time. Your cats are probably unsure of each other right now. In this article
https://prettylittercats.com/blogs/prettylitter-blog/why-cats-fight-and-what-you-can-do-about-it
we talk about why some cats may fight. It could be a way for them to be dominant or a way to protect their territory.
Your cat may be experiencing anxiety because of the change in her environment. Here is another article that may help you understand what your cat is feeling:
https://prettylittercats.com/blogs/prettylitter-blog/how-stress-affects-your-cat-s-health-1

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

April 17, 2019

@Leslie – Cats, like other animals, learn how to socialize at a very young age. It’s possible that he experienced a stressful event as a young kitten or an event that made him fearful of strangers. He may be struggling with feline anxiety. Here’s an article that can help you understand what your cat’s behavior means:
https://prettylittercats.com/blogs/prettylitter-blog/how-stress-affects-your-cat-s-health-1

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

April 17, 2019

@Connie – Wow. CryBaby is one lucky cat. She has new friends, wide-open spaces, and a wonderful mom!

We’re so happy you took us along on your journey and that PrettyLitter was a source of comfort for you and CryBaby.

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

April 17, 2019

@Kay – Life can be scary when you’re a small cat in a big world. Allowing Precious to have her own space is definitely a good idea. But isolating her from her dog roommates could be building up more tension and anxiety for Precious.

Try positive associations with her. For example, when she’s in a common area with the dogs, give her attention or even praise her with a delicious treat.

Of course, slowly introducing her to the dogs is key. Forcing her into situations could amplify her stress.

Have you tried putting a cat tree in a common area like your living room? You might consider doing this. Allowing her to be around the dogs without feeling smaller and vulnerable could help her feel more relaxed around them. Thank you for sharing your story as it could help someone else who may be going through something similar with their kitties!

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

April 17, 2019

@Fran – Hi there! We are so happy to hear that you and your cat are feeling comfortable in your new home. Living in a new environment and making it home can take time, for both of you. Glad to hear that she’s starting to settle into her new environment!

Cherie Coleman
Cherie Coleman

April 09, 2019

Thank you for this helpful information. I have an almost 2 year old female that is small, and I’m staying with my daughter right now, whose two cats are very large (one male and one female). We’ve (the cat and I) have been here for several weeks and have tried all the things you’ve mentioned. She was a bit “skittish” before we came and is even more so now. The two “resident” cats are a bit aggressive, especially the male. My cat (Dusty) immediately starts the hissing and growling when either of the other two come near her. We have put Dusty completely in my (our!) room: food, water, litter box (Pretty LItter), a place to stay on top of a chest of drawers. The chest has a towel from my house with a satin pillow case on top, and shutters on the window to see outside. We’ve tried holding two of the cats in the same room, we’ve let Dust out of the room at times the others are outside on the screened porch, and just holding her and walking around the house when the others are inside. What else can we do? We may be here awhile, and even travel (5 hours each way) back and forth to my home periodically. She is always sitting on top of that chest of drawers or hidden around some boxes under the bed.. I don’t know if this is significant, but all three cats eat the same canned/wet food and a similar dry food and are not fed anywhere close to each other. I hope you have some suggestions. This is very hard on my stress level and surely very hard on the cats, especially mine.

Leslie Carson
Leslie Carson

April 09, 2019

I rescued a 2 mos old kitten whose mother was a farrow cat. My Ricky was considered unsociable. He is very loving with me. He is now 10 mos old and I cannot get him to get used to other people. As soon as the doorbell rings or someone comes in the house he runs and hides. I have tried holding him but that does not work either. HELP!!! Thank you.

Connie Williamson
Connie Williamson

April 09, 2019

I recently moved from a small farm near Fort Worth,Texas to live with my daughter in Eugene, Oregon. My kitty, CryBaby and I travelled 2,000 miles in my overpacked Honda Crosstour. Pretty Litter on one side of backseat floor, food and water on other side. Big fluffy pet pillows in passenger seat with kitty in large soft pet carrier case. We drove 300 miles a day, stopping every four hours to unwind in reserved hotels accepting CATS each night. I took our bed cover from our home bed, and spread it across stranger hotel bed when arriving each day. She never used the litter box or ate during the day, but knowing it was there when we arrived helped keep her calm. What fun exploring a new room, drawers, and under the beds for activity each day.

At the farm, CryBaby had access to large deck outside with lots of wildlife to observe.. At our new home she is confined to two rooms with car tree in one window and huge window near our bed. There are two boxer dogs in main house and they occasionally get to peek at each other. Mallard ducks and Ana a geese roam the yard and pond ar

jean schwennesen
jean schwennesen

April 07, 2019

thanks for the information very interesting

Kay Wheeler
Kay Wheeler

April 09, 2019

I appreciate the article, cat socialization. I adopted my cat from the Human Society. She was 5 years old when I got her, and everything scared her! My son has two small dogs, one a very old dog that was going was during the streets. My main problem is the other dog, he is very active & wants to be near everyone including Precious (my cat). But she is scared to death of Buster (dog). She is terrified of him. She basically lives in my room because she is afraid. At bedtime the dogs are in my son’s room with the door closed so Precious feels safe and will wander in the rest of the house. I have tried taking her in the living room and hold her on my lap, but even then she is so afraid that she tries to hide in my arms. If you have advice to help make her feel safe, I would love to hear it. She is a very affectionate cat with me, but no one else. How can I help he

Helga F Knode
Helga F Knode

April 07, 2019

Someone said I don’t want a cat because of all the work with kitty litter. I told we use Pretty Litter which narrows my involvement down to less than 5 min each day and it’s so easy to work with. Plus my cat likes it!!

Fran Clark
Fran Clark

April 09, 2019

My cat is about 15 years old and was in the same home for all that time until October, 2018 when I had to move. She did not adjust well at first but is finally accepting the new location, which is about 1/4 of what she had before. Now she is well adjusted but I was so concerned because she did not eat, and wouldn’t poop! I was about to take her to the vet when she began eating and being more at ease. She loves it here, can look out the door onto the street which she wouldn’t do before, she is an indoor cat but likes to be outside on the patio when I go out there. It was quite an experience moving for both of us, so much smaller but she i loving it now.

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