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5 Ways to Become BFFs With Your Cat

Posted 03.30.20 by Christie Taylor, DVM

So you think you’ve found that “special furry someone” that matches your soul, and you bring them home for the first time… but the magic fizzles when your new feline roommate seems aloof and indifferent to your affections in their new environment. Don’t fret – we’ve compiled a list of all of our tricks of the trade when it comes to winning over the hearts of these complex creatures.

1. Play It Cool

Curious Siamese

Cats need space to explore their new digs. They use all five senses to explore new spaces, and they need time and space to map it out. Our tendency as humans is to want to cuddle and hold them right away, but the best approach is to let them come to you when they are ready to interact. Be sure to designate a nice little cozy “hideaway” for them to retreat to when they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. A cardboard box with a cutout serves as a great spot for cats to decompress and process their new environment. After a few moments to collect themselves, they will often rejoin the household for interaction with their new human roommate. They should also have a safe, quiet place for their litterbox and dishes. A clean litterbox is very important to cats, as they are quite fastidious creatures and, much like us, refuse to use a dirty restroom.

2. Get on Their Level

Cat boarding collierville

Cats are intimidated when people stoop over them. They are prey animals by nature, and are easily frightened when introduced to a new environment. Spending some time on the floor with your new compadre will ease their anxiety, and make you seem more like a playmate than a threat.  Speak in a soft voice, and make slow, deliberate movements. Using toys, especially the toys attached to wands, can entice your cat to engage in play, at what they consider to be a safe distance. Laser pointers are also a great way to engage shy kitties in playtime, without hovering too closely.

3. Let Them Come to You

Cat “bunting” with his head.

Some cats will warm up to you right off the bat, others will take a bit more time to read you and decide if you’re worthy of their affections. Not all cats are cuddly by nature… some would prefer to bond with their humans from afar, and initiate contact on their own time. When the cat is ready to bond, they will commonly exhibit certain bonding behaviors, such as kneading or bunting. “Bunting” is a typical behavior of a cat that is attempting to say hello and initiate contact with their human. Cats have scent glands located on the top of their head, and sides of their face, and when they initiate contact using these areas of their body, they are “marking” you as their human. This is quite a privilege, and indicates that they have accepted you.

4. Food is Love

Once your new feline sidekick has decided that you’re an okay dude, it’s time to offer them a yummy morsel as a token of appreciation for their affections. Cats love crunchy treats that have points, so star- or triangle-shaped treats are always a winner. Tuna or chicken are typically acceptable flavors for most kitties.

5. Know When to Back Off

Nobody likes a clinger. All cats have a time limit on their window of affection, some longer than others. Be sure to read your kitty’s body language, pick up on their cues, and respect their personal space. Flattened ears, an aggressively switching tail, and dilated pupils are typically a good indication that your cat is ready to disengage. Back away slowly, and pick up your bruised, trampled ego. After some time apart, your new best friend will be ready to bond again.

Adding a feline companion to your home can be a very rewarding experience, but it is most certainly not the same experience as bringing home a dog. Cat ownership isn’t for everyone, and it helps to manage your expectations of cat ownership and cat behaviors prior to obtaining a cat. By respecting the boundaries of a new cat, and allowing them the opportunity to settle into their new home at their own pace, you will earn their trust, which they will reward with a lifelong friendship.

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