Humans and cats have lived in domesticity for at least 5000 years. While we adore cats we often misunderstand them in our attempts to be friends with them. We go through five tips to help you communicate with kitties and get them to like you.
1. Greeting – Learn the Proper Way to Introduce Yourself
Greetings are one of the first things you learn when you pick up a new language. It is no different when it comes to communicating with cats. You need to learn how to say hello in terms they understand.
Cats greet each other with their noses. When they introduce themselves to another cat they touch, bump or rub their noses together a few times.
You can mimic this by lowering yourself to their level and extending your finger at about the same height as their nose.
If a cat is interested in saying hello it will come over and rub its nose on your finger. Congratulate yourself on performing a cat handshake.
If the cat takes an instant liking to you the nose rub might extend to a head, chin or cheek rub. The significance of which we explore in a later point.
2. Bonding – Socialise When They Are Young
The key to making a cat receptive to human interaction in the first place is getting them used to socialising from kittenhood.
Between two to seven weeks after birth is seen as an important period for socialising a kitten. It is during this time that they are most receptive to new experiences, although it can extend to up to 14 weeks.
A 2008 study by the University of Bristol found that kittens from shelters who received more affection, attention and play time with humans developed into friendlier cats.
They were more likely to be relaxed when meeting an unknown person — rather than distressed — and less likely to be fearful of humans compared to kittens who did not receive as much socialising.
3. Petting – A Wrong Way and a Right Way
Cats have definite preferences when it comes to petting.
Generally speaking, touching a cat’s tail is a good way to incur its wrath or irritate it at the very least.
While dogs often love having their belly rubbed, cats tend to be more cautious. It takes a good amount of trust and bonding before they will be comfortable with it, as the belly is their most vulnerable place.
Cats are well aware that they could be prey for something bigger than them and have a built-in instinct to be alert at all times.
For that reason, some cats will never enjoy a belly rub no matter what you try.
On the other hand, cats love rubbing their heads and chins on people and things in their environment.
Doing this lets them mark their scent. When they do this to us it is part of a ritual which indicates that we are part of their group by mixing their scent with ours to create a group scent. The best places to pet a cat are where these scent glands are located.
Rubbing a cat underneath its chin, on the head behind its ears and its cheeks, are sure-fire ways to ingratiate yourself with your feline friend and eventually gain their trust.
4. Play – Appeal to Their Hunting Instinct
Play is an important part of a cat’s routine. In the same way a dog needs to be walked every day, a cat needs a way to expend its energy. Playing allows them to do this while also fulfilling the need to practise their hunting instincts.
A 2017 study found that, given the choice, both shelter cats and domestic cats preferred playing with humans over food and other options.
Cats love toys that can be used to mimic prey which draw out the hunting instincts they often do not get to indulge. There is a plethora of cat wand toys which fill this void available to choose from on the internet.
Most wand toys are basically a colourful ‘bait’ like toy — often made of feathers or tassels — attached to a piece of string on a stick. You can even make these cat wand toys yourself.
When you play with your cat using one of these interactive toys you are doing three things at once. Entertaining your kitty, keeping them fit and burning off any excess energy which could lead to behavioural problems.
5. Behaviour – Understand What Your Cat Is Telling You
Far from being the aloof, inscrutable creatures we often take them for, cats are very expressive animals if you know how to read the signs.
Some of the signals a cat sends when it is angry or upset are obvious — hissing, arching its back and baring its teeth for example.
One expression of negative emotions you might miss is when a cat flattens or pins back its ears. This is an indicator of both fear and aggression. When this happens, it is best to leave them alone so they can calm down.
Similarly, some ways cats display affection can be overlooked.
Since cats are prey animals, slowly blinking and leaving themselves vulnerable is something they only do around someone they trust. In the wild outdoors this would leave them open to attack.
By slowly blinking your cat is telling you that they trust you and know you will not harm them.
You can even reciprocate by returning the slow blink. Jackson Galaxy recommends thinking ‘I’ while slowly closing your eyes, ‘love’ with your eyes closed, and ‘you’ while slowly opening your eyes.
Now you know how to communicate with cats, try these methods out on your next kitty encounter.