Pet. Companion. Soul mate. Baby. Friend. These are all words that describe how people feel about their cats. No matter how you view your feline, strengthening the bond you have with your cat will benefit both of you. Establishing a relationship with your cat is like having a good friend, says James Richards, DVM, director of the Cornell Feline Health Center. You get to know someone by enriching the relationship, and you can also extend that to your cat.
Friendship relies on trust, and it applies to your cat as well. Cats need to be in a trusting environment, says Drew Weigner, DVM, diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners and whose practice is The Cat Doctor in Atlanta, Georgia. Bonding is vital for your cats health and well-being. If your cat feels secure and safe, he or she will be easier to handle if you need to trim nails or give medications. A secure cat will also have fewer behavioral problems. Many problems such as litter box aversion, marking and aggression can be lessened or extinguished altogether, says Dr. Weigner.
Enriching the Relationship
Your relationship with your cat will mellow over time like any good friendship, but there are things you can do to improve it along the way. Just spending time with your cat will increase the bond with her. Its like enhancing a relationship with any other family member, says Dr. Richards. Cats want to spend time with us.
One of the best ways to bond with a cat is by feeding her. You can be the favorite person in a hurry, says Dr. Richards. It may be cheating, but it works. If you are trying to win the trust of a stray or feral cat, offering food is an important way to accomplish your goal. Bottle feeding is a strong way to bond with a very young kitten, says Dr. Weigner.
Your cat will learn to appreciate your presence and feel more comfortable if you talk to her. Its impossible not to talk to your cat, says Dr. Weigner. Having a veterinarian who talks to the animals helps calm them down.
Playtime is Important
A great bonding activity and one that will help your cat stay fit is regular play. Find toys that help your cat maintain as much physical activity as possible. Use interactive toys that you can engage in, too, advises Dr. Richards. A good toy is a fishing-pole style toy that has something on the end that wiggles, such as a small piece of cloth that mimics an insect in flight. Use something that behaves like prey, says Dr. Richards.
Training sessions may or may not help you develop closeness with your cat. Its easier to train a cat with whom you are bonded than vice versa, says Dr. Weigner.
Other bonding activities may include petting, grooming, massage, training sessions accompanied by food rewards, or just spending quiet times with you when you are at rest. Not all cats will appreciate the same activities, though. Cats let you know what they like, says Dr. Richards.
How close your cat wants to be with you depends on his personality and, to some extent, your expectations. A snuggler may not be a cat every person will enjoy, says Dr. Richards. On the other hand, an active cat may be an ideal companion for some people but not others.
Whatever activity you choose, dont force yourself on your cat. Some cats enjoy being held while others dont. One cat may enjoy a foot massage while another one gets up and runs when anyone touches her feet. A cat may like sitting on a persons lap or become involved in anything the person does. Other cats may enjoy being in the same room as the caregiver, but not physically close. The cat will make the final determination of what they want you to do and what they dont, says Dr. Richards.
Go Slowly with Some Cats
Are some cats impossible to bond with? Skittish cats are late in the bonding process, says Dr. Wiegner. Definitely dont force yourself on a skittish cat. To bond with a more timid cat, go slowly over time. Start by staying in the same room, feeding him, and talking to him. Do this prior to attempting to touch him, says Dr. Weigner.
Its generally easier to bond with a kitten than an adult cat, but it depends on the cats personality. Cats that have had negative experiences with humans as kittens, or little interaction, may have difficulty trusting people as adults. It may be more difficult to bond with an intact male cat than one who has been neutered. Intact males are naturally more territorial and aggressive, says Dr. Weigner.
Some outgoing breeds such as Siamese and Abyssinians may bond very quickly, while other breeds such as the Persian may be more laid back. When it comes to bonding, theres not an ideal breed, says Dr. Richards. Its different from cat to cat.
Like friendship with another person, the extent to which you can bond with your cat may ultimately depend on your cats personality and how it meshes with yours. You cant force it to happen, says Dr. Richards.