It’s obvious to anyone who has seen me and my human together that we have a great relationship. When my human brought me home, she knew she was going to train me to be a therapy cat (all my public cat functions came as a result of that). So she knew that building a trusting bond with me was crucial. And she worked really hard on it. But the truth is that anyone can have a better relationship with their cat — and it’s not that much work. If you are reading this, you probably already consider your cat a family member, so you would probably like to know a few things to make her life with you more joyful.
So here are 10 ways you and your cat can have a better relationship.
- Let your cat set the pace
This is always the most important step. Your cat gravitates towards routine and safety. Anything that disrupts that will at least be viewed suspiciously, or at most, considered a threat to her survival. So when you are introducing a new routine, item, or behavior to your cat, watch carefully to see how she is reacting. Cats won’t change or accept something new to please you. They only accept things on their own terms, in their own time.
- Learn your cat’s own unique language
While there are things common to every cat, each one communicates a little differently. And when I say language, I don’t mean things like meowing or purring, or even growling. Cats actually communicate quite a bit with body language, eye blinks, ear movements, and tail twitches. And what pleases one, another may loathe. Really make an effort, not only to understand your cat, but how they are trying to tell you things.
- Get on her level as much as possible.
This may be easier for some of you than others. My human is fairly limber, so she spends a lot of time on the floor with me. If you are able to, you should do the same. But do keep in mind, your cat is also willing to meet you halfway. Why do you think she likes being on the kitchen counter or tabletops? It’s an effort to be on your level. If your cat is okay with being picked up, you can put her on a surface where you can be eye to eye with her. Or you can encourage her to come up to an eye-level platform on a cat tree for petting or treats.
- Reward her for good behavior; distract her from unwanted actions
Cats don’t understand punishment. They see it as confusing, and maybe even a threat to their safety. Always give your cats a reward (treats, play, petting) when they are behaving the way you like. If they are doing something dangerous or acting out in a way you don’t want, get their attention on something else that’s away from the area where the behavior is happening. Sometimes, a loud NO is necessary to make a cat stop doing something… like the other day when I wanted to chew a fig leaf on a neighbor’s tree. (Fig leaves aren’t good for kitties.) But as soon as the behavior stops, distract the cat with something else and move on without any more drama.
- Expose her to new things, but indirectly
When you have people over or bring home a new piece of furniture, don’t force your cat to interact with it. Give her the opportunity to discover and learn about it on her own. Anything unknown is a potential threat to a cat, so they need to examine and inspect it on their terms. Pro tip: Although I am naturally outgoing, doing things this way has enhanced that quality in me, and it can help a cat who mainly stays home to feel more secure.
- Find out how your cat likes to play and make a routine of it
Nearly every cat, including many senior cats, is playful if you give her a chance. And every cat has her own way she enjoys playing, and a toy preference. Learn what those are for your cat, and set aside a time every day, or at least a few times a week, to commit to playtime. And even those times where she is playing on her own, learn what she is enjoying, and make sure she is well supplied. Boodie has a certain toy preference, and my human always makes sure she has a few of those types of toys available. Unfortunately, her favorite time to play with them (and loudly) is in the middle of the night, but that’s another story for another time.
- Leave the carrier out all the time
Most cats are deathly afraid of the carrier, and my human knows so many people who have an awful time trying to get their cats to the vet because of it. Some become almost feral. While leaving out the carrier all the time may never make your cat love it, having it around will stop the terror of having it suddenly appear. Yes, your cat will know when it’s time for the vet regardless. (We can read your body language and smell your emotions, trust me.) But the less drama that surrounds the carrier, the more it will improve you and your cat’s relationship.
- Don’t humiliate your cat
Ninety-nine percent of cats do not have a sense of humor about themselves. And even so, who wants to be around someone who makes fun of you, and laughs derisively at you? It doesn’t feel good to humans, and it feels even worse to a cat, who doesn’t have the reasoning ability to shrug it off and move on with their day. So don’t make fun of your cat in a way that humiliates them.
- Don’t scare your cat on purpose
If you want to have a good relationship with your cat, then don’t scare her for your own twisted sense of fun. My human and I made a whole video about the cats and cucumbers meme, and why it’s bad. Startling or scaring your cat does the opposite of build trust; it makes your cat see you as unpredictable and unsafe. It’s really surprising how many people don’t think before they act when it comes to this.
- Be available for your cat
One thing your cat needs that she probably doesn’t get enough of is your time. Many people tend to think of cats as low maintenance — you bring her home and she’s pretty much on her own. That’s not how to build a relationship with your cat. Your cat enjoys your company and wants to spend time with you. Let her be in on your activities, as long as they are safe for her. You may find out she is a really awesome companion.
I hope you got something out of these ten tips! Let me know in the comments which one really struck home for you.
A lot of really great and useful tips for building trust and affection. That said, my cat is not a “her” and it frustrates me a bit how so many of these posts seem to casually assume that.
This is a very helpful post. I wish I had read #5 eleven years ago when our Mickey Mouser was a kitten. He was formerly feral and we were making good but slow progress with socialization. Someone came to visit while I was cuddling him. I made the big mistake of handing him over to this stranger. I don’t know if he’s every gotten over his fear of strangers.
Cats in Space says
Terrific! I don’t believe in anthropomorphizing animals, but they are unique and deserve to have quality time once you’ve made a life long commitment to them. My 3 babies chose me, and each has their own way of finding joy and expressing discomfort.
I know the needs of all 3 vastly differ, and their stressors are not the same.
Anyone who says all cats are alike has never really taken the time to get to know more than one…
My friends know their human, and tell me what to do, when to do it, and how.
Thank you for reminding me of the socially correct ways to approach them individually.
I know the female of the pack loathes unwanted attention and don’t you ever comment on her weight or laugh at her!
The eldest brother is a snuggle bug, follow me around, and gets feelings hurt when another cat is on his lap.
The baby brother is high anxiety, food oriented, and will growl anyone off the bed if he thinks anyone is planning to change his routine even slightly. He calls his human to meal times, biting me lovingly and licking while the others wait in the hallway as the alarm sounds. He’ll knock everything off of everything and chew on anything until they are fed.
They all perceive life differently, so they act differently. Just as humans. We can all be in the same situation and take something completely different away from the experience…
LESLEY CASTLE says
This is a good refresher for even experienced cat hoomans!
Smarty cat says
My Human hasn’t figured out #3. They act surprised when I lick their head while they stretch on the floor. Don’t they know, if you’re on the floor, it’s me time!
Purrjamm cats says
Mom tries so hard to educate pet parents to leave the carrier out all the time rule. Many times she’s had to go and help folks place cats into carriers for vet visits. This makes it so stressful for everyone involved. Plus mom get’s to be the bad guy in the cat’s mind. Great post Summer! Thank you for sharing this. We will do the same. Purrs
Catherine Lingg says
Awesome advice Summer. Your human has much knowledge. I knew most as Ive adored cats all my life. I read, rescue and have vet tech knowledge. Ive read extensively about behavior and training. My girls are my family. I need to spend more time with them. Believe me they let me know in their own way when they need more if me
We have carriers out everywhere, it’s like little cat apartments. Mocha and Matisse had a date in her carrier last night (neither of them are small cats)
I think if you spend the time building a relationship with Kitty then they are willing to do things you ask that is outside their comfort zone especially if you do it with them.
The Swiss Cats says
Great list of very good points, Summer ! Purrs
The K Clowder says
Summer! Yous has nailed it on the head! Excellent tips!
Marv, Jo Jo, Kozmo, Cinnamon and Angel Nellie
Lola The rescued cat says
These are great tips, Summer. You and your human have one of the best cat-human relationships we’ve ever known.
Timmy Tomcat says
We love all of these and there are more little ones that Dad does. With our family we all have our own preferences and ways of communicating and that does take time. Thanks so much for all your wonderful posts
Dad and Timmy
LESLEY CASTLE says
This is great info!
Ellen Pilch says
Great tips. I think I do all those things except some of my cats may not be thrilled with the costumes. 🙂
Melissa & Mudpie says
These are all such important tips, Summer! I admire the bond you have with your human so much. It’s to be admired and aspired to!
You know it Summer, you really do! Thank you!
The Poupounette Gang says
Great info, Summer! We would also add to that to Zoom Groom your cat as often as possible. For us, it is the ultimate profession of love!
Tama and Genji
Eastside Cats says
The Hubby is working hard to become Sweetie’s friend, however he doesn’t get on her level…think I’ll suggest this to him!
Sandi Stefani says
Catscue Catmom says
Very nicely done Summer!
Excellent tips all sweet Summer!
Pat K says
All good. Thanks.
The Florida Furkids says
Great tips. Mom always kept the carrier out and Allie loved to sleep in it. Right now she can’t look at it without crying so it’s put away.
The Florida Furkids
Katie Isabella says
I think each one of these is my favorite. I cannot understand why some people find entertainment in frightening their et. Dog or Cat…makes no difference. I guess they weren’t brought up with a sense of responsibility or empathy,
Charles Huss says
That is a good list. Number one is especiall true.
Elizabeth Wilhoite says
Great blog today!
Mickey's Musings says
Those are really good points Summer.
Following these steps should make every cat and oerson feel relaxed and happy.