Just like raising a child, being a good pet parent involves a lot of thought and consideration into what kind of cat you want to raise. Sure, cats have different temperaments naturally, like people do. There are, however, things you can implement at home that will help your cat to be well-adjusted: more relaxed in more situations. These tips require no special training or equipment, just your time, consideration and patience. A lot of these tips are best for kittens that have come into the home quite young, though there are golden bits of info for those with cats of all ages.
Start ‘em young
The younger a cat is when you are trying to train it or correct aspects of behavior, the better.. It can be very difficult indeed to get a mature cat to unlearn habits. When they’ve recently entered the house, try to be home as much as possible. They need someone to bond with, and to reassure them that this new, unfamiliar place isn’t anywhere to be afraid of. You should give them lots of cuddles and pats, and can even make them into little kitty burritos with a small blanket.
Side note: the kitty burrito technique is great for hissy kitties as they learn to accept your love without having the chance to claw at you first.
Handle with care
Get them used to being handled by you and by other people they know. This helps immensely when it comes to vet visits, as it reduces the stress of being handled by someone they don’t know. With gentle hands, pat your cat all over. Stroke right along the back and the tail, around the face and ears. Stroke and hold each leg and then paw, and press on each toe bean to extend their claws then let them retract. For one pro step, try to gently run your clean finger along the gum line, pulling the lips up slightly. For the final ‘boss’ challenge, see if you can get your cat comfortable with having its tummy rubbed. You can ask visiting friends who the cat is comfortable with to do the same. Also, when it comes to handling, make sure any children in your home know the basics of cat handling, and aren’t rough in their play. Cats will defend themselves if they feel threatened, but a child who knows how to act around a cat will have no trouble.
Get those nails done
This partners with the handling stressed above. Instigating a daily grooming session where you give your cat a good brush. Long-haired cats need this attention to prevent mats and dreadlocks forming, and short-haired cats benefit from the removal of loose fur that would otherwise go in to the making of a hairball. This helps create a bond between you and your cat, and it will feel more secure. Trimming your cat’s nails is another thing that helps them to become better adjusted. This is because they will be more comfortable and less likely to come into conflict with you over their choice of scratching post. Cats tend to dislike this, so you’ll want to make them comfortable on your lap after a good meal, when they’re likely to be nice and sleepy. Again, the younger they learn to tolerate their nails being clipped, the better. A cat that has can have its necessities seen to without freaking out is a more relaxed, happier cat.
Keep your cool
When it comes to disciplining your cat, you kinda can’t. You can use your voice to express displeasure, by a loud and firm ‘No!’, but there’s no point (or goodness) in getting physical. First of all, you should never touch your cat in anger or throw it away from you. This kind of behavior, as well as being cruel, will have the opposite effect from what we’re going for. Your cat will not associate physical correction with the ‘crime’ but rather just with you, making it more fearful and tense, rather than well-adjusted. If your cat is engaging in behavior that displeases you, diversion or distraction is a better path to go down, and then rewarding when the desired behavior is exhibited. Being given treats when it makes you happy will see your cat in a much more chilled frame of mind than the alternative. Also, your mood affects theirs. The more calm and relaxed you are, the more they will be too.
Cats are often known for heading out as soon as company heads in. Getting them used to new people when still young can be helpful for ensuring they remain relaxed around guests as they get older. If you are adopting an older cat, or are trying to get your current cat more at ease with people, make sure they have a safe and quiet spot they can retreat to. Having a kitten handled by strangers is good, but the same can be stressful for an older cat who isn’t used to it. Have guests come around and just hang out in the common areas in a chilled way. Your cat should start to relax, as the visits won’t be associated with a huge amount of noise along with the new smells and faces. You can also introduce your cat to a cat-friendly dog. This is definitely best done early on. Most cats instinctively fear dogs so it’s best that they learn that dogs can be friends while still young. Ask your friends and family about the cat-related nature of their dog and introduce the two slowly and calmly.
Make time for play
It’s important to plan for daily playtime with your cat. It improved their physical exercise and is good for their mental stimulation too. A bored cat is often a stressed cat, and this can manifest in a range of unwanted behaviors. A cat who is kept well-entertained and stimulated is going to be more well-adjusted and pliable. When you are playing, always use a toy rather than your hands or feet. This is a crucial but oft-overlooked step. It’s all adorable when they’re tiny to be nipping at your hand, but a full sized cat that still thinks biting is ‘fun’ is going to do a bit more damage, likely forcing a strong reaction from you, and resulting in a fractured relationship. Simply using the ‘No!’ and then ignoring the kitten for a short time will let them know that that behavior is undesirable. And redirect with toys. Let your cat act out a full hunting sequence, so they feel like they hunted down their ‘prey’ - even if it is a feather on a string!
Explore with your cat
Because cats are seen as independent animals, people can install them at home and that’s it! It’s no wonder that they can get stressed by vet visits if the only time they ever leave the house is to go there. From a young age, it’s a great idea to get your cat used to a range of experiences and places. Let your cat spend time in and around its carrier at home, so it’s not simply a torture chamber that transports them from the comfort of home to the cold examination room table. Likewise, car trips that end in treats or fun activities are great for keeping your cat relaxed and anxiety-free. And to round out the trifecta, the harness. There are leashes and harnesses to fit all cat sizes, so you can get yours kitted out right from the start. Take your cat for walks and adventures, and it’ll become a more confident and well-adjusted kitty.
Keep their health top of mind
A comfortable cat is a relaxed cat, so keeping on top of your cat’s health needs is vital. You can easily keep track on a calendar of the various things it needs. You can administer tick and flea treatments at home, easily, and keep to their vaccination schedule. Schedule and stick to regular vet visits, which will both destress the event for your cat, and nip any budding concerns early on. And having your cat spayed or neutered as soon as you’re able (ask your vet when they recommend but anything from two months should be fine). Being spayed or neutered can have a relaxing impact on your pet, and curbs mating behaviors like yowling or prowling.
Wrapping it up
While some cats are always going to be more reserved than others, you can definitely help to help raise a well-adjusted cat. Getting them used to handling, new experiences, car rides, boundaries and nail trimmings are all fantastic ways to ensure that you end up with a very cool cat, fazed by nothing.