How to Bond with Your Cat

If you own a dog, you are likely used to being greeted at the door when you come home and showered with lots of kisses and tail wags. Just because your cat may not react the same way after not seeing you for a while, doesn’t mean he loves you any less!

Woman cuddling and bonding with cat

Felines show their affection in different ways. Learning their body language can help you bond with them.

Cats are often unfairly compared to dogs, with people labeling them as independent, aloof, and even mean. The truth is, whereas humans domesticated dogs purposefully and crafted them into exactly what we wanted them to be – man’s best friend – cats domesticated themselves. One day, many years ago, a cat learned that if they hung around humans and their crops, there would be an ample supply of pests and rodents for them to feast on. This was mutually beneficial to the humans, as cats were a free, no-effort form of pest control. And so, a great partnership began!

Modern domestic cats share almost all of the same genetic makeup as their ancient ancestors. This is because they chose to domesticate themselves and controlled the process. Humans were just along for the ride! This means the way they choose to interact with us is entirely their idea, while humans purposely molded dogs into the happy-go-lucky, friendly, affectionate animals they are today. This doesn’t mean cats aren’t affectionate. It just means that they show their affection and love in a more subtle, different way than we are used to.

Ways Your Cat Says “I Love You”

  • Slow blinking. Have you ever looked over at your cat and gotten a slow, lazy blink back? This is actually a sign your cat trusts you completely. If a cat is nervous or scared, he will not take his eyes off you. Give him a slow blink back to let him know you feel the same way. It’s almost like a kitty kiss!
  • Being near you. Not all cats are lap cats. It’s great if your cat is a snuggler, but if he’s not, that doesn’t mean he loves you any less. Does your cat spend the majority of his time near you, or in the same room as you? If he is sitting in his cat tree in the living room while you watch TV, or snoozing on a shelf in your bedroom at night, he is actively choosing to be around you when he could be off in another room.
  • Cheek rubs, headbutts, and grooming. Your cat has scent glands in his cheeks, so when he rubs on you, he’s making sure you smell like him. Cats like to create a “group scent” and mix their scent around in multiple cat households, so he’s just saying you belong with him. Headbutts are very similar in that they deposit the cat’s scent onto you and are a way of asking for affection. Licking you or grooming you is the ultimate sign of affection! It’s another way to help your scents mingle.

    Man bonds with cat who rubs against his leg

    Cats rub on you to make sure you smell like them, creating a “group scent."

  • Showing off his belly. Much like slow blinking, this is the ultimate sign of trust. And no, it does not mean that he wants his belly rubbed! The belly is the cat’s most vulnerable spot if he were to be attacked, so showing it off means that he feels very safe around you.
  • Kneading or making biscuits. If your cat kneads his paws on you (even if his claws are involved), he is mimicking the action he would make as a baby kitten to help his mother release her milk so he can nurse. It can be a self-soothing behavior, and a sign that your cat is feeling comfortable and safe.

Still not feeling very loved? Just like people, cats have their own individual “love languages.” If your cat isn’t particularly outgoing with his affection, there are tons of ways to bond with him outside of just petting and cuddling. Try learning the body language of your cat so you know when it’s time for a snuggle, and when it’s time to enjoy each other’s company from afar. You can also try some of these tips below!

Bonding With Your Cat

  • Give your cat choice. Would you like it if someone walked up to you and just started touching you without your permission? Even if it’s a close friend or family member, you would probably appreciate a heads-up, especially if you were napping or bathing! Your cat feels the same way. A simple consent test goes a long way. Just hold your hand out to your cat, and if he closes the distance and solicits attention, you know it’s safe to pet him. If you get any other reaction, you’ll know that he probably doesn’t want to be touched right now. Choice can also be applied in other situations, like brushing and nail trims. Remember that these tasks don’t have to be completed all in one sitting. If your cat isn’t a big fan of brushing, just do one side and give him a break when he gets up and leaves. You can trim one nail at a time as well, and provide a tasty treat like Hartz® Delectables™ as a distraction so that nail trims become a positive experience!
  • Feeding treats. Speaking of Delectables™, everyone knows that the real key to your cat’s heart is through his stomach. Squeeze Up™ wet treats are great to use for a bonding session with your cat, since they involve you! Tear off the top of the tube and squeeze up to feed your cat the delicious wet treat directly from the package. Adding a couple special treats to your cat’s daily routine is a surefire way to strengthen your bond.
  • Play therapy. Your cat may look cute and cuddly, but inside that tiny 10-pound body is a vicious predator. Your cat needs daily playtime to satisfy their inner hunter and in turn keep them busy and out of trouble. Interactive play – meaning play involving the human, too – is especially important. Get out that laser pointer or feather wand and go crazy! You may start to notice your cat going up to his toys and meowing at you, or even bringing toys to you. That’s him saying he enjoys his playtime with you!

    Woman bonds with cat as she feeds him a treat

    Squeeze Up™ wet treats are great to use for a bonding session with your cat.

  • Create a cat-friendly environment. “Cat friendly” can mean a variety of things, from the physical environment they live in itself to the schedule and routine of the household. Creating a home where your cat feels comfortable and happy and has easy access to all of his resources will bring you closer together. Hiding places, vertical space, appropriate litter box set-ups, and easy access to comfortable and safe sleeping spaces are all important, as is providing appropriate enrichment items. Cats thrive on a predictable routine, so feeding and playing with your cat around the same time every day will make a big difference.
  • Clicker training. Yes, you can train your cat! Teaching your cat new tricks is a great way to increase your bond. Your cat can learn to sit, lay down, and even give high fives. Be sure to use positive reinforcement and don’t be stingy on the treats!
  • Avoid punishment. The worst thing you can do when trying to create a strong bond with your cat is the use of punishment. This includes squirt bottles, yelling, and anything else your cat may find scary or unpleasant. It can be frustrating when your cat gets up on your counters or scratches your furniture, but try to change your mindset to teaching the cat what you want him to do, rather than what you don’t want him to do. That means providing him with appropriate places to climb if he’s a counter-surfer or rubbing catnip on a scratching post and placing it near the couch if he’s a scratcher.

There is so much more to life with your cat than you may think! Getting closer to your cat and nurturing your relationship with him is entirely possible once you understand his wants and needs. Go out and have fun together!

Hartz Just For Cats® Twirl and Whirl® Cat Toy
Delectables™ SqueezeUp™ Chicken & Tuna Variety 10 Count