Socializing your cat or dog helps her feel at ease and comfortable in our busy — and sometimes frightening — world. It can mean exposing her to people, other pets, and a variety of new sights, sounds, smells and experiences. Here are some tips and tricks to help your pet socialize:
- The younger, the better. Puppies and kittens between 8 and 16 weeks of age are at the prime point for socialization. They're naturally curious at this age and adapt well to new situations. This doesn't mean you can't socialize an older pet — it just may take a little more work and attention.
- Start slow! At first, keep your puppy’s or kitten's exposure time limited. Learning how to interact with new situations can be stressful, and you don't want to overwhelm your little one.
- Keep your pet healthy. Talk to your veterinarian about your plans to start socialization for your puppy or kitten. Your veterinarian may recommend that your pet has all her initial vaccinations before she interacts with other pets.
- Arrange for a pet playdate! Once you get the OK, invite friends and family, along with their sociable and friendly pets, over to your house. Provide snacks for the humans and plenty of toys and treats for the pets. Introduce the pets slowly, and let them acclimate to one another and their surroundings.
- Keep it positive. Your pet's first forays into socialization should always be positive. Frightening or scary experiences can set your pet up for failure. Begin by socializing with pets and people with whom you know and feel comfortable. You can work your way up from there.
- Attend class. When your pet starts feeling more comfortable, sign her up for a training class. Many pet shops and animal trainers offer beginner classes for pets just starting to socialize. While many of these classes are geared towards dogs, you can also find options for cats.
- Watch out for warning signs. If your pet cowers, clings to you, tucks her tail between her legs, or has her ears down and back, get your pet out of there. These signs indicate she's stressed and isn't having a good experience.
- It's not just for puppies and kittens! Socialization shouldn't end when your pet reaches adulthood; it's a lifelong process. So, get out there — and have fun!
Helping your pet socialize goes a long way toward building a trusting relationship with you and others for years to come.
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