How to bond with your cat

From understanding their likes and dislikes to knowing when to give them space, discover the secrets of successful cat-human relationships.

Even though cats and humans have lived alongside each other for a very long time, we don’t always know the best way to form a bond with cats. While you might want to pick your cat up and cuddle them all day, they may well have other ideas!

Creating a strong and lasting bond with your cat is all about understanding what makes them tick. Cats thrive on predictability, consistency and feeling in control. When thinking about how to build a relationship with your cat, always remember those three points, and use them as a framework to help guide your interactions. 

It’s important to note that if you’re wondering how to bond with your cat because their behaviour has recently changed, the first thing to do is get them checked out by your vet. Some behavioural changes can be due to medical issues such as pain or age-related health problems.

1. Let your cat set the pace

When it comes to cats, less is always more. Rather than try to force your cat to bond with you (which will never work!), allow them to choose how often you both interact. Look for happy and relaxed feline body language, such as an upright tail or your cat showing you their belly. You could also try Cats Protection’s online course to learn more about your cat’s needs.

If a cat feels frightened or threatened, their natural reaction is often to run away and hide. Rather than following your cat and trying to remove them from their hiding place, allow time for their stress levels to reduce naturally. If your cat wasn’t well-socialised when they were a kitten, you may need to do some extra work with them, too. In this case, speaking to a qualified behaviourist could help you work out a plan of action for how to bond with your cat.

2. Follow the three-second rule

This is a good rule to follow for all interactions with your cat while you’re trying to bond with them. If your cat comes to you looking for attention, great! Stroke them for three seconds, then stop. Wait and see if your cat comes back for more. If they do, offer another three seconds of interaction, and so on.

If your cat walks away, however, respect their boundaries and know this is their way of saying ‘no more attention right now, please’. As they start to learn that you won’t pressure them into anything they don’t want to do, you’ll probably find they approach you a lot more!

3. How to slow blink at your cat

Ever wondered why cats blink at you slowly from time to time? Research has found that a slow blink in cats can be compared to us smiling. This knowledge can be used to help strengthen the bond between you and your cat, letting them know you’re on the same wavelength. Scientists discovered that cats were more likely to approach and respond to people after they saw them blinking slowly. You can try this with your own cat – just make sure you’re not giving them too much direct eye contact. Blink slowly at your cat, then look away and down slightly, and see if they blink back!

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4. Find cat activities to enjoy together

Taking the time to find out which activities your cat enjoys best is a great way to spend more time together. Lots of cats love playing with food puzzles, so set them a challenge, show them how to use it to avoid boredom or frustration, and then watch to see how they solve it. Cats have a variety of play styles and preferences, so experiment with different types of toys to see which your cat prefers. Adding a few short, structured play sessions into your day can be a great way to spend time with your cat, and doesn’t have to be a huge commitment. Just a few minutes once or twice a day is enough! 

Spending time grooming your cat can also be a good bonding activity, as well as helping keep their coat in good condition. Ideally, your cat should be introduced to a grooming routine while they’re young, but if that’s not possible, be sure to introduce them to being groomed slowly and carefully, so that it’s a positive experience for both of you.

5. Play it cool (for cats)

If you’re desperate to bond with your cat, but they just don’t seem interested, it can feel a little disheartening. But it’s not personal! Cats often prefer non-threatening body language, including no direct eye contact. That’s why they’ll often approach people who aren’t actually interested in interacting with them. Pay attention to your cat’s body language, let them set the pace for your interactions and watch out for those telltale signs that your cat loves you. Before you know it, your relationship with your cat will be stronger than ever before.

Have you tried the ‘slow blink’ technique with your cat? Tag us on social media using #PethoodStories to let us know how you got on!

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