If you would describe your cat as “withholding” then rest assured that many pet owners feel this way about their feline friends too. More so than dogs, pet cats can take a long time to truly trust their humans.
“It is very difficult to win them over,” says Dr Hay In Chung, vet operations manager at Petstock. “We often say, ‘we serve cats’, unlike dogs, who naturally want to do everything to please us.”
Still, Dr Chung thinks it is possible to form a more affectionate relationship with your cat (though even she admits her cat only gives her the time of day when she’s hungry). Here are some tips to create a relaxing and nurturing environment for your pet.
Form the bond early
Dr Chung says that it’s much easier to form that lasting bond with a cat when they’re younger.
“It is harder to form a bond when they’re older,” says Dr Chung, “But it’s not impossible.” This is good news for those of us who have adopted cats that are a little older than kitten age. “It’s just going to take a bit more time.”
Dr Chung suggests a lot of patience, careful observation of your cat’s behaviour and preferences, as well as creating an environment that will make them feel as comfortable as possible.
Have the treats handy
Just like dogs, cats will comply with suggestions or commands much better if there’s food involved. “It’s one thing that is universal,” Dr Chung says. “If you feed the cat, the cat will be yours.”
Dr Chung explains that your cat will be more compliant, loving and affectionate toward any human that feeds them. “Make sure they know you are the one who is doing the feeding,” she says. “That’s the most important thing.”
You can also use treats to train your cat, though don’t expect this to work as quickly as it does with dogs. “I train my cat with food,” Dr Chung says. “So it’s definitely a possibility once they feel comfortable coming to you.
“Cats can be trained, just like dogs, but it just takes a different approach. And patience,” she says. Have a look at some cat treats here.
Know your cat’s boundaries
Here’s the thing: just like people, not all pets like to be hugged.
“Most often their natural preference is not to be cuddled the whole time,” Dr Chung says. “I only get two minutes of cuddle every day with my cat.”
This doesn’t mean that you don’t find the odd hug-seeking cat. “All cats have different habits,” she says. “Sometimes they’ll act like dogs and be very loving without any encouragement.”
Still, learning to respect your cat’s boundaries is very important to extending that bond. “Reading the cat’s body language comes in handy, because I think it’s important to communicate with your cat,” says Dr Chung. “If owners miss the signs and try to push a little too far than what the cat is ready to accept, then your kitty will be worried next time and expecting the worst.”
Create a comfortable environment
Cats are incredibly sensitive creatures and are very prone to stress. Their stress responses can include vomiting, diarrhoea, urinating or excess shedding – it goes without saying that it’s best to keep them calm. “Try to identify possible signs of stress and take care of those first, before it’s too late,” Dr Chung says.
Here’s where catnip and Feliway – a diffuser which releases synthetic feline pheromones – can come in handy. These diffusers work in shifts to create an ambient environment for optimum cat affection. “And when they’re stress free they’re more likely to open up with you,” Dr. Chung says.
Lastly, any behavioural problems in your cat should be discussed with your vet, to ensure you’re not missing any signs of cat distress. “If you’re wondering, ‘My cat’s doing this, what does it mean?’ just give the vet a call,” Dr. Chung says.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Petstock.