If your cat’s behavior is far from friendly try these tips!
1. Be calm & gentle. Take care not to have frightening things happen around your cat or when your cat is around you. First and foremost, for your cat’s behavior to change they need to learn that you are safe and can be trusted. If something happens that scares your cat—say, a book falls off of a table near her, let her retreat and reappear when she’s ready.
2. Be present. This is a biggie. Spending time with your cat is absolutely key to raising a friendly cat. If you’re not around and carving time out of each day to pet, play with, and bond with your cat, you can’t expect your cat to be well bonded and lovey. Make time for your cat. Two play sessions a day, morning and night, should be a minimum.
3. Make good things happen. Think about giving affection and tasty morsels. When friends visit, supply them with treats to offer to your cat. If your cat behavior is shy, have your friends simply ignore your cat until she approaches them.
4. Affection, affection, affection. Baby-talk to your cat, make sure your home environment is set up to be feline-friendly (think things like more than one litter box—“The rule of thumb is one litter box per cat, plus one extra,” Jackson Galaxy says, plus vertical space, and food and water dishes separated), and spend time petting your cat each day—but not too much! Watch for signs of overstimulation; contrary to popular belief, cats don’t attack “out of nowhere”).
5. Teach your cat commands and tricks. To be clear, cats do not behave like dogs; they retain much of their wildness and are only partially domesticated. That said, amenable, well-bonded cats can be taught to do a host of things, including a walk on a leash. For a how-to, read A Walk On The Wild Side. Working on skills with your cat can help build a closer relationship.
6. Talk to your cat. Using a friendly, slightly raised tone of voice, let your cat know what you’re doing. Repetition of words, especially if coupled with rewards, can help your cat anticipate certain behaviors, like dinnertime and bedtime.
7. Gently and gradually accustom your cat to visitors, children, and friendly dogs. The earlier you can accustom your cat to a variety of people, places, and things, the better and easier this process will be.
8. Cuddles are wonderful, but make time for playtime too. Play is a great bonding opportunity and fulfills important cat behavioral needs for your pet if done correctly. Make sure to allow your cat to make “the kill” at the end of your play session or he’ll be unsatisfied. For how to do this, read The All-Important Cat Play Sequence
9. Reward your cat’s attention. If your cat is winding around your ankles or jumps up for a cuddle, put down what you’re doing and reward her affectionate behavior with the acknowledgment she’s looking for.
10. If your cat is extremely shy or scared, go slow. Show your cat she’s safe with you by letting her approach you on her own terms, even if that takes weeks. Give her a safe space to retreat to and figure out what she likes—treats, perhaps, or a particular type of wand toy, and use that to engage her when she’s ready.
11. Pheromones are you and your cat’s new best friend. Synthetic pheromone products mimic a cat’s behavior naturally occurring friendly pheromones that promote a calming effect in cats, help them handle stress better, and are used for communication between cats. For more on how pheromone products such as a spray or diffuser can reduce stress and encourage bonding behavior, read Feline Pheromones and How They Can Benefit Your Cat.