Bringing a foster cat into your home is an opportunity to make a lasting impact on their lives. Socialisation plays a crucial role in helping foster cats adjust to new environments, build trusting relationships with humans, and foster positive interactions with other animals. In this blog post, we’ll explore effective techniques to promote socialisation and create a harmonious environment for your foster cat. Let’s dive right in!
1. Give Them Space and Time:
When your foster cat arrives, give them a dedicated space where they can feel safe and secure. A small room such as a bathroom or bedroom is a good start. They have often been on transport for a few too many hours and they need a space to decompress and relax after the stress of the move. They may have also been with other cats or have made a bond with another person and be feeling sad or suffering some separation anxiety.
Allow them to explore at their own pace, gradually increasing their access to other areas of the house. They will tell you when they are ready to explore as they will want to get out the door when you come in. Some kitties will hide for days, weeks or even months. While others will want to get out the door and explore the house within a few days.
Ensure there are cozy hiding spots, scratching posts, and elevated perches to provide a sense of security.
Kittens on the other hand should be handled as soon as possible. They often come with their siblings and run around like crazy. Sometimes it is hard to pick them up as they fight to get down immediately. Sometimes they hiss and hide. But if you leave them and wait for them to come around that may never happen and then it becomes far more difficult to adopt them as families mostly want cuddly kittens.
I have found that picking them up for literally a second and then putting them down and gradually increasing to 2 and 3 seconds with lots of pats on your knee works very well. The most hissy and scared kittens can turn around very quickly. Sometimes I have to put them in pet playpens in order to be able to touch them at first.
2. Gentle Approach and Patience:
Approach your foster cat calmly and gently, using a soft and reassuring tone of voice. Avoid sudden movements or loud noises that might startle them. Let them initiate interactions and respect their boundaries. Be patient, as building trust takes time, especially if they have experienced trauma or neglect.
When I spend time with foster kitties, it’s always an adventure to see how they respond. Some are little cuddle monsters, climbing all over me with glee, while others prefer to retreat and hiss if I dare get too close. Some even freeze up like statues when I attempt a gentle pat on their precious heads.
Now, when I encounter a hissing feline, I don’t let it discourage me. Instead, I see it as a challenge—an opportunity to build trust and create a bond. Every day, I extend my hand towards their nose, offering a chance for them to give it a curious sniff. I patiently wait until their hissing subsides and their guard starts to lower. It’s a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.
And then, the magical moment arrives. With consistent effort and gentle persistence, those timid souls who once froze up like popsicles begin to show signs of progress. As I continue to pat their head each day, ever so delicately, their fear gradually melts away. I watch in awe as their once motionless heads start to lean into the soft strokes. It’s a beautiful sight—a testament to the power of patience and unconditional love.
Remember, every small step forward is worth celebrating. Each sniff, each reduced hiss, and each tentative head movement brings us closer to building a trusting relationship. It’s a journey, my friends, one that requires time, dedication, and a deep understanding of our feline friends.
3. Positive Reinforcement and Treats:
Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in fostering a bond with your cat. Use treats, praise, and rewards when they exhibit desirable behavior. Reward them when they approach you, engage in play, or show signs of relaxation. This helps them associate positive experiences with human interaction.
4. Interactive Play Sessions:
Engage your foster cat in interactive play sessions using toys that simulate hunting behavior. Wand toys, laser pointers, or interactive puzzle toys can provide mental stimulation and encourage physical activity. Playtime strengthens the bond between you and your foster cat while promoting healthy exercise and reducing stress.
Sometimes, we encounter little feline friends who seem to be stuck in their own world, hesitant to interact or explore. In most cases, this behavior is a sign that they’re either incredibly scared or feeling under the weather. Once you’ve ruled out any potential illnesses, it’s time to get creative and bring out the magic of dangling toys!
You see, when it comes to those timid souls, the key is to start small. Big, flashy toys can often be intimidating for them. So instead, grab a piece of rope or a trusty shoelace and dangle it in front of their curious little eyes.
Oh, what a glorious day it is when they extend their paw and reach out to grab the dangling delight. Success! Remember, every little step counts, no matter how small. Celebrate each paw’s reach, each glimmer of curiosity, and each playful interaction as a triumph.
5. Slow and Supervised Introductions to Other Animals:
If you have other pets, introduce them to your foster cat gradually and under controlled circumstances. Start with scent swapping by exchanging bedding or picking up all the cats so their scent is on you and they smell every cat when you pick them up. You can also use a pheromone diffuser to create a calming environment.
Gradually allow visual access while maintaining a safe physical distance. Supervise interactions and intervene if needed, rewarding positive behavior from both parties. I often allow the new cat to run out into the main cat area for a minute or two on the first day. That is often enough stress for them and the other cats. Each day I increase the amount of time they have to interact and see how it goes.
Eating together can be a wonderful bonding experience. The worst enemies often forget all about it when it’s food time.
However, I have also had kitties who will run out of their room and literally hit all the other cats as they pass them by. I often use perspex velcroed to my doors so cats get to see each other through that first. It works really well in most cases. But I had one kittie that would run full pelt at the perspex if it saw another cat.
6. Enriching the Environment:
Creating an enriching environment helps stimulate your foster cat’s senses and encourages exploration. Provide scratching posts, cat trees, and interactive toys to keep them engaged. Consider using puzzle feeders or treat-dispensing toys to provide mental stimulation during mealtime. Rotate toys and provide new experiences to prevent boredom.
Some of the toys most of my fosters love include:
- ping pong balls
- cat ball towers
- little soft balls
- cloth toys they can carry around in their mouth
- cardboard scrathers
- cat towers
7. Calming Aids and Pheromone Diffusers:
If you have a vary scarec cat consider using calming aids, such as pheromone diffusers or sprays, to create a soothing environment for your foster cat. These products mimic natural feline pheromones, promoting relaxation and reducing stress. Consult with your veterinarian or a feline behaviorist to determine the most suitable options for your specific situation.
8. Seek Professional Guidance:
If you encounter challenges or have concerns about your foster cat’s socialisation progress, don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance. Veterinarians, feline behaviorists, or experienced foster coordinators can provide valuable insights and advice tailored to your cat’s unique needs.
Foster cat socialisation is a gradual process that requires patience, understanding, and compassion. Each cat has their own personality and history, so it’s important to adapt your approach accordingly. By providing a safe and enriching environment, using positive reinforcement, and introducing them to new experiences at their own pace, you’ll help foster cats blossom into confident and well-adjusted companions.
Remember, the impact of your socialisation efforts extends beyond their time in your care—it sets the foundation for their future interactions and relationships. Together, let’s create a harmonious world where foster cats thrive and find their forever homes.
Become a Cat Foster Carer
If you would like to be a foster carer check out our list of cat foster care organisations in Australia. The list is a work in progress.