KITTEN WIRE: 5 TIPS FOR BEING A CAT WHISPERER

OAKLAND — Calling all cat whisperers: Roughly one dozen members of the Forgotten Kitten Project are taking up residence in at Cat Town's main Adoption Center. This means you can be part of their success story, helping them build confidence and bond with humans when you come in to visit.

  Photo by Scott Russell

Photo by Scott Russell

But it takes some technique and patience. Since these kittens didn't get enough positive human interactions in their formative early months (why we call them forgotten kittens!), they are now still learning to trust humans as they enter their teens. So, we put together some tips for you, our partners in cat socialization, to help these former shelter cats blossom into the purrrrrfect companions. 

Check out these five ways to becom a cat whisperer to our Forgotten Kittens.

1. TAKE A SEAT 

  Photo by Scott Russell

Photo by Scott Russell

With so many adorable felines friends around the Adoption Center you may be tempted to make the rounds and walk up to as many cats as you can find. We don't blame you! But with some of our shyer Forgotten Kittens, that may work against you. If you bound over to a cat who is still learning to trust humans, they may scuttle away. Instead, try taking a seat on a bench, chair or, better yet, the floor and see how many cats you can lure in your direction. Getting down on their level and showing them you aren't a threat is a key strategy.

2. GO SLOW

It's happened to us all: We see a floofy friend hanging out and we want to walk right up and start petting. For under socialized cats, that may scare them off. In our kitten training sessions, we work on taking very small, deliberate steps toward a cat, moving at a snail's pace, and very, very slowly extending a hand for them to sniff. The experts tell us that in nature, nothing good comes from an appendage darting toward a cat. They see it as a threat. So until a cat has learned that an extended hand is offering all the good stuff — pets, treats, cheek rubs — it's best to introduce those hands ever so slowly. 

3. PLAY TIME 

  Photo by Scott Russell

Photo by Scott Russell

Members of our Forgotten Kitten Project are often full of energy and eager to play once they find themselves in our free-roaming adoption space. We keep plenty of toys available, but every cat is different. Try out a few and see if you can get a cat interested. Pro tip: A cat that watches you intently as you hold a toy is more likely to engage, while a cat that ignores the toy and goes back to napping or hiding likely isn't in the mood. Let that cat be. Just remember that even our young, energetic cats are often not in the mood to play. (Check Cat Town After Dark on our Maddie Cam to see them go wild after the lights go out.)

4. READ THEIR MOODS

Have you seen the poster in the cafe before you enter describing how a cat's body language expresses their mood? A wagging tail = irritation; flat "airplane ears" = fear and aggression; slow blinks = safety and possibly affection; rolling around the floor, exposing the belly = kitty bliss. Take a moment to review the poster and see if you can identify the body language and therefore the mood of any given cat you meat in The Zone. 

5. TREATS! 

  Photo by Scott Russell

Photo by Scott Russell

Our partners at the RAWR Coffee Bar next door to the Adoption Center stock packets of their raw (and irresistible) cat treats. These treats can be a helpful tool in connecting with one of our shyer or food-motivated rescues, especially the endlessly hungry younger cats. Volunteers like me use food to socialize the cats. You can be be part of that process and introduce these treats. Just ask the barista on duty when you check in for your visit what's available for purchase. Pro tip: Potential adopters can ask the volunteer or staff on duty about using treats to engage with a cat you are thinking of taking home. (Why don't we have endless quantities available? Some cats will eat themselves sick, so we monitor the quantity of treats given to them on any day.)

I hope these tips help make your visit with our Forgotten Kittens, and all of our rescue cats, more meaningful. See you soon at Cat Town. 

Learn more about our Forgotten Kitten Project in our weekly Kitten Wire dispatch. Be sure to check out our full series

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