socialising your cat at an older age…

…is still possible. It is never too late!

Many cat owners feel that their cat is overly wary of or aggressive towards humans and other animals, and feel that they have somewhat failed to socialise their cat at a younger age.

Granted, cats are stubborn animals especially when they are adults. But can their unfriendly behaviour towards others be changed when they have grown up?

I witnessed the change in Sayang this past year in her response towards humans. At first, when she less than a year old, she hated human children. Many cats do, because they are louder, and smell different. Sayang was so scared of two of my students – her first experience with younger humans – that she hid under the sofa the entire time the visitors stayed at my place. Eventually we got her out and she was shivering as we tried to let the strangers cuddle her.

Now, she is totally different. She approaches younger humans on her own accord, even allowing them to carry her and fawn over her or play with her. She even purrs in response.

The process was simply letting her be and exposing her to the thing she was scared of, slowly. And she is now a cat that is considered ‘good with children’, even towards younger humans she hardly knows.

Slinky is my first cat, and has been very antisocial towards other cats. But she has improved her outlook towards other cats, though it has taken her time as well just like Sayang did. She is now willing to sit at the dining table on a chair next to the one Scooter rests on, almost touching him, without her recoiling or slapping him like she did when she first met Scooter. When we have foster kittens over, she looks at them less glaringly and no longer gets overly aggro when they approach her.

Some cats are more prone towards being anti-social, for example, cats that have been alone for too long, cats that are ill, and cats that have been handreared from early kittenhood, are all more likely to develop anti-social personalities. If your cat is unwell or undernourished, he is likely to be a grumpy cat. Likewise cats that have been spoilt by their owners because they are the only one, and kittens who grew up getting their way all the time because they were hand-fed milk growing up.

Understanding where your cat is coming from helps you to assess the reasons why for his anti-social behaviour. If health is the issue, treating your cat’s health is the foremost important thing to do. When his health improves, so will his personality. If your cat is healthy, then introducing him to strangers – humans and other animals alike – slowly, with positive reinforcement such as treats or affection or gentleness with each introduction – will help him realise that not all strangers are bad.

It is not impossible to change a cat’s behaviour towards others even when they are adults. But the important thing is to not expect them to change too much, just them learning to rein in their nastiness a little is good enough for us, it is the way they learn to cope with their environment anyway, to be nasty or hidden from unknown visitors. But It is likely never too late to socialise your cat.

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