Everyone who’s ever had a cat knows they’re emotionally delicate creatures. Operating much differently than dogs, cats make humans work for their affection, but offer it back when they feel comfortable with their caretakers. While some cats may rather simply live their lives without much input from you, a large portion of them are simply waiting for you to show them that they are a part of your life. In other words, in order to receive affection, you need to put some out there. Some cats are naturally more affectionate than others, but all cat owners can work to improve the relationship with their feline by following a few simple steps,
1. Make yourself approachable.
Many of us are preoccupied with life a lot, and that may even be why you chose a cat as a companion‒we all know they’re relatively independent animals. Even so, a hectic lifestyle and a general unwelcoming attitude or atmosphere doesn’t give a cat a feeling of comfort. This will often lead to them not only acting up, but avoiding you.
The best way to change this is to make yourself approachable. Maybe your cat has an affinity for a particular blanket or pillow, so put it in your lap and help them associate you with their comfortable spot. Always be calm and aim to reduce jerky movements or excited reactions while spending one-on-one bonding time with your companion.
2. Play, play, play.
Remember that cats are predators and there’s nothing they like to do more than hone their predatory skills through simulated predator/prey situations. While we refer to it as “play,” and they may very well enjoy it, it’s them acting out their basic instincts, and they’re sure to appreciate your help. Believe it or not, they’re usually well aware of the fact that it’s you holding the string going across the floor, and they know it’s you controlling the laser. They associate this activity with you, and they grow to both appreciate the attention and crave more of it. Most cats have a favorite toy, so anytime you pick it up and take it for a spin, they’re likely to take notice and want to join in.
3. Pay attention to what they’re telling you.
Taking notice of them meowing when their bowl is empty is one thing, but cats are also masters of body language. They’ll tell you all you need to know about how they’re feeling with simple tail movements or body reactions. If your cat is rolling around on the floor and looking at you with friendly-sounding vocalizations, there’s a good chance they’re very amiable and welcoming. Exposing their stomach to you in any way is generally an indication that they feel comfortable.
The most important indicator is always the tail, however. Reading this cat language can be tricky at first, but telling the difference between when they’re in the mood for your affection and when they’re not is very important in maintaining their interest in a continued relationship with you. If someone always bugged you relentlessly when you weren’t in the mood, would you really be interested in approaching them later?
Here are the most important tail tips:
A) If your cat’s tail is straight up and not bent, it’s likely to be feeling friendly, and may even welcome you by rubbing on your leg or hands.
B) If their tail is bent down and facing behind them a bit, they’re likely to be feeling defensive or aggressive.
C) If their tail is swinging around haphazardly, they’re likely annoyed or mad and would prefer to be left alone.
D) If just the tip of their tail is slowly bending back and forth, they’re likely curious or preoccupied and often interested in something specific.
4. Never strike your friend.
Do you hit your friends when they displease you? Probably not. They probably wouldn’t react very happily to it, and neither do cats. Cats respond very poorly to physical harm, and unlike more forgiving animals such as dogs, they will often retaliate and/or become indefinitely fearful of you. Them viewing you as a source of pain is not the best way to to improve your relationship. There are other, much better options when it comes to disciplining your cat.
The first option is tried and true: squirting them with water. While it doesn’t work on every cat every time, letting a cat know that they’ll get sudden bursts of water when doing something naughty is a good way to teach them better habits.
The second option is loud noises. Clapping your hands or finding a word you can repeat loudly will often get the point across. “No” or “stop”, when used in a loud, aggressive tone will usually do the job for all but the most stubborn felines.
The last option is to simply set up harmless traps in the areas you’d prefer your cats not go. Putting tape or plastic on a counter, for instance, will eventually teach them to associate that spot with those annoyances. There are a ton of other easy traps like this to set up to enforce better behavior and they usually require minimal inconveniences on your end.