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The Affectionate Cat

How to encourage affectionate behavior from your kitty.


MetPet.com staff
Have you heard stories of cats who are just as loving as the most affectionate pooch?  It is true, they exist. There are cats who will follow you around, lie down with their head in your hand and claim your lap as soon as you sit down.  There are cats who, especially in the cold of winter, will wrap themselves around your shoulders like a muffler.

A friendly cat is a combination of nature and nurture.  Although some female cats will naturally live together in groups, the image of the solitary cat is just as true. Social bonding is less of a factor in cats than in dogs, cows or humans.  As long as food and well-structured physical space is plentiful though, many cats can live together in harmony. Cats do have a social life and humans are, most often, their best buddies.


An affectionate cat of your own

If you have never had a cat, it is likely that you have never experienced the truly affectionate cat.  The neighborhood cat is just as likely to run away as to say hello and friends' cats often go and hide when company comes to visit. 

Unlike the naturally bold dog, cats are often suspicious of strangers or simply frightened of them.  With the sensitive cat, fear is an emotion that is rarely far away.  With cats, the person who is afraid of cats and avoids direct eye contact with them is the person they are most likely to approach.  Direct eye contact, approaching a cat in the street or, alarmingly, trying to pick up a strange cat will send most kitties running.  On the other hand, if you completely ignore a cat it may try to approach you out of sheer curiosity. At the least, it is unlikely to run away or hide.

This is likely just a fear reaction.  Just as you are more likely to approach a horse who is standing still and grazing than one who is running towards you while making lots of noise , the cat feels safer with someone who is just going about their own business. 


The first 8 weeks of life

Cats develop much of their social conditioning during the first 8 weeks of life. If those 8 weeks include a great deal of kind and gentle human contact, they are likely to produce remarkably confident, outgoing and affectionate cats. It is a lucky family who can adopt such a cat for their own.

During those 8 weeks of imprinting, kittens have not finalized their fear or hunting instincts. Kittens can be introduced to other species such as dogs and gerbils and not develop the normal fear/prey reactions. If they learn that constant human contact is a normal and pleasant part of life, they will likely seek it for the rest of their lives.


Nurturing and coaxing

If you have an adult at who is aloof, you can nurture and coax his affection in any number of fun ways. It takes some time and patience but it is worth it. Cats can be very attached to their normal behaviors but over time even the most standoffish cat can change.

Take the time to have many short, positive interactions with your cat. Take a minute or two many times in a day to pet and play. Vary the amount of time, type of toys and style of play. Divide meals into tiny quantities and dole out bits all day long. Fit a WalkingJacket and leash and wander out of doors to sit in the sun. You can even be sneaky and turn down the temperature in the house so your cat seeks out warmth.

Use her name frequently to get her attention.  In particular, call her name before you feed her and get her to come to you in order to get treats.  Start off slowly with micro interactions.  Aloof cats can be overly sensitive to close contact and may react badly out of nervousness. Over time, increase the length of interactions and, in particular, the length and intensity of play. 


Nature versus nurture versus expectations

Although cats may not be as genetically inclined as dogs to be affectionate companions, they can be nurtured to become remarkably friendly ones. If we expect them to be warm and friendly, they will tend to be.

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