by Barbara George ~ Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
While many cats will feel comfortable with people by this time, they may still need some help in new situations. Cats that are not yet socialised need more time and effort. This is a process that time – as defined by the cat! Each cat and situation is different, and every cat has had experiences with people that need to be re-written positively. Our reaction and interaction has an influence on the time it takes to gain trust; if we become angry or frustrated he can back off and reduce the level of trust.
Once the cat has begun to trust us it is time to expand the program. Whatever we do at any time it is important that he always has an escape route and a safe place to hide. These hiding places must be considered sacred spaces; do not look at him, interact with him in any way and definitely do not pull him out of his safe hiding place.
Continue to interact with him as far as he allows, extending the time and intention of the interaction gradually. Play distance games, such as with a ball, wand toy or laser pointer, slowly encouraging him to come closer.
Begin to groom with a soft brush. He may find this easier if you are sitting or lying down, not towering over him. The head and head are often acceptable places for touch, so start there. Initially he may only tolerate one stroke, encourage him with your voice to accept more. Use gentle strokes, not too slow or too fast.
If he prefers to be away from you, try an artists paintbrush at first. Start with your hands at the very end of the paintbrush away from him, over time move your hands closer to the bristles until you can stroke with the bristles and one finger. Increase to using two fingers, then your hand with the bristles, then only your hand.
Open hands can be frightening to cats that have had experience of rough handling. Using the back of your hand to stroke is less threatening, while still allowing physical touch.
By now he is showing something of his personality, so it will be possible to identify what makes him comfortable and happy, and motivates him to interact. This can be food, games, grooming, cuddles, praise, or a combination of these at different times. Use this knowledge to encourage him to interact more frequently and for longer periods. Watch for his communication signals that indicate he is becoming uncomfortable, and give him space and time to move away.
first we kept everything to a routine so that he could anticipate and plan for interaction. There are always changes in routine when living with people, now is the time to introduce him to change. Only make one small change at a time, and see how he deals with it before continuing. If he becomes unhappy, return to the original routine and make the next change smaller and easier for him. Changes can be as small as moving his food bowl a few centimetres, playing before feeding instead of after, changing toys or games, staying longer or visiting more frequently.
Add extra people into the process. First, a person who comes in with you and sits quietly while you interact with him. As he becomes accustomed to the person being there, that person can begin to interact with him, using treats that he enjoys and playing his favourite games.
The next step is interacting with more people, individually, and people who move and talk, and learning new territory.