Lucinda: A welcome greeting to all of you two-legged readers who wish to learn more about cat behavior solutions. This 21st “Letters to Lucinda” column will cover a most important issue — that of cat and two-legged bonding. What factors cause a cat to bond with such a totally different species of animal?
The first letter from our mailbox comes from a cat parent named Roberta. She has the following question:
Roberta: Lucinda, I am not sure what to do. I selected a lovely cat from the Animal Shelter and brought him home, hoping he and I would bond and become forever friends. However, he remains quite aloof, and doesn’t seem to want to show any affection. The only time he’s glad to see me centers around meal-time. What can I do to get him to bond with me?
Lucinda: It will prove helpful that your cat understands that he gets his food from you. You can build a bond around that connection. However, you must do other things besides feeding him. We cats do like to know the next meal will arrive on time.
Do you talk to him? Do you play with him? These two actions will prove most helpful. If you talk to him enough, he will begin to learn your language, and that helps a great deal.
Then, if you play with him every day, not just once in a while, you will help along the bonding process and will relieve any boredom he may feel. Our crazy antics may help you to get rid of boredom as well!
What toys do you provide him? Would he chase a laser pointer or a wand toy? Does he like balls that roll or springs that he can chase and carry around? We cats have strong hunting instincts, and if you can provide a simulated hunt for us, we will enjoy it and feel grateful.
Supply comfy places to sleep in high perches so your cat can rise above the crowd. And, most important, invite your cat to sleep with you. If your cat will join you on your bed, it can go a long way toward creating a bond.
Do you give treats? These will create positive reinforcement, and your cat may feel more inclined to interact with you. At treat time, you might try tossing kibble in the air, one piece at a time, and let your kitty catch them. Thus you turn a snack into a game.
How about grooming? Consider how you would feel if you wore a fur coat all the time and had to lick it to keep it clean. You might appreciate a bit of grooming help. So, brushing your kitty every day for a short time is a good idea.
Petting and attention are good, but sometimes can provide too much of a good thing. What does your kitty’s body tell you? Is that tail quite active? Perhaps your cat needs some alone time. Understanding this need can help lower stress and irritation in your kitty. He’s more apt to bond if he does not feel stressed.
Try a cat pheromone dispenser to help allieve anxiety. You can reduce your cat’s stress by using one of these, and then kitty may find more reason to bond with you. I love that pheromone dispenser in our bedroom! I just can’t figure out where they found a cat small enough to fit in there.
Use your softest “kitty voice” to speak with your cat. Sometimes your voice alone can prove downright scary to a cat. Never yell at kitty and do not punish him. He will not understand the reason for the punishment, and it may increase his distrust of you.
Above all, be patient. Respect kitty’s personality and boundaries, and let your relationship develop naturally. Good luck with your bonding adventure — may you and your cat build a rewarding relationship that becomes very satisfying for both of you.
Now, our next question comes from a cat named Felicity. It seems she has quite a different problem. Learn about what Felicity has to deal with:
Felicity: Lucinda, my problem might seem unusual. I share a home with a two-legged who cares for me a great deal. In fact, I’d say she’s one of those two-leggeds that loves too much. She wants constant interaction from me. She follows me around, picks me up all the time, and wakes me from a perfectly good nap. Fortunately, she works during the day, and I give a sigh of relief when she leaves. The situation has gotten so bad that I’ve considered running away. What should I do?
Lucinda: You have a difficult problem. Not speaking each other’s language can lead to so much misunderstanding. Perhaps you can find a way to get your two-legged to read this column. That might help.
It looks to me like the biggest lesson your two-legged needs to learn stems from her erroneous belief that she can force a bond just by giving you too much attention. She needs to learn to do things on your terms and to let you come to her when you want attention.
Her behavior stresses you, and you will more than likely respond by hiding from her. She needs to learn the signs that you are stressed, and to leave you alone at such times. Does she try to read your body language? Does she understand why your tail twitches or waves from side to side?
That’s a signal: “Don’t bother me.” She needs to learn to pay attention to the signal. Also, it does not please most cats to be picked up and carried around all the time, and they certainly don’t appreciate being held against their will.
She also needs to become aware that by overstimulating you, she may find you become aggressive. After all, if you continually get too much of a good thing, you may go on the defensive and attack. Unfortunately, you’d probably get more than you bargained for, so don’t try that.
Perhaps if your two-legged tried some positive actions, such as playing with you with an interactive toy, or offering treats now and then, you might find her a bit easier to deal with.
It seems to me that your two-legged needs to read a cat manual, so she can learn more about us. It is so important that she respect you and your space, and allow you to act as yourself. Sometimes the best way to get close to someone is to stay just out of reach. What else can you do?
I hope your two-legged sees the error of her ways and realizes that she can’t control you, but must allow the relationship between you to grow naturally. I wish you luck and a happy ending to your tale.
Thus our column for today reaches its conclusion. Keep those questions coming, and perhaps yours will become the next letter pulled from the mailbox.