by Barbara George
Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
Once the cat is comfortable in his safe space, and has learnt to trust people, it is time to expand his territory and experience of living as part of a human family.
It is important to keep his safe space available until he is completely settled in the home. This must include a litter tray, water dish, a small amount of food and safe hiding spaces. As far as possible, keep other pets away from this safe space until a proper introduction has taken place and the pets are comfortable with each other.
Begin the process by leaving the door to his safe space open, and allow him to move around as much as he feels able to do. Initially he may only sit at the door, or wander out for a short while. Let him explore at his own pace, do not force him to go further than he feels safe. Try to not carry him to a new place, part of feeling safe is knowing the way back to his safe space.
As he learns new territory, create new feeding and litter stations, gradually moving them away from his safe space to the place you want them to be. Moving these too quickly or too far at once can lead to stress, and inappropriate peeing if he cannot find the litter tray in time. Any stress during this phase will see him settling back in his safe space, and the process having to start over again.
Encourage him with games, treats, cuddles, or praise when he learns and understands a new room, or chooses to join you while watching TV or relaxing.
Create new safe spaces around the home, some high, some low, some private. As he begins to spend less time in his original safe space, food and water stations can be removed. Keep the litter tray there until he has not used it for a month or more – to reduce the possibility of accidents!
Concentrate and reward the positive steps in his socialisation and territory expansion programme. Observe negative reactions or behaviour and put measures in place to turn these into positive interactions; reduce the impact, or remove them altogether. Create more good experiences than bad ones
At some point during the integration he will have come into contact with other people and pets in the house. There are a number of articles on the best methods of introduction, including these:
Depending on the reason for his – real, perceived or temporary – unsocial behaviour, some of the steps outlined in this series of articles may not be necessary, while some will take longer than others. It is up to the cat and the people working with him to determine when – or if – he is considered social. In some instances a reduced level of sociability is acceptable; some cats are just not people-friendly cats by nature, and forcing them to be cuddled will always be too stressful. Look to what you have achieved, rather than what you would like him to be.