Bonding With Your Cat
As I attempt to write this, the cats have crept into the room in awe of the square warm thing that mommy likes to push them off of when I'm trying to reach the keyboard. Underfoot is circling and headbutting the screen with loud meows.
I feel bad for the moment as I have just gotten home from work and ate dinner and showered in the half hour that I have been home and already I am on the computer. The black ball of fur isn't giving up his pursuit of affection and keeps nudging my hand. Meanwhile the attention has been drawn to my mouse and her comes my baby girl, Alessa chirping happily as she has twice stepped on my mouse and almost knocked it off the desk and then parks herself across my wrists where I barely have room to move my hands under five pounds of rabbit soft fur.
I grew up with dogs in the home their behavior much less perplexing. Every dog I have ever known has pretty much followed the same formula of wanting food, playtime, and to be with their human every second of the day.
Where I still look forward to living where I can have a few dogs again soon, cats are a more complicated sort of friend, I learned when the Purrs began to enter my life.
As a dog person, I didn't really know how to bond with a cat.
My experience with cats when I was growing up was that as soon as a strange person entered the room the cat was missing in action. To my understanding, friendship with a cat was complicated and all the interactions were only on their terms.
Where I have learned most of these things are in fact true, bonding with your fur balls isn't as hard as cats what to make it seem.
A dog is a friend that will blindly follow you without question, a cat makes you earn his friendship.
Pet Me, Pet Me...Swipe..Too Much
Early on in cat ownership I earned more than my fair share of scars to my forearms as I learned about things like playing with toys, and how unlike a dog that will lay faithfully at your feet to be petted until one of you dies, a cat will beg for attention and after two seconds of petting go completely psycho and punish you for doing the thing they asked you to do.
I wear my scars like badges that I passed cat boot camp with all my fingers.
Over stimulation is to blame for the sudden shift from "We are just hanging out here" and swiping with claws out and hungry for your blood.
With cats, recognizing body language is key to knowing when a little too much petting and scratching behind the ear might put you in need of the first aid kit. With my guys they mostly guide you to where they want to be petted rubbing their sides against you or butting their heads into your hand when they want a cranial scratch. Knowing where you furry friend likes to be petted is a key with cats as they can quickly go from enjoying their bonding time to using teeth and claws.
Each cat is different too about where they like to be touched. Underfoot enjoys a nice belly rub and will be more than happy to lay so he can get the full body massage as your fingers sift through his silky black fur. My boy that has recently passed, Peter, was a head only cat his entire life and would freak out if he was touched anywhere else- even by his favorite humans. Alessa is very much a pet on her terms and would rather you hold out a hand stationary and let her rub herself against you so when she's had enough she can just walk away.
Cut their nails regularly to keep from getting scratched up if this is an issue.
With cats recognizing body language is key to knowing when they are getting too overly stimulated.
Cats are trainable, who knew?
There are many books on the market explaining how cats learn differently from other types of animals. Cats are hard to keep their interest, can be hard to motivate and are very "What is in this for me" type of companions.
The ASPCA recommends using clicker and treats as well as teaching your cat to understand vocal cues. I've never used a a clicker but for the reward of tuna flavored treats, my cats will be glad to entertain.
One of the first things I have worked with cats on was playing fetch with toys...I know, just like a typical dog person.
I wasn't sure how to go about it at first. It took some trial and error to find the right toys and that could change cat to cat as well. For my cats, the cat nip mice that come in the multi packs are their favorite things to fetch. I began just calling a cat, then tossing the toy. At first the sudden movement of something being thrown, they would hunker down and stare instead of giving chase.
Gradually after a few times, Alessa, by far the bravest of the bunch would saunter over and realize that the great smelling toy was something she could bat around on her own. She was only more overjoyed by the fact she could pick up the mouse and walk around with it.
After about a year of our daily game of fetch, she is the only one that actually understands the rules of the game and will bring the mouse back to me, although sometimes as they have about ten toys in the house at all times, she swaps the mouse I threw for another color one that she recovered elsewhere and brings that back instead.
Some cats would rather chase laser points so engage your kitty and let them run around. Mix up going from the floor to up on table tops or the couch to really make them get a work out. I can get the cats to go around the living room a few laps without touching the floor jumping piece of furniture to the next chasing the light.
Some cats also like balls that have bell inside or make a crinkly noise and will fetch or entertain themselves batting it around. Just be sure to make yourself part of the play session so your cat associates you with having a great time.
However you play with your cat, make sure they associate you with having a great time.
The Art Of The Cat Nap
If there is anything my cats and I are good at, its sleeping. And sleep we do, on a Sunday afternoon with a binge watch of something on Netflix and a warm blanket on the couch.
Taking a nap with your friend is the ultimate in trust and affection. Unlike the bounciness of dogs, all the cats I have known are more comfortable when their human friends are sitting down and at their level. With little noise and movement, cats creep over to find a warm lap to curl up on.
Depending on personality, some cats are more comfortable next to their human than on top of them, in the same room nearby but not too close. If I'm awake and watching TV or reading, my cats want to be nearby, maybe touching me but not so much up on me. Everything changes when it comes to the art of the nap.
When my movement ceases and I'm burrowed in my blankets ready to contend with some shut eye, Underfoot will get up on my chest and sit nose to nose with his whiskers brushing my face. He will knead his paws making blanket biscuits as he purrs happily. The seventeen pounds of warm dead weight pressing down on my lungs will keep his nose against mine, continue with his blanket biscuits and lull me to sleep eventually. Except for the breathing in cat hair and the restricting chest movements, I couldn't be happier for this time with my companion.
Alessa on the other hand, the more rambunctious of the two needs to wind herself down before a relaxing nap. After she's been scolded for running back and forth on the bed like a maniac and hunting my toes through the blankets, she eventually settles down enough to become a cuddly monster that won't stop licking me while she purrs wildly and kneads her paws. I'm not sure if her licking is to groom or show affection, although the vet thinks its a hold over from being weened too young as she was an abandoned kitten before we adopted her, she constricts into what I like to call the Cat Scarf stretching herself against my collarbone licking me in the face which the rest of her body is around my neck. I rest my chin on her and she licks and kneads, rumbling with a ferocious purr that seems too big to come out of such a small cat. Finally she will fall asleep and stay like that for hours, occasionally waking up to start the licking ritual again.
Some people aren't comfortable with their pets in their bed, or have a hard time staying asleep if their cats won't let them sleep. I know I am pretty lucky with these guys that just want to cuddle once they calm down.
Through training, treats, playing, and just hanging out with your cats you are enriching your relationship with them just as much as they are bringing comfort and companionship to you.
Cats have a unique way of bonding and the rules of the relationship are mostly on their terms, but its an extremely rewarding relationship at that.