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How to Bond With a Cat

Tips to help you make friends with a feline.

Adopted and Rescue Cats

When bonding with an adopted cat, knowing its personality can help. The ASPCA’s Meet Your Match program helps shelters predict cat personalities with categories that include active and playful (Party Animal) to more sedate (Love Bug).

Again, give the cat time to explore or restrict it to one room until it’s comfortable. “Some cats are confident and will just march into a new house and be totally fine,” Reid says. Others may be terrified and hide.

Figure out if, where and how much the cat likes to be stroked or petted, and when they’ve had enough. Dilated pupils, fur twitches, and a tail that looks like a dog wagging are telltale signs the cat may be over-stimulated.

“If you don’t listen to what your cat is saying, you’re actually doing more harm than good in the bonding arena,” Galaxy says. “It’s really about what they want.”

“You’re Marrying Him?”

Cats aren’t big on change. Getting your cat to bond with a roommate or new spouse can be a challenge. Some can be downright aggressive.

“Cats can have some pretty significant reactions if they move to a new household or if you have a new roommate,” Reid says.

Acclimate the cat slowly. If you’re moving in with someone, take the cat to spend time there in advance. Bring her favorite chair, toys, and scratching post.

If you want the cat to sleep on your bed and both parties agree, go for it. But if you plan to kick the cat off the bed after the initial bonding period, don’t bother. “The cat won't understand why it was once OK and now isn't,” Reid says.

If a roommate or partner is moving in, have the new person take part in activities the cat enjoys, such as regular feedings or playtime with a favorite toy.

Wild Things

Bonding with feral or wild cats that have had little or no human contact is difficult, but not impossible. Many have limits on how much they can trust and relax. 

King likes to speak in a calm, low-pitched, musical voice, to avoid sudden movements and to sit on the ground. Instead of staring wide-eyed at a cat, she says she also lowers her eyelids “like a lazy cat in the sun ... where you mimic them.”

In the end, it pays to take time to learn your cat’s like and dislikes.

“The big payoff is the moment the cat climbs into your lap and looks at you and purrs lovingly when you don’t have food,” King says.

Dos and Don'ts

Here are more tips on how to make friends with a feline:

Do be patient. Bonding with a cat -- particularly one with a troubled or questionable history -- can take “a lot of time,” King says.

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