One of the great things about cats is their independence. If I go out for the day as long as my 2 cats have been fed and have access to fresh water they are happy to come and go as they please. Whereas my dog on the other hand, gives me that look of "how dare you go out without me?" if I don't take him along!
But this independence also means our feline interactions are different to those you get with a dog.
I know with my cats their love and affection is on their terms. And a lot of this centres round the food bowl and meeting their needs. But, because of the relationship I have with them, they're also happy to come and settle down for a cuddle on the sofa or bed with me.
If you would like a more affectionate cat, the good news is there are ways to develop this. These 7 tips will help you bond with your cat and lead to more positive interactions so you don't just feel like a food delivery service.
1. Be More Aloof
Have you noticed that cats always seem to go to the person who doesn't like them? Well that's because they tend not to pay any attention or make eye contact with the cat. My cats always want to be in the lap of my Auntie who definitely didn't encourage them to come near her.
You'll also notice this when you're doing something else and really don't want their attention. Cats love to sprawl over the newspaper you are reading or the keyboard you are trying to type on. So if you want your cat to pay you more attention, rather than chasing after them, try playing hard to get instead and before you know it your cat will be cuddling up in your lap.
2. Be More Polite
Moving towards a cat and going straight in for a stroke is overpowering for most cats. If you watch how 2 friendly felines greet each other they do this nose to nose. The way to gain a cat's confidence is to quietly bend down and gently stretch our your hand a little distance away from them. If a cat want's to interact they will come over to you and sniff your finger and possibly even rub their faces against your hand. Give them time to do this on their own terms and they will be more inclined to initiate the conversation with you.
3. Know your Cats No Go Zones
Have you ever stroked a cat that was purring away one minute and then suddenly got bitten or scratched? Chances are your hand strayed to a No Go Zone. Most cats prefer to be touched around the head area and are less happy about being touched further down their backs, near their tails or having their belly rubbed (completely opposite to most dogs).
Get to know where your cat likes to be stroked. Start by sticking to the area around their face. If you stray away from this area, watch for any body language that tells you they aren't happy.
And if they roll on their backs and expose their tummies do not assume they want you to rub them. This is a very vulnerable area for cats and by showing you their stomachs they are expressing a lot of trust. But when we assume they want it tickled that's when we often end up getting bitten or scratched.
4. Know When to Back Off
Cats do give signals when they're no longer enjoying the interaction. However sometimes we don't see the more subtle signs and only get the message when it's too late. So apart from hissing, biting and scratching look out for earlier signs such as flattening ears, tail twitching and looking at your hand.
Something else to notice is your cats eyes. These will change depending on their mood. So if you suddenly see a narrowing of the pupils and squinting/tension around the eyes your cat could be about to go in for the kill.
The better you get at reading when your cat wants attention and when they have had enough the more time they will want to spend with you.
5. Bond Through Playtime
Cats, especially young ones, love to play. And the more the game resembles stalking prey the better. Wand style toys with something dangling from a string for your cat to chase and pounce on will mentally stimulate them and keep them fit and healthy. This is even more important if you have an indoor cat.
Playing with our cat is probably one of the most overlooked areas of bonding. We probably did it more when they were kittens but when they are older we stop doing this. But there is no reason why you can't play with an adult cat. You may need to work a little harder to get their interest, and make sure the toy is stimulating enough. Keeping play sessions short will work best and can be more easily fitted into your day.
6. Cuddle Your Kittens
When kittens are handled positively, even for a few minutes a day, they grow up friendlier and more trusting of humans. My current 2 cats came from a home where they had young children who constantly picked them up when they were very young. Consequently my two are both very happy to be handled. The crucial time for this is between 2 and 9 weeks old.
At the opposite end of the scale are feral cats who are likely to have had no interaction during these formative weeks. And because of this it's unlikely that they will ever feel at ease with being handled.
7. Know Yourself in Order to Choose Your Perfect Cat
This especially applies to adopting an adult cat. If you want a cat that you can cuddle and pick up don't go for a shy and reserved cat thinking everything will be ok once you bring it home. Look for a cat that suits your personality rather than basing your choice solely on something such as the cats looks or colour. If however you are a quieter individual who doesn't crave a cat's attention and happy to give them the space they need to gain confidence, then a more timid cat will blossom in your home.
Whatever the personality of your cat, make it your goal to understand and notice the signals they are giving you. By becoming a master at reading your cat's body language you will soon tune in to when your cat wants attention and when it's time to leave them alone. And with patience and time your bond will become stronger and stronger.