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4 Ways to Improve Your Relationship With Your Cat

4 Ways to Improve Your Relationship With Your Cat

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

More by this author

Billy Givens

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

“A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

“That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

Don’t overlook introspection.

While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

“Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

The Bottom Line

You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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