How to Bond With Your Cat: Nine Top Tips

Written by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

bond with your cat

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  • With some persistence and perseverance, you can show your aloof cat that you care and get her to warm up to your company
  • Cats will approach a person who’s attentive to them more often than they’ll approach a person who’s ignored them
  • Make time to play with your cat using a toy you can interact with together, such as a feather toy; most cats prefer toys that move over those that do not
  • Make a point to pet your cat the way he likes, whether that’s a scratch on the neck or long strokes down his back
  • Allowing your cat time alone when he wants it will help him feel safe and secure

Cats, like people, have their own likes and dislikes, their own personalities and preferences. Some cats may stay glued to your lap while others may shun all types of affection. If your cat is the latter type, who seems indifferent to your presence or, worse, runs away at the sight of it, there are ways to get back into your cat’s good graces, but you’re going to have to work at it.

Cats don’t generally just give away their loyalty and trust; you’ll have to earn it. However, with some persistence and perseverance, you can show your cat you care and get her to warm up to your company.

To be fair, if your cat has been abused or wasn’t socialized properly as a kitten, she may not ever be the kind of cat who wants to sit on your lap and be pet for hours on end. But in many cases, by tending to your cat’s needs carefully and building trust, you can develop a better bond with your cat.

Nine Tips to Build a Better Bond With Your Cat

1. Give Your Cat the Right Amount of Attention — Cats will approach a person who’s attentive to them more often than they’ll approach a person who’s ignored them, according Kristyn Vitale, Ph.D., a researcher at Oregon State University,1 so play with your cat in a way he likes, pet him and talk to him regularly.

However, don’t push it. If your cat seems unhappy or afraid (such as growling, howling or twitching his tail), end the interaction before things turn sour.

2. Make Playtime Fun — You do play with your cat, right? This is another important step to not only bonding but to meeting your cat’s need for mental and physical stimulation. If let without stimulation, your cat may simply sleep the day away, but given the chance to play, your cat may happily oblige. Try out a variety of toys (natural and organic) and games to see which ones your cat likes best.

Different cats will prefer different types of toys, but one study revealed that the majority of the cats they tested preferred social interaction with humans over food, toys and scents.2 So choose a toy you can interact with together, such as a feather toy that you use to entice your kitty. Most cats also preferred toys that moved over those that did not.

3. Build Trust With Treats — If your cat refuses to come near you, a carefully timed bribe may help. Choose a healthy treat (such as a bit of free-range chicken) to entice your kitty, placing them at increasingly smaller distances between you and your cat as you gain trust. Sit quietly while your cat enjoys the treat, or try speaking softly to her. Eventually she may begin to associate you with the pleasurable reward.

4. Avoid Yelling at Your Cat — Yelling at your cat (or punishing him by spraying water at him) is not likely to stop the unwanted behavior and at the same time may teach your cat to fear you. Even yelling in the home that’s unrelated to your cat may cause him to run and hide. If there’s a problem behavior you need to change, try to get to the root of the problem in a way that won’t further stress out your cat.

5. Carry Your Cat Correctly — Some cats enjoy being carried while others despise it. However, it’s possible that your cat may like being carried, provided you do it correctly, in a way that makes him feel safe. I’ve previously discussed the best way to pick up, carry and put down a cat.

6. Do What Your Cat Likes — Does your cat enjoy being brushed? Then this is a simple activity (that you’ll need to be doing anyway) to build your bond. Does your cat have a window perch where he loves to nap? Make a point to pet your kitty while he’s lounging in his favorite locale. Also pet your cat the way he likes, whether that’s a scratch on the neck or long, light strokes down his back. Most cats do not enjoy belly rubs, although there are always exceptions.

7. Socialize Your Kitten — A well-adjusted cat starts off as a well-adjusted kitten, so if you adopt one, be sure to take advantage of the early developmental periods to ensure your kitten will grow into a friendly, social cat.

8. Give Your Cat Alone Time — If your cat runs off to hide or spend time in his special bed, don’t pursue him. Allowing your cat time alone when he wants it will help him feel safe and secure. Your cat should also have a place where he can hide away from houseguests or other pets if he so desires.

9. Maintain a Predictable Household — If your lifestyle is one of chaos and lack of routine, your cat may have a hard time feeling protected and assured. Cats enjoy being stimulated in their environments, but they like for their homes to be a constant, safe place.

With time and patience, even the most aloof kitty can become your best friend. The key is to make small steps and repeat them until your cat feels comfortable, all while paying attention to his cues and body language. If your cat backs away, flattens his ears or fluffs up his tail, take it as a sign that your cat is angry or fearful and give him some space to calm down.

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