Caturday blogging: Friends, foes, and felines


Cats’ reputation as aloof, unfriendly creatures may not be 100% true, but it also isn’t entirely undeserved. How can you befriend a feline this Caturday?

You may have experienced this situation for yourself: you’re at a friend’s house, they’ve been raving about how cute their cat is for months, but when you reach out to pet it, it gives you the cold shoulder. Maybe you never even see it, and it just hides under the bed the whole time! That’s because cats are not usually overtly social creatures, and they don’t know you very well. Many people, myself included, don’t learn to appreciate cats until they are in a situation where they spend several days or more at a time with a cat and gain its trust.

Perhaps you’ve recently introduced a cat into your life, or maybe you and your cat aren’t getting along so well. How can you earn a cat’s trust if it won’t even come out of a corner and pay attention to you? There’s no easy or immediate answer, except that you must be very patient. Unlike many dogs who will trust anything that has hands to pet them, cats continuously make judgment calls about whom they interact with. Time, consistent behavior, and a bit of bribery may win the day.

One trick that can help persuade even shy cats you’ve just met is to “greet” the cat appropriately. Sit a short distance away (near enough to be seen very clearly but not so close that you shoo them off), and do not face the cat directly. Position yourself at an angle and look away. Wait like this for a time, then extend your hand with one finger out to offer it to the cat to sniff. If it accepts, it will slowly approach you and may touch its nose to your finger. This is permission to gently stroke its cheek, and if it continues to be receptive, it may permit you to pet it further. If the cat refuses to come, wait that way for a few moments, then get up slowly and leave. Try again later. Sometimes you just don’t want to socialize, you know?

WUHAN, CHINA – OCTOBER 22: A judge checks the agility of a MaineCoon cat during the 5th TICA international cat show at the Aoshan Shiji Plaza on October 22, 2016 in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. on October 22, 2016 in Wuhan, China. (Photo by Wang He/Getty Images)

Bribery is a woefully underused tactic on cats. Many cats are tempted easily by treats and toys, and can be coaxed into your space by little feathers on strings or the ultimate reward: wet food. As before, position yourself a distance away from the cat, then offer whatever you’re offering. Some may come running, but give them time to consider and accept. If they do, do not force any interaction on the cat that it has not signed up for. Feed it or play with it until it is tired or full. At this point, it will either leave, or (more likely, especially with wet food) flop over, fat and happy. If it does remain with you, you can greet it as before and pet it.

Don’t be discouraged if neither of these tactics work the first few times. Again: patience is the key. Repeatedly visiting, greeting, and rewarding a cat in this way will build up good will, and the next time you sit down near it, the cat will know what to expect from you and be more receptive to what you’re offering. In every case, remember to make slow, deliberate movements, take things very slowly (especially petting), and do not attempt to force a cat into a situation it has not asked to be in. You can also use some of our tips for showing a cat affection once a bit of trust has been built up — eye kisses are a wonderful way to express trust to a cat from a distance!

Next: Caturday blogging: Cats haven't changed much

Building a friendship with a cat is a worthwhile endeavor. Affectionate cats will play, snuggle, and occasionally even work (as in, keeping mice at bay!) to please their humans … even if we’re not sure whether or not this is out of genuine affection or mutual bribery! Regardless, if you have not taken the time to get to know a cat before, give it patience. Cats are picky fraternizers, but it makes it all the more rewarding when a cat decides you’re worth its attention.