Bonding Tips

posted: 05/15/12
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Bonding Tips
©istockphoto/Vasiliki Varvaki | ©istockphoto/Lisa Eastman

Having a relationship with your cat requires some effort. They usually don't arrive at home automatically feeling comfortable. Take the time to bond with your pet and your relationship will be better for it. Here are some tips to help you along with that process.

Promoting Friendliness

Many cats need time to adapt to change. Only after they feel at home will their full personalities bloom. If your newcomer appears shy, be patient. Even the most unfriendly of cats can become more sociable if treated with gentleness and understanding. Cats may be timid or anxious around people because of previous bad experiences. They simply need to be shown that humans can be trusted. On the other hand, some cats are timid by nature and there may be a limit to what you can expect from them. Sometimes our own prejudices about cats dictate a negative outcome: If we expect aloofness and act impatiently, we unwittingly encourage antisocial behavior. Children eager to make friends with a cat may unintentionally antagonize it, picking it up improperly, giving it unwanted hugs or coercing it into play. Animosity or ambivalence shown toward a cat by any member of the household, human or animal, may cause it to retreat socially.

Never force your cat to be close to a person or another animal. This may make the problem worse. Spending periods of quiet time with your cat can help banish his human antipathies -- and offer excellent therapy for you. A cat can be a natural sedative, relieving stress and calming nerves. Cats like to sleep next to warm bodies, both those of humans and other cats, especially in cold weather, and most of them love to share a person's bed. The valley created by two people side by side or the enclosure formed by a pair of bent legs is a cozy hollow just perfect for a cat to sleep in.

Grooming and playing are also helpful in bonding with your cat. Setting up a schedule is one of the best ways to make your cat feel secure. Try to feed, groom and play with your cat at about the same time and in the same place every day. Your cat may be quite content when you aren't around; he will probably sleep. But while they're awake, cats need both mental and physical stimulation. Play is a good source of excitement and exercise, as well as an excellent way for you and your cat to interact. Change the toys and games every so often, bringing out different items to spark interest.

Talking to Your Cat

Chatting to your cat isn't a sign that you're losing your sanity; perfectly normal people converse out loud with their cats all the time. Although your cat may not understand everything you're saying, at least you have an audience that won't contradict with more than a bored blink of the eyes. Cats sometimes seem very intuitive about human moods. Many an upset cat owner has looked up to find his or her feline companion sitting quietly close by, as if offering emotional support. Such responsiveness may result from a feline ability to interpret human body language, a natural talent considering that all cats communicate among themselves in this way. In fact, cats probably read human body language better than they interpret human speech.

Nonetheless, your cat may learn up to as many as 20 different words. Typically this vocabulary will include his name; repeated often enough, the cat usually makes the connection. If you chant, "Come here" at mealtimes, the reward of food reinforces the command's meaning; your cat eventually may respond even when his stomach is full.

A cat will come to associate an entire package of words or phrases, your tone of voice and your gestures with specific activities and things. For a good relationship with your cat, learn to understand his unspoken language and the different sounds he makes. Eventually you'll be able to interpret even the subtle distinctions in your cat's meows and know what he is asking. And if you enjoy having your cat talk to you, be sure to encourage him by always responding favorably to his sounds.

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