When you choose a new cat to add to your family, do you believe the newcomer has had a say in the choice? Very often, we see stories of cats who have chosen to move into a certain home. They have their reasons. Once settled in, how do cats choose their favorite person?
They must have some ideas about the household, or they would not have been willing to make the move. If they live in a shelter, that in itself might give them good incentive to find a new home. Often they show by their interaction with visitors what kind of personality they have. They also sense unspoken things about the potential new home companion.
Even shelter cats can choose
My Carlos, who captured the role of the best cat I’d ever had, came from a shelter. Though I chose him, he definitely chose me as well.
I visited three times. Carlos, considered a “trusty” by the shelter folks, ran free in the place. He came to the door to greet me the first time I visited.
By the third visit, I’d decided I needed to take him home with me. I stood in the office, with my arms laid across a tall counter that divided the office area from the rest of the shelter. Carlos came in, jumped up on the counter, positioned himself between my arms, laid down and started purring.
I’d already made up my mind to take him home, but that action on his part assured me I had indeed made the right choice. I certainly never regretted it.
Of course, I became his favorite person, as he really had no other choice. I lived alone until Carlos came to keep me company.
Can you truly “own” a cat?
Notice that I have avoided the use of the word “owner” in this post. I believe firmly that you cannot own a cat. After all, unless you believe in slavery, how can you possess another living thing that has a life of its own?
Your cat looks to you to supply his daily needs, such as food, a warm bed, a clean litter box. After meeting those needs, you will find the cat feels safe in establishing his own territory around his new home.
A cat chooses a favorite person because he can see that the person chosen understands how to relate to him. He also sees that his limits are being respected. He feels that the person knows what he likes and what he won’t accept. The cat can bond easily with such a person.
So long as you do not betray his trust in you, things will go well. Know that, though you may lose patience at times with your cat, you must not scold him. Do not shout at him or use any form of physical punishment, as these will generate fear and avoidance.
Instead, use positive reinforcement. Let kitty know when he does something you consider good behavior. If he makes a mistake, redirect his behavior into something positive.
In the beginning, cats domesticated themselves
After all, in ancient times cats chose to domesticate themselves, as they saw humans as a source of food and shelter. Things have not changed much, as cats still make the choice to stay with you.
However, if your cat becomes very unhappy with his living situation, he may leave you and look for another home.
Once the cat has accepted you, how does he come to choose you as his favorite? It’s a combination of circumstances, resources, and personality.
First of all, he now shares your home, so he will try to make the best of it. If his new person can learn to understand how he communicates, that becomes very helpful. Observe kitty and learn how he wants to interact.
Perhaps he doesn’t want a lot of petting. This one can be hard, when you have a strong urge to stroke that soft fur every time you see the cat. He wants to feel comfortable and safe with you, and if you learn that he doesn’t want to be petted all the time, you will get along better.
Some cats are cuddlers. These will enjoy a great deal of petting and lap-sleeping. Learn first if your cat goes for lots of stroking. Give attention and affection to the degree that the cat responds favorably to such actions. Find out his favorite spots for a scratch. Scratch the cheeks, rub gently under his chin, scratch between his ears, or do so gently near his tail. He will let you know which he likes best.
My last cat, Pogo, liked to sit in a chair I provided, right next to my office chair. He’d doze there while I typed, but now and then he’d sit up and tap my arm. That was my signal to stop typing and give his cheeks a good scratch. Then he let me go back to work.
With a new cat in the family, you can develop a certain type of petting and scratching that helps create a bond between you. Here are factors that will help strengthen that bond:
1. Give kitty a meal
First feed him. If you are the one who furnishes food and drink, you will win points with your cat.
2. Take time to play with him
With play, you give kitty positive attention as well as exercise. Cats love to play, as they can practice important skills in the process. By this activity, you will help the cat to connect with you in a good way. And, once they have become worn out by the activity, they might prove ready for a good snuggle.
3. Give positive reinforcement for good actions
If your kitty does something that you like or that makes you proud, give a reward, such as a treat or a few scratches in favorite spots.
If the cat needs some time alone, allow him to have it. Thus, you show respect.
By treating kitty well with good care for bodily needs, keeping him well-fed and safe, and by respecting his way of looking at the world, you will be an excellent cat parent and may well become kitty’s favorite person.
What are your cat’s social needs?
Cats do have social needs. Though independent, they wish to have company. Perhaps spending time with you will meet this need, but it is also good if they interact with other humans or other animals.
If you already have other pets who live with you when you bring your new cat into your home, you must give the animals time to adjust to a newcomer. It may take a while for this adjustment to occur. Here is a post that will give you good information on how to introduce a newcomer. This post will give you clues as to how to make the adjustment a smooth one.
Remember that cats do not have the same needs as humans. However, if kitty becomes used to interacting with visitors, you will find they may also become more self-assured in their new environment.
I have friends here who make it a practice to take their cat along at times when visiting, giving the cat a new environment to explore and new people to meet. This practice can also make them more socially adaptable.
Remember that your cat is not a human
You must relate to your new family member as a cat. Do not treat your cat like a human being. Do not expect him to react in human ways, because if you have such expectations, you could end up treating kitty badly because you forgot that he does not react to the world in the same way as you.
Check body language often on the cat to make sure he has not become upset with you. Do not force interaction if he does not want it. If he does not want to be picked up, leave him alone. Sometimes the cat will remain unresponsive to you if you are excessively affectionate.
For this reason, learning to read the cat’s body language becomes very important.
If you live with one or more other people, observe how kitty reacts to the others. If he seems to show preference for one of them, do not become jealous. Just make sure all your cat’s needs are met and work to gain kitty’s trust. If your kitty is happy and content, shouldn’t these factors be the most important?
If you make sure all kitty’s basic needs have been met and if you love your cat, by giving lots of positive reinforcement, kitty will thrive and grow content. Now you have a new family member who enjoys his environment and may well decide that you are his favorite person.
Here is a YouTube video about gaining a cat’s trust:
Here are the references I used for this post: