We’ll be celebrating National Cat Day on October 29. Cats are mysterious creatures that either love us or hate us depending on their moods. It could be that they are descendants of worshipped Ancient Egyptian deities – either way, they certainly make us work for their affection!
Believe it or not, it’s not that hard to make friends with a feline. There are some scientifically-backed ways to help our kitties love us and show it. Here’s how.
Pay attention to your cat – but not TOO much!
Although some cats seem to deny our affections, we should actually make a point of interacting with them. According to research at the Human-Animal Interaction Lab at Oregon State University, cats will more frequently approach and play with a person who is attentive to them compared to a person who is ignoring them.
However, this doesn’t mean consistently shower them in love. Research done in 51 Swiss homes has shown that when humans sit back and wait, and focus on something else, a cat is more likely to approach, and less likely to withdraw when people respond. Another study found that interactions last longer and are more positive when the kitty both initiates the activity and decides when it ends. If we play a little hard to get but don’t completely ignore them, we might find that they can’t get enough of us!
Greet in a kind of cat-like manner
Felines who are friendly with each other greet each other nose to nose. We can mimic that behavior by offering a non-threatening fingertip at their nose level, a few inches away. Don’t hover, just bend down and gently extend your hand. Many cats will walk up and sniff our fingers, and may even rub into it. That’s a welcoming greeting!
Play with your cat
Cats may be in the mood to hang out with us, but don’t always want cuddles. In fact, research suggests that we should try playing with our cats at least once a day to help stimulate their minds and build healthy interactions. Not only this, they need their exercise, and many cats do not appreciate being walked on a lead like a dog!
Be strategic about offering treats
When cats start keeping a distance from us, it may be time to use treats as a way to build up trust. Start by leaving treats out at a distance and then once our cats start getting braver, they start feeling as if they can get closer. Try talking softly when speaking to your cat as they eat the treats so they associate your voice with rewards.
Pet cats where they like it most
They’re very sensitive to touch, and generally, they tend to like being petted in some places more than others. A small 2002 study demonstrated that cats showed more positive responses — like purring, blinking, and kneading their paws — to petting on the forehead area and the cheeks. They were more likely to react negatively — by hissing, swatting, or swishing their tails — when petted in the tail area. A more recent study validated these findings with a larger sample size, and many owners can testify to these preferences.
If you get negative feedback, it’s time to give your cat some space. There are plenty of signs that a cat doesn’t like your actions. These can range from the overt—such as hissing and biting—to the more subtle: flattening their ears, looking at your hand, or twitching their tails. When you get one of those signals, it’s time to back off.
Don’t overfeed your cat
Many think that food equals love and that withholding food might make your kitty hate you, but a recent study of obese felines from Cornell University showed the opposite is true, at least for a period of time. About a month after 58 overweight kitties were placed on a diet, three-quarters of their owners reported that their dieting felines were more affectionate, purred more often, and were more likely to sit in their owner’s lap. This adorable behavior came with some not-so-cute side effects — the cats also begged and meowed more — but by week eight, both the good and bad behavior had abated for about half the animals.
Regardless of whether a diet makes your pet cuddlier, keeping your pet on the slender side is a great way to help them stay healthy and ward off problems like diabetes, joint pain, and uncleanliness.
Despite many cats making us work for their affections, we also know how much we love them! On National Cat Day, make sure you let your cat know just how much they mean to you.