Some cats are total love bugs and will gladly cuddle with any stranger. However, many seem more hesitant about bestowing their love on a human they've only recently met. If you adopt - or even just meet - a more discerning feline, you may be wondering: How to get a cat to like me?
We asked 14 experts that very question. In this expert round-up, they weighed in with proven ways to earn Kitty’s trust and love.
There is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” feline. Each individual has a unique personality and personal preferences. By spending quality time, 15-20 minutes, two to three times a day with your cat you will learn his distinct preferences.
Quality time means being present and engaged, giving your cat your full, undivided attention, whether it’s playtime, cuddle time or a grooming session. Set down the phone, turn off the television and walk away from the computer.
When you’re playing with your cat, notice the type of play he enjoys. Does he like chasing objects, leaping after a feather toy or pouncing on “prey” under a rug?
During cuddle time, does your cat like his ears rubbed (right, left, both?) or does he prefer a good chin scratch? During grooming, does your cat like his head and chin combed or does he relish a good back scratch/massage?
Set a daily schedule for his favorite activities, make it routine and end the session with some of his favorite treats for good measure. Make your time together positive, something you both look forward to every day, and your relationship will solidify into a deep bond. To modify a popular quote, “Quality time spent with your cat is never wasted.”
Ramona D. Marek, MS Ed is an award-winning freelance writer who has won numerous awards for articles about pet care, health and behavior, and cats in the arts. She is also the author of Cats for the GENIUS. You can read more about Ramona and her work at www.RamonaMarek.com.
Most of all, be patient. Allow the cat to have its space while you quietly, calmly normalize your presence which only brings good things: smells, tastes, toys and most of all those loving rubs!
Libbie Kerr has been a breeder of Bengal cats since 1989. She also writes and lectures on temperament inheritance, the importance of ownership understanding, top showing and other cat-related topics. You can read more about Libbie and her cats on her website A-Kerr's Bengals
Keep in mind that cats have a wide range of personalities. Some are cuddly, some are aloof. If you have a cat that is aloof, that does not mean the cat does not like you. The cat may not be fond of being handled but likes to be near you.
If the cat is feral then he or she may not like humans in general. In this case the best thing is to let the cat maintain its distance. Avoid noises, and movements that frighten the cat. Offer food that the cat likes and let the cat have its space. Gradually the cat will learn to trust you. As the cat learns that you are not a threat, try to offer the cat toys. When the cat will stay near you and not act fearful, pulling a string across the floor is a non-threatening way to interact with the cat.
The secret is do not rush, progress at a pace that the cat is comfortable with. Let the cat make the first overtures toward acceptance. In time the cat will tolerate you and may even learn to like or love you.
Susan Bulanda started her career as a dog trainer while still in high school. She is recognized worldwide as a canine and feline behavior consultant, expert in canine Search and Rescue and as an award-winning author and Adjunct Professor. You can read more of Susan's writing on her website and in her blog.
Barbara Florio Graham
It's always a mistake to bribe a cat with food. Instead, offer praise and affection. All interaction has to be on their terms. Many cats don't like to be picked up. Some prefer draping themselves around your shoulders rather than sitting on your lap, some prefer lying on outstretched legs and facing away from you.
Use the cat's name only for positive things. When you scold, say “Bad cat!” instead of using the cat's name. It's important for the cat to want to come to you when you call its name, as it will then associate its name with food, affection or toys and playtime.
Barbara Florio Graham is an award-winning author who writes about cats. She has contributed cat care articles to dozens of international magazines and websites. She created her popular website Simon Teakettle using the name of her cat who had become famous for his letters to CBC Radio. The website contains many tips about caring for cats, including a popular page of free resources.
This is especially good advice for children to follow. Direct eye contact with a cat can be intimidating, especially for shy felines. That's why in a room full of cat lovers, the cat often singles out the only person who dislikes felines or is indifferent because that's the person who ignores Kitty.
For children, try this challenge. Ask the kids to sit on the floor (cat level—that way they won't CHASE the cat), and pretend to be statues. Make it a game to see who can ignore the cat for the longest time. Kitties tend to be curious and often take this opportunity to approach the "statue" and check the child out.
Amy Shojai is a nationally known pet behavior expert, certified behavior consultant and author of more than 30 award-winning pet care books. You can read more about Amy and her work at Shojai.com. Check out her blog Bling, Bitches & Blood too for practical solutions for pets' problems & publishing advice.
When meeting a new cat, the last thing you want to do is rush up to a cat and snatch her up from her comfortable napping spot. Go slow. Strike up a conversation. Do the slow blink. Extend a finger in the universal cat greeting. Offer some play using a fishing pole toy, which isn’t as threatening as trying to pet her. When she’s comfortable being petted, pay attention to sensitive areas and back off if you sense she’s uncomfortable. Watch her body language: If her ears go back or tail starts twitching, give her some space. If the kitty is feral or super shy, you may have to take a step back and just let her get used to your presence in the room.
Keep in mind that every encounter does not have to turn into an all-out petting session. Often a kitty will just enjoy being near you. Let the kitty set the timeline. The time you invest will be worthwhile at the magical moment she finally rubs against your leg or hops up on the desk to offer head butts and purrs.
Sally Bahner has spent the last 15 years specializing in feline-related issues, specifically nutrition, holistic care and multiple cat behaviors. She has offered her services as a feline behavior and care consultant and speaker. Visit Sally's blog ExclusivelyCats where she shares resources for cat care and nutrition, product reviews and personal stories.
Oh, the horror! If you appear to prefer the new guy, she has every right to give you the cold shoulder. Your first allegiance is to her Highness, the Lion Queen. She needs room to dine unbothered by slobbery strangers and a throne of her own where no one can interrupt her royal repose. She deserves your enduring adoration and a Feliway plug-in to ease her jangled nerves. Every cat needs her own litter box plus one extra to share. If you must add to the family, take it slow and remember that the incumbent cat was there first.
Leslie Goodwin is the author of the prize-winning Cat Skills: Loving Care for Cats. You can read more about Leslie on her Facebook page.
A cat has to feel secure before she can step out of her comfort zone and get to know you better. Create an environment where she knows she has the option to retreat and be safe. Let all moves be up to her. At the same time, give her a reason to want to get to know you better by way of playtime, comfort, and food. Remember, it’s about what the cat likes and not about what you like. You may want to hold her but she may not be ready for that. Pay attention to the cat’s body language. Allow her to feel safe and in control. Before you know it, those baby steps she takes will lead right to you.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the best-selling author of 10 books and was the host of Animal Planet’s Psycho Kitty. She is the author of Think Like A Cat and Cat vs. Cat, two books referred to as cat bibles by veterinarians, behavior experts and cat parents worldwide. With a career that spans more than three decades, Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. Her website is www.catbehaviorassociates.com.
Fearful cats require a quiet, low-key home in order to feel safe. I have lived with one such cat for 10 years, and all contact is still controlled by him. I always move slowly in his presence, crouch down to his level to offer tasty treats, never reach down to him if I am standing up (danger comes from above) and do not stare into his eyes (a threat in cat language). I initiate slow-blinks with soft eyes as they indicate you are not a threat and wait for his slow-blink response of acknowledgement. Yawning at him is also a non-aggressive sign.
On the occasions when he does jump on my lap for pets, I slowly reach out a relaxed hand for him to sniff. If he leans into it and “marks” me with his head, I will proceed to petting/scratching/brushing him as long as he likes. Some cats exhibit a stimulation threshold and will only tolerate so much touching before they leave or even nip you. Take the time to observe your cat as he will tell you what he wants through body language. Find his sweet spots, lay on the love and he will be yours.
Marci Kladnik is the president of the Cat Writers’ Association. She has written about and dealt with feral cats and kittens for nearly a decade. In-home fostering has taught her much about soothing frightened and timid cats in order to socialize them for adoption. You can read more award-winning articles by Marci on the Catalyst For Cats website where she volunteers to further promote the understanding of feral cats.
For those cats that don’t like to be picked up or aren’t lap cats, it doesn’t necessarily mean the cat doesn’t like you. A cat might be showing his affection in other ways – for example, following you around, sleeping next to your computer while you’re doing whatever, or meowing a greeting of hello when you come into a room.
There are ways to building a better relationship, too. A cat that doesn’t tolerate petting might enjoy some gentle grooming with a brush - not only will it reduce the tendency for hairballs, it feels good to him and can strengthen your bond. Cats are also drawn to soft blankets and pillows. Place one next to you when you sit on the couch - maybe he doesn’t want to snuggle on your lap, but he might not mind settling in next to you. Talk to him in gentle tones and focus on petting him in small doses and in areas he’ll tolerate.
Keep in mind your cat comes with a history, especially if you found him as a stray or adopted him from a shelter. You don’t always know what kind of life he had, and much of his behavior will be triggered by situations from his past. Be patient and before you know it, you and your kitty will be best buddies!
Deborah Barnes is the author of the award-winning book, Makin' Biscuits - Weird Cat Habits and the Even Weirder Habits of the Humans Who Love Them, as well as Purr Prints of the Heart – A Cat’s Tale of Life, Death, and Beyond, and The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey – A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary. She is also the author and editor of the award-winning blog, Zee & Zoey’s Cat Chronicles and Vice President of the Cat Writers’ Association.
First, when I go to a home that has a cat, I don't ring the doorbell, I just knock on the door; doorbells often startle and scare cats, and I don't want that fear to be associated with me at the start of our relationship.
Second, when I enter the home, I simply sit down and talk with the humans in the house, whether they're clients, friends, family, etc. Usually the cat will arrive on the scene after a few minutes to check things out, but I leave it up to them as to whether or not they want to interact. She might poke her head around a corner, or watch me from the opposite side of the room - that's ok!
After a few minutes, the cat will typically come over and start sniffing me and my things, which I let her do without reaching down to pet or anything. If the cat rubs up against me, yay! That's a big green light—I'll pet the kitty on the head or scratch her ears, and if that gets a positive response, I'll go for a little more. I'll also stop after short periods of petting, letting the cat make the choice as to whether or not she would like to continue interacting.
So, every step of the way, I let the cat choose the terms of our friendship. It's all about choices! (And food...it never hurts to bring a bag of treats along as a nice little incentive to interact if the cat enjoys food, and their guardian says it's ok to feed them.)
Dr. Marci Koski is a certified feline behavior and training professional. Marci works with cats and their people to resolve behavior issues and educate guardians about the needs of their cats. The mission of her business, Feline Behavior Solutions, is to keep cats in homes and out of shelters.
The best way to stack the odds in your favor is by introducing yourself slowly and gently. Start by getting down to the cat’s level. Sit on the floor in the room where the cat is, and then gently hold out your hand, with the fingers relaxed. If you can’t sit on the floor, you can sit in a chair, bed, or wheelchair and this technique will work fine. Say hello in a quiet voice, then be still and allow the cat to approach you. She’ll probably start by sniffing your hand and fingers: that’s her getting to know you. If she walks away, let her be. Stay where you are and relax for a bit and she may come back to you.
If the cat sniffs your hand and then rubs your fingers with her head, that’s a sign that it’s okay to approach and give her a gentle stroke between the ears. She may respond to this by rubbing your legs or sitting in your lap, in which case you’ll know you’ve won her over with your excellent “cat manners.”
Getting a cat to like you is really about understanding cats’ body language and understanding that they prefer a quiet, gentle introduction. Let the cat set the boundary and let her approach as quickly or slowly as she wants, and you’ll soon make a feline friend.
JaneA Kelley is a lifelong cat lover who has been writing her award-winning cat blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003. Each week, the Paws and Effect Gang answers a letter from a reader with advice about health or behavior issues. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers.
Jane Hofve DVM
Then, when the cat looks at you, partly close your eyes to appear less threatening, or offer a "slow blink." Do this every few minutes until the cat's facial expression softens or he returns the blink. At that point you've established a little trust, which you can then build on gradually.
If the cat is approachable—and safe—enough to pick up, there's a more direct method. A friend of mine used it with one of my cats, and I was shocked at how well it worked. This cat did not like being picked up or restrained, yet she ended up absolutely adoring my friend! Later, I tried it with an extremely hand-shy cat, and it worked again!
Here's the trick: Pick the cat up, being certain to cradle and support the hind end so she feels very secure. Hold her just for a few seconds, then put her back down. Each time you pick her up, hold her a second or two longer. Sounds crazy, but somehow the boldness of the move overcame their resistance.
Obviously, this won't work with an aggressive, angry, or truly terror-stricken cat, but for simple, run-of-the-mill aloofness, it may be worth a try!
Jean Hofve, DVM, is a retired holistic veterinarian with more than 20 years of experience in integrative veterinary medicine. She is also the award-winning co-author of The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care: An Illustrated Handbook with nutritionist Dr. Celeste Yarnall. Visit Dr. Jean's website LittleBigCat.com to read more of her work.
Here’s how you Brush Massage:
- Approach from under the chin, never from the top of the head.
- Allow a few moments for your cat to see and sniff the brush before you start.
- Slowly caress from the tip of the nose, along the cheeks and down to the shoulders.
- Repeat- hold the brush and allow the cat to rub into it. Repeat.
- Slowly caress the other side, then continue with long strokes along the sides and back.
Why is Brush Massage effective?
- The brush allows for a connection without actual contact- especially good for scared or traumatized cats.
- Brush Massage is about bonding, not grooming.
- The texture of the brush is different from our hands.
- The scratchy surface may remind them of Mom’s raspy tongue.
Follow your feline’s feedback. Cats will often rub back against the brush in approval and anticipation of the next caress. Continue with slow stroking under the chin; they’ll usually crane their necks up in approval.
Just remember- caress slowly and repeat, repeat, repeat… and enjoy the bonding!
Maryjean Ballner wrote the books and DVDs on “Cat Massage” and “Dog Massage.” Her expertise is working with scared and traumatized cats and she offers workshops in Japan and throughout the United States.
Thanks to our experts who took time to share their best tips for winning over a cat. How about you? Can you share your own tips for getting a cat to like you? Leave us a comment and let us know.