What you need to know

How to Bond With Your Cat

Marta Sarasúa
By Marta Sarasúa, Psychologist. Updated: February 28, 2024
How to Bond With Your Cat

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The ease with which you can bond with a cat depends on the individuals involved. While it is a myth that domestic cats are independent, they have their own personality shaped by many factors. How naturally easy it will be for a human to bond with this animal will depend on said factors. Many of us may focus on the cat and see their personality as the obstacle to overcome when bonding. Doing so will often neglect our own role in the relationship. We may think we are providing the right level of care, but many of our actions can be counterproductive when building a relationship with our cat.

For this reason, AnimalWised explains how to bond with your cat. We provide some practical tips on strengthening the bond you have with your feline, as well as point out possible counterproductive errors which are easy to make.

You may also be interested in: How Cats Show Their Affection
  1. The bond between humans and cats
  2. How to bond with your cat
  3. How to strengthen the bond with my cat

The bond between humans and cats

Although cats are infamous for being solitary and independent animals, this infamy is not based on evidence. There are few studies which support this theory and enough very happy feline guardians who can attest to the contrary. What data we do have shows cats are not detached and unfriendly animals. They can establish very diverse links with humans.

A study published in 2021 by scientists from the University of Lincoln defined three main types of relationships that can be established between cats and people[1]. The definition of these relationship types is based on different factors, but the behavior of cats towards their human guardians is one of the most important:

  • Open relationship: according to this research, approximately a quarter of the people who live with one or more cats have a type of relationship which is considered open. The guardian offers care for their well-being, but also provide a lot of freedom to the cat. The latter includes allowing the cat access to the outside. Cats with this type of relationship to their human guardians are usually quite curious, sociable with strangers and affectionate with members of their family, although they are not overly attached to them.

  • Low emotional involvement: another quarter of feline guardians appear to have a low emotional involvement regarding the care of their cats. These guardians spend little time playing or interacting with their animals. Although they are usually friendly with them, their cats are very independent and do not actively seek proximity or physical contact with humans.

  • Codependent relationship: almost half of cat guardians who participated in this study demonstrated a codependent relationship with their felines. They became very emotionally involved with them and spent most of the day with them. These cats display many affiliative behaviors toward their guardians, are more suspicious of strangers and are more likely to experience stress or anxiety related to separation and loneliness.

How to bond with your cat

As you have seen, the relationship that is created between a cat and its guardian depends on several factors. Perhaps the one that stands out the most is the level of involvement of the human guardian. This includes their behavior towards the animal and the time and effort to which they dedicate to their care. The character of the cat, their genetic inheritance, their state of well-being and previous experiences are also very important mediators.

For example, adopting an adult cat which has lived on the street and has had previous traumatic experiences with humans will be very different to adopting a kitten which has been well socialized. Similarly, living with a Persian cat may be different from living with a Sphynx, although we must stress that breed is less importance than care and socialization.

The first thing you need to do when creating a bond with your cat is getting to know the animal. Before you even consider adoption, you will need to meet the cat and find out all you can about their history. This means knowing their physical and emotional needs, practical care considerations, any relevant past events and anything which will help build the foundation for a healthy relationship. In some cases, this may require the help of a feline ethologist.

Once you have laid the foundation for your relationship, you can start building a positive bond. According to a study published by Oregon State University in 2019, cats establish attachment relationships with their guardians that are very similar to those babies generate with their parents[2]. If the caregiver is involved in the well-being of the feline, understands and respects their language, covers all their physical, emotional and social needs, provides security, and spends quality time with them, the cat will most likely develop a secure attachment to the tutor, enjoy their company and lean on him when they feel insecure.

If the caretaker punishes or intimidates the cat, isolates them, overprotects them or does not respect their communication signals, the animal will most likely generate a type of insecure attachment. This will lead to them becoming anxious in social interactions and suffering from health and/or behavioral problems.

Learn more about the communication of cats with our article on feline body language.

How to strengthen the bond with my cat

If a cat is part of your family and you want to improve your bond with them, here are some practical tips that can make your relationship stronger and help you enjoy each other more:

  • Enrich their environment: cats are very active and curious animals. They need to play and freely explore their environment. Placing scratching posts, climbing towers, platforms from where they can see the street or providing interactive toys will help meet these needs and improve the well-being of your feline.

  • Reserve time each day to interact with your cat: to strengthen the relationship with your cat you must spend quality time with them . Observe them and determine what they like to do with you the most. Playing together or relaxing and cuddling sessions can go a long way in improving your bond. Some cats even enjoy learning tricks, so using education can help strengthen our bond and provide proper stimulation.

  • Maintain hygiene: cleanliness is a very important aspect for felines. Although they wash themselves using their tongue, it is worth gently brushing their coat from time to time or passing a damp cloth over their body while you give them a massage. Grooming sessions reaffirm the relationship and improve the bond between individuals. Similarly, it is very important you always keep their litter box clean and in an area that is easily accessible to the cat.

  • Avoid punishment: cats are very sensitive animals and an educational style based on threats and punishment is not only ineffective, it also seriously deteriorates the relationship between the animal and their guardian. These generates fear and rejection in the cat. If your cat has a behavior problem or you have doubts about how to communicate with them, a feline ethologist who works with an up-to-date and respectful methodology can help you.

  • Take care of their physical health: in addition to meeting their psychological and emotional needs, it is essential you keep your cat properly vaccinated, deworm them regularly and offer quality food. Certain unwanted behaviors such as aggressiveness or rejection of the guardian may appear as a result of a physical ailment and not a problem in the relationship. Taking your cat to the vet for regular checkups and when you observe any change in their behavior is essential.

Create a bond with your cat based on respect and you will have a faithful companion for life. Now you know how to bond with your cat, you may wonder when you are successful. For this, we can look to our companion article on how to tell if a cat loves you.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Bond With Your Cat, we recommend you visit our What you need to know category.

  1. Ines, M., Ricci-Bonot, C., & Mills, D.S. (2021). My Cat and Me—A Study of Cat Owner Perceptions of Their Bond and Relationship. Animals, 11(6), 1601. MDPI AG. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani11061601
  2. Vitale, K. R., Behnke, A. C., & Udell, M. A. R. (2019). Attachment bonds between domestic cats and humans. Current Biology, 29(18):R864-R865. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.08.036
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Adopted foster cat. Have had him 10 days. He just growls and hisses at me. I can not pet him. He is healthy. Eating and drinking good. I’m trying to be patient.
How to Bond With Your Cat