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How to Befriend a Cat

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I'm an author, bicycle commuter, passionate enjoyer of books, and lover of kitty cats. I live in San Francisco.

Looking to befriend a cat? Cats make wonderful friends and hallway adornments.

Looking to befriend a cat? Cats make wonderful friends and hallway adornments.

Understanding Cat Friendship

If you would like to befriend a cat, there are some things you should know about cat friendship.

It is harder to become a friend to a cat than it is to a dog because you must adapt to the cat to gain its trust, whereas the dog will adapt to you. So do not go into it with expectations that your cat will somehow magically turn into a dog and start running to you excitedly to play fetch in the park. That will never happen. It is up to you to be OK with this.

Once you have adjusted your expectations, you will see that having your own calm, beautiful cat friend around will indeed be a joy. It will just be a more lazy one.

Becoming a friend to a cat takes time and love. However, as many cat lovers will agree, your efforts will be worth it.

If you are worthy of its affection, a cat will be your friend, but never your slave.

— Theophile Gautier

How to Start a Friendship With a Cat

Depending on the life history of the cat you wish to befriend, starting a friendship may be easy or hard.

Cats that are used to being around people and being approached and petted will become your friend easily and quickly.

Cats that have had less than stellar relationships with humans will be anything from more timid to downright hostile.

So it is best to always be patient with your first pet. If the cat knows you are the one feeding her she will likely be more open to your approach. Just wait until the cat is sitting or lying nearby and approach slowly. Take as long as it needs. A skittish cat or a feral cat will not be afraid to run away if you get too close. If this happens, don't chase, just stay put for a while and then try another time. For feral cats especially, you may need a lot of time and patience.

A good sign to know if a cat trusts you is when the cat lets her belly show to you. The reason for this is that by lying on their side and showing their belly cats put themselves into a vulnerable position. Sometimes skittish cats will lie down and show you their belly when you are some ways away but the moment you start approaching again, they'll either split or get into a safer position. So it is best to take your approach toward them very slowly.

For first contact, it's best to just stretch out your arm and put your hand out to them near the side of their face. If the cat does not seemed alarmed, you can pet the cat. Cats love having the sides of their face and their heads massaged, but again, for skittish cats and feral cats you will have to take things slowly.

When your cat begins taking liberties, you can be sure that the cat feels at home.

When your cat begins taking liberties, you can be sure that the cat feels at home.

Tips and Games for Bonding With a Cat

  • When you make the bed, allow the cat to be part of the process. You can cover the cat with a sheet and race your hand above it so the cat can play attack, and then do the same thing with the cat on top of the sheet but your hand below it. Just let the cat walk all over the bed as you try to tuck in and straighten the sheets and blankets and see what happens. All of this will make the whole process take longer so if that is going to frustrate you, just skip this game. But cats love it and it can be fun for you too, if you are careful to avoid sharp claws that is.
  • Leave an empty bag or box out for your cat to explore and play in.
  • Tie a long string to the back of your pants and walk steadily around, trailing the string. You can tie a light toy to the end.
  • A stick with a string or feathers at the end makes a great toy for cats.
  • When you first come home make it a point to look for your cat to greet her and give her some affection even if she hasn't come out to greet you first.
  • Pay attention to the body language of your cat so you can learn how she communicates with you. If you ignore her, you'll never learn. Your cat is also learning from you and your daily habits.
  • When the tail is up the cat is showing you she is happy.
  • When the cat is crouched down flat, compact and quiet the cat may want attention.
  • When the cat looks at you and blinks slowly, that is a sign of affection, as is purring, of course.
  • The "me-" part of "meow" is the welcoming part. The "ow" part is the more assertive, strong part. Cats can "meow" in a wide range of variances. You can figure out what they want by their tone, and body language. Cats will show you they want out or want food or want attention. At least, it's usually one of these three. Sometimes they just want to interrupt you.
  • You know your cat has bonded to you if she tries to sleep next to or on you.

Most cats do not approach humans recklessly. The possibility of concealed weapons, clods or sticks, tend to make them reserved. Homeless cats in particular--with some justification, unfortunately--consider humans their natural enemies. Much ceremony must be observed, and a number of diplomatic feelers put out, before establishing a state of truce.

— Lloyd Alexander

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Cat Friendship Rules

  • Do not play your music or TV too loudly. Cats have sensitive ears.
  • Many cats do not like a lot of loud strangers in the house. Make sure there is a safe place for the cat to retreat to when your house gets rambunctious.
  • Groups of children can be especially cat-unnerving. Respect your cat and keep the little devils in line.
  • Do not throw the cat to see which way she will land.
  • Do not abuse the cat.
  • Do not forget to feed the cat or clean out the potty litter.
  • Leave out fresh water for the cat at all times. This does not mean the toilet bowl.

How to Welcome a New Cat

New pet cats often hide under the bed or goodness-knows-where when they are first put in the strange environment of your home. This is OK. The cat needs time to get used to you and to all the attention that you are trying to shower on her. Usually the cat will emerge and start to explore after a few days of hiding.

If the cat is hiding under the bed, one trick you can do is to place the cats food and water bowls under there. This will show the cat that she is being cared for and fed. The next time you feed the cat, move the bowls out from under the bed but within the cat's sight. Don't be surprised if nothing happens and the cat decides to eat late at night once you are asleep, or when you are safely out of the room. Once the cat feels more comfortable in her new environment, you can move the bowls to their proper place in the house.



Understanding Your Cat

You may never understand your cat. Just do your best to be a good human friend.

Play With and Pet Your Cat

There are many toys out there that your cat will love. You can even make your own toys out of balls of string. Cats love to climb into empty boxes and bags. Playing with your cat is a great way to bond.

Cats love being petted, brushed, and massaged and will purr to you to show their happiness. They love to interrupt you when you are quietly engaged in something else, ignoring them. However if you ignore your cat too much and do not pet your cat your friendship will likely suffer. So always make time to give your cat affection and love.

Even though your cat will learn its name, do not think your cat will come when called. The cat may or may not, and may or may not come later. Cats are independent. That is their nature.

You can increase the likelihood that your cat will come when called by always making sure to call your cat sparingly, and especially when you have something good for the cat, like a yummy dinner or a new toy. Take advantage of the times when your cat is happily being stroked on your lap and call her name then.

Feel free to talk to your cat. Your cat will talk to you too, so no need to ignore her.

Meow is like aloha—it can mean anything.

— Hank Ketchum

Training Your Cat

I've rewritten this section because over time my opinion has changed on this topic. For now, if you are interested in training your cat, I would recommend following Jackson Galaxy on YouTube and seeing what he has to say about it. He started a charity which trains cats in animal shelters to give high-fives, and this has increased their ability to be adopted. You can also train your cat to take walks on a leash, to sit, and even to use the toilet - although my opinion on that is that a cat does prefer a litter box.

Kittens believe that all nature is occupied with their diversion.

— F.A. Paradis de Moncrif

Consider Investing in a Cat Condo

A cat condo is a generous gift you can give or make for your cat. The cat condo is only for the cat, not to become your second coat stand. Cats love having a safe place to climb, sleep, and play in that is all theirs.

However, this is not a necessity. Many cats live perfectly happy lives finding nooks, crannies, and cubbyholes to curl up in.

After scolding one's cat one looks into its face and is seized by the ugly suspicion that it understood every word. And has filed it for reference.

— Charlotte Gray

Noodles sleeps.

Noodles sleeps.

Cat Friendship Is a Gift

Respect your cat, treat her well, and she will love you.

Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as Gods. Cats have never forgotten this.

— Anonymous

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Lea on January 17, 2020:

I have 3 Kitties. All of them are from outside. There is nothing more rewarding than gaining a kitties Trust and Love and Affection.Pretty Princess chose to move in with me, very long story about her and how we met and became for each other. I Love my Baby G as much as Love can Love, I know she feels the same about me.

Then there is Kitty Kitty Rosie who is new to family. She was dropped off on my road. I fed her for a year, build her trust, somewhat. Enough that I was able to pet her abit. Well, i Kittynapped her from the world. Now she runs through the house like she was born here, she is the sweetest and tiny little critter. She is a rubber, she loves to follow and rub your legs, and if you bend down, she will rub her body up your side and then slowly allow herself to fall down on your lap as she is strecthing her self out as long as she can go. Then there is big boy Rex, he is big for a cat, I think. He is new, I believe he is Rosie's son, as he looks identical to Rosie. The only difference is, Rex's face is all coloured, where Rosie has white around her little nose. He is still adjusting to his new home, we have been getting acquainted. Slow proess, but there is no rush, for I know he will be a love bug soon. He seems comfortable, he runs through the house now, playing with Rosie. Once I can pet him without any reservations, he will going to the Vet for check-up and shots and get his "hangers" off.

Anonymous on October 12, 2017:

My cat especially likes curling up on my feet, and when I fall asleep he waits for the purrfect moment to pounce and wake me back up.

carozy (author) from San Francisco on June 29, 2015:


Dogs4life on June 19, 2015:

Dogs number 1!

quicksand on June 11, 2015:

There ain't no animal kewter than a kat!

carozy (author) from San Francisco on July 21, 2014:

Thank you, Mel! Yes, that's true, the gentle, loving "kitty" talk really does work. And some people just have a way with animals, apparently you do. :)

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 19, 2014:

I don't have a cat at the present time, but cats seem to be drawn to me. I have had people tell me their cat hates everybody but that same cat will come up to me and curl itself in between my feet. It's weird. I think one of the keys is to speak gently and lovingly to the cat. They really do like that "Kitty-Kitty" stuff. Beautiful hub.

carozy (author) from San Francisco on March 18, 2013:

That's a cute story and very typical of felines. I miss having a cat also. I can't have cats where I live now so I befriend my friend's cats and the neighborhood cats. Thanks for stopping by!

StellaSee from California on March 17, 2013:

Hi carozy, it's so true when you say cats like to interupt you when you're doing something else. When I was younger I would be doing homework when my cat would jump on the desk and sit with me. Sometimes he would like to get in the way by putting his tushie on the homework and it was so cute! Ahh now I miss having a cat.

carozy (author) from San Francisco on March 06, 2013:

Glassvisage, I am sure many cat owners only wish they could have your problem! :)

glassvisage from Northern California on March 06, 2013:

Such a great Hub!! Wonderful and intuitive tips. I'm afraid I am too good of friends with my cats... Now they follow me everywhere :/

carozy (author) from San Francisco on January 12, 2013:

Thanks AliciaC! Nice to have you stop by. :)

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 11, 2013:

This is an interesting and enjoyable hub, carozy, and I love the photos! I've had cats in my family for a long time, and a lot of what you say reminds me of them. Thanks for the information.

carozy (author) from San Francisco on September 07, 2012:

Thank you HubTub! Glad you like it!

HubTub on September 06, 2012:

Awesome hub on cats! I own several kitties and have been around them all my life. Your hub has provided me with much new information, things I never knew before. Thank you for enlightening me.

Voted up + more and sharing!

carozy (author) from San Francisco on July 20, 2012:

love your avatar

carozy (author) from San Francisco on July 20, 2012:

mollymeadows I get the same thing from them. They've train me well. I feed them, pamper them, and open doors for them all day.

carozy (author) from San Francisco on July 20, 2012:

Julie DeNeen lol! :)

carozy (author) from San Francisco on July 20, 2012:

Why, thanks again. I can understand how people feel indoor is better. I guess we always felt our cat was safe in our quiet little court.

Feline Prophet on July 20, 2012:

Ahh...could things get better than a feline friend! :)

Mary Strain from The Shire on July 20, 2012:

Cats can also tell a sucker a mile off. I don't know how they know, but they do. I am a sucker, and they have been taking advantage of me all my life. :-)

Blurter of Indiscretions from Clinton CT on July 20, 2012:

Aw, loved it. But I am a cat person, so I'm biased. My husband is trying to stop my cat obsession. He is failing. Just sayin' :)

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on July 20, 2012:

What a great hub full of sage advice. I love all your cat-friendly quotations. I only disagree on one point, and that is letting cats outdoors. I am a staunch advocate of indoor-only kitties, for their own safety and protection.

But, you've said it all otherwise...approach slowly, treat the cat well, play with kitty, and pet her, and you'll have a dear friend for life. I love your photo of the "hallway adornment" ... so true! Thanks for the follow--and now I'm following a fellow cat lover back!

Voted up, interesting, useful and shared.

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