How to Befriend a Cat
Understanding Cat Friendship
If you are worthy of its affection, a cat will be your friend, but never your slave.
~ Theophile Gautier
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.
How to Start a Cat Friendship
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
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.
For New Cats at Home
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
Meow is like aloha - it can mean anything.
~ Hank Ketchum
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.
Tips and Games for Bonding with Your Cat
Kittens believe that all nature is occupied with their diversion.
~ F.A. Paradis de Moncrif
- 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.
Training Your Cat
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
Cats are not dogs. Why make them do silly tricks that are not part of their nature? It is not part of cats' nature to submit to training. Usually they'd much rather do or not do something else. There are professional cat trainers who spend way too much time training cats from kittenhood to do silly, unnatural tricks like walking on only two legs.
Cats have their own nature, which is not that of a dog. They are perfectly lovable as they are. You do not have to train your cat to do acrobats for your own amusement. Just love your cat the way he or she is.
Just because cats don't like to be trained to do ridiculous tricks doesn't mean they aren't smart and can't pick up on things you show them.
Cats, in fact, are known to be very good at training their owners. When they want out they will scratch the speakers and the angry owner will put the cat outside for bad behavior. The truth is the cat could use its own scratching post.
My cat would meow outside my window late at night, because she knew I would take pity and go downstairs to let her in.
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.
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.
Cat Friendship is a Gift
Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as Gods. Cats have never forgotten this.
Respect your cat, treat her well, and she will love you.
More by this Author
How I took care of three blind baby mice and how you can do it too. Instructions and the story of the time I cared for baby mice.