There’s no definitive guide on how to best build up a friendship with a new cat. After all, no two are the same: an action that pleases one finicky feline will draw the claws out of another, and you can never be too sure what these mysterious pets will do next. Unlike dogs, famous for aiming to please with undying loyalty and devotion, cats are known for being aloof and shy, especially around new people. So how can you draw a cat out of his shell? This article will cover some of the most basic steps you can take towards bonding with a cat, whether it’s your own or belongs to a friend. While there’s no way to guarantee every cat will love you, these steps will help you get off to the right start - or at least stop you getting scratched!
Though they may be near the top of the back garden food chain, cats are still naturally vulnerable creatures. To survive they must always be aware of their surroundings, and therefore are wary around creatures that could be a threat to them – including humans they don’t know well. Show your kitty your good intentions by avoiding the desire to rush up to greet him. Instead, let him come to you. You can encourage a cat to approach you by crouching down and slowly extending your clenched fist for a sniff. Try softly calling him or making clicking noises, but avoid direct eye contact: though eye-gazing is a subconscious way of showing human to human affection, in animals it is generally perceived as a sign of aggression. Loud footsteps or a booming voice are both enough to frighten away even more courageous cats.A lot of the time cats will first approach people who show little to no interest in them. This is because these humans are inadvertently giving off the least threatening signals to cats, whereas more forthright parties will unwittingly tower over or crowd shy kitties. It pays to always be mindful of your body language and physical position relative to your cat, and with careful posturing you should see an improvement in your relationship right away.
Food is a powerful motivator in the animal kingdom, and there’s no better way to win over a shy cat than by rewarding his newfound trust with treats. Once your cat is willing to approach you, place down a trail of treats encouraging him to come closer to you. You can deposit your scent on dry or moist biscuits by handling them, so that your cat associates you with feeding time. This is perhaps the fastest, easiest way to prove to your pet that you come in peace! Routine feeding is also a great way to bond with your cat. Put down a fresh bowl of food everyday and your cat will soon learn to recognise the hand that feeds. If you live in a household with a nervous cat belonging to someone else, ask the owner (or “chosen one” as is often the case with kitties) if you can feed him a couple of times a week. This can help shy cats recognise you as a friend in a matter of days. Feeding is a great way to build up your cat’s positive associations with you, and is an excellent means of growing your bond.
Once you have a treat routine established, your cat should become more receptive to handling and stroking. Again, always let the cat approach you for a cuddle and be very gentle - attempting to chase him down or being too heavy handed will only set back your progress. Cats have scent glands near their chin and at the sides of their heads. It’s usually a pleasurable experience for them to have these areas stimulated, so it’s a good idea to start by stroking the top of his head or letting him “head-butt” you with the side of his face. Next try rubbing his back or spine to send him into kitty nirvana. Not every cat will purr loudly when happy, so look for positive signs like partially closed eyes, salivating, or rolling if you can’t hear that your cuddle session is going well.Avoid stroking your cat’s belly or paws. Though some cats adore handling of these areas, most will react by quickly panicking or running away. Wait until you’re adequately bonded before trying this.
Once your cat is less timid and approaches you freely, it’s time to play. Throw a toy mouse or bat a fishing rod: your cat will adore the thrill of the chase and the positive attention that comes with it. Try not to play too rough, and avoid using your hands or feet as imaginary prey – it builds bad habits that you may come to regret later!
By this phase you should have made a new friend. Keep your bond strong by brushing your cat once a week (more frequently if you own a longhaired or elderly pet). Cats love to be clean, and grooming will help them feel at ease and fresh. Some cats will purr just at the sound of your voice, and you can talk to your pet during stressful times to help him stay calm. Of course, it doesn’t matter what you say – just speak softly and reassuringly for best results. You’ll know your cat truly loves you when you see the following signs:
So you see, cats are not really that daunting. Take baby steps and you’ll soon find yourself able to befriend even the shiest housecats.