Contrary to popular belief, cats enjoy attention and affection too. Here are some tips on enhancing the bond you share with your own kitty.
Many people believe that cats are aloof, standoffish creatures that prefer to be left to their own devices. But those of us who share our lives with cats know they blossom when they’re given regular, positive interaction with humans. In fact, a cat who has a strong connection with her person is inevitably a happy cat. Let’s look at how you can enhance your bond with your own kitty.
Cats are subtle when expressing affection
Happiness in cats is based on a secure environment, predictability, consistency, and good health. Because they don’t express happiness and affection the way dogs do – by barking, jumping up and down, and vigorously wagging their tails when we return home, for example – people may assume their cats aren’t bonded to them. But they are – it’s just that their responses are more subtle. When you come home, you may find your own cat waiting by the door with a chirp of greeting, her tail up and her back arched for a stroke.
Our own cat, Sofiya, runs to greet my husband when he comes home, and gets pets and treats from him. And I can count on both her and our other cat, Mollie, to snuggle with me under the blankets at night. Mollie also likes to lie on the back of the sofa in the evenings, chirping and “combing” my hair with her claws. Both cats keep me company in my office, and hang out with us in the living room in the evenings. Their bond with us is expressed by sharing space with us, not necessarily by draping themselves over us as a dog might.
Tips for strengthening your bond with your cat
Whether consciously or not, we enhance our connection with our cats in many small ways, thereby reinforcing the affectionate behaviors mentioned above. A stronger bond is achieved with regular attention, praise, talk, and a predictable routine.
An informal survey of cat lovers on social media revealed a variety of ways in which people bond with their cats:
- Talk to your cat. This is the simplest and most common method. Liliya Moyseenko, a Russian Blue breeder, says when you talk to cats, you get closer to them, and they understand you more. And anyone who has socialized feral cats knows that talking to them is important. Rescuer Laurie Goldstein says she respects the cats’ space and tells them what she’s doing and why “in a running banter using a baby-talk voice”. Tom Duffy says he starts talking to feral cats “as soon as they can stand my presence.” Another rescuer, Robert Bruey, says, “There is no bond like the one I’ve made with a feral cat whose trust I’ve earned.”
- Listen to and “converse” with your cat. When you hear a cat “speak”, you can almost hear a question mark. For example, when I ask my cats “What?” I often get a meow in return, and very often a “conversation” ensues. When I enter a room and say their names, they’ll respond with a glance, a flick of an ear, or a raised tail. The “slow blink” is another way you can converse and bond with your cat, and is a way of communicating affection and trust. When your cat looks at you and does the slow blink, take a few minutes to do the same back to her.
- Be in the moment for your cat. When your cat comes to you for attention, acknowledge him and take time for him. “The bonding strengthens so much more if I put aside whatever I’m doing for a few minutes and love my cat,” says Petra Sera. “He comes running to the door to say how happy he is to see me, so how could I think tidying the house is more important?” Tom Duffy adds, “If a cat gets in my lap, I never shoo him off. He will get down when he wants.”
- Give your cat environmental enrichment. Regular interactive play, comfortable places to hang out with you, windows with a view, and controlled, supervised access to the outdoors are all ways you can strengthen your cat’s bond with you, while keeping him happy and content.
- Understand how your cat expresses affection. Just like people, cats have their own individual characteristics. Some cats don’t like to be picked up and cuddled, but will rub against your legs, give you head butts, and show affection in other ways. Don’t try to force a cat to sit on your lap or snuggle in your arms if he doesn’t want to – this will do nothing to enhance your bond! Give him the opportunity to show you love in his own ways, and acknowledge those ways.
- Maintain a routine for your cat. Cats are creatures of habit and can get stressed if life in the household is chaotic or unpredictable. This in turn can damage your bond. Feed and play with your cats at the same times every day. My own cats know that after I make coffee, empty the dishwasher, and give them breakfast in the mornings, I go into my office where they join me on their beds on my desk in front of the window.
Strengthening your bond with your cat involves learning his body language and signals. Again, keep in mind that these signs can be subtle. Take the time to watch your cat and how he responds to you. By spending quality time with him, and acknowledging his affection with a cheerful comment and some neck and chin “scritches”, you’ll soon realize that cats are capable of forming deep connections with humans.