13 Ways to Get Your Cat to Like You
We asked the experts how you can make your standoffish kitty love you as much as you love her. Here’s what they recommend you do—and should never do.
Pay attention to your cat
PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Shutterstock
You should make a point of interacting with your cat, says Kristyn Vitale, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Human-Animal Interaction Lab at Oregon State University: “Research indicates that cats will more frequently approach and play with a person who is attentive to them compared to a person who is ignoring them.” Check out these 17 things you never knew about your cat.
But not too much attention!
Sometimes cats want to be left alone—don’t pick them up or try to get them to play if they’re not in the mood. Vitale says that if your cat is showing signs of aggression (“dilated pupils, a fast/twitchy tail, fur standing up on end, hissing or growling vocalizations”), just walk away. “It’s better to end the interaction before an incident which may lead to a strain in the relationship occurs,” she says. In other words, don’t give your cat a reason to be mad at you. Take note of these 8 reasons you should never let your cat sleep in your bed.
Play with your cat
When your cat is in the mood to hang out with you, don’t always make it about cuddles. “Try playing with your cat at least once a day to help stimulate your cat’s mind and build healthy interactions,” Vitale says. If you both look forward to playtime, it will help strengthen your bond. Know the 11 subtle signs your cat is depressed.
Play the way your cat likes to play
Figure out what’s most fun for your particular cat, because they’re all different. Vitale says that some like passive playing, when they just sit and watch the toy you’re moving around, so if your cat is interested but doesn’t seem to be participating, don’t give up. Others like actively chasing the toy. “In a recent study, we found that most cats preferred to play with a toy that moves, such as a feather toy, compared to a toy that was stationary,” she says.
Train your cat to associate you with good feelings
Whenever your cat has a good experience with you—getting attention, playing a fun game, being fed a special treat—she becomes more likely to expect happy feelings when you’re around. “If you pay attention to your cat, play with them, and give them rewards for coming to you, all of these experiences will help build a healthy relationship,” Vitale says. “This allows the cat to see you are associated with positive things, which may increase the amount of time they spend with you.” Read these tips for training a cat to do life-changing tricks.
Be strategic about offering treats
If your cat tends to keep his distance from you, Vitale suggests using treats to build up trust. She says to start by leaving the treats out at a distance, and then, as your kitty gets braver, putting them closer and closer to you. “You can also try talking softly to the cat as they eat the treats so they associate your voice with rewards,” she adds. Take a look at these 15 hilarious cat memes.
Don’t try to buy love with food
Although treats can be one way to your cat’s heart, be careful to avoid overfeeding (which can lead to health problems including obesity) and also to resist rewarding undesirable behavior with snacks. “If the cat just jumped up on the counter and cried for food, giving them treats rewards that begging behavior,” Vitale says. “If the cat is sitting quietly looking out the window, giving them treats rewards that calm behavior. Pick your timing carefully!”
Don’t punish your cat
Even if you don’t like a behavior, yelling at your cat or spraying her with water is less likely to make the cat stop than it is to make your pet stressed and unhappy around you, according to Catster.com. Instead, focus your efforts on teaching your cat alternative behavior. If your cat is jumping on the table, for example, resist the urge to shoo her off; instead, try to lure your pet with the promise of a special treat for coming down to the floor. To the cat, our rules (no jumping on the table) are totally arbitrary, so doling out a scary punishment is risky: Instead of associating the bad feelings with the specific misdeed, your cat might link them with the room or, worse, with you. Avoid doing these 13 things that your cat actually hates.
Try brushing your cat
Again, if your cat doesn’t like being brushed, don’t do it—avoid stressful and unpleasant interactions whenever you can. “Some cats love to be brushed; others hate it!” Vitale says. If yours loves it, brushing gives you another opportunity to have up-close, personal interactions that give your cat good associations with you. “For those who like it, then being brushed will be a positive social interaction that helps build a healthy relationship between cat and owner,” Vitale says.
Pet your cat in his favorite spots
According to animal-behavior researcher Dennis C. Turner, who edited what’s considered the “cat bible,” The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour, most cats don’t like having their bellies rubbed. Instead, “they usually like being tickled around their necks or stroked down the back,” he says. But all cats are different, so watch your pet’s body language to make sure he’s enjoying the petting you’re giving. Avoid these 12 dangerous mistakes too many cat owners make.