Got a new kitty who's a bit nervous or stressed out? Don't fret, with some time and patience, you can befriend your fuzzy buddy and enjoy a lasting, loving relationship for years to come.
Exude the essence of chill.
Cats are emotionally sensitive, and can tell when you're nervous, frustrated, or angry. When you aren't calm, your cat likely won't want to be around you. Breathe deep, relax, and be chill. Speak slowly in soft, higher pitched tones.
Slow movements and getting on your cat's level will help your little buddy be more comfortable, as sudden moves can scare them.
Don't come on too strong.
Cats want you to play hard to get, and let them approach you first. Forcing them to snuggle will only scare them away. Put your hand out to see if they will sniff you, and if so, let them rub up against your stationary hand before going for the pets. Keep pets to the head and neck area unless they arch their back against your hand. Don't pet the belly or the tail. If they walk away, let them.
Don't look directly at your cat either, as eye contact is intimidating. Avert your eyes and use your periphery to watch your cat's adorable antics. If you must look at them, squint your eyes and do long, slow blinks to show you aren't a threat.
Give them something to chase.
Playtime is a great way to build a relationship with your new cat. Teaser toys like feathers on a string or a ribbon on a stick are great options for low threat toys, and allow you to keep your distance while playing with your kitty. Tossing treats is also a great way to encourage their hunting instincts! Plus, it gives you extra positive associations to you through food!
How to tell when your efforts have paid off.
Cats are subtle creatures. Here are some signs that you've earned their affections.
Flops — A cat flopping over in front of you to show you their belly is the ultimate show of trust. Don't pet it unless you have a very solid relationship though! Pet under the chin instead.
Headbumps — Has your cat rammed their head against yours or rubbed their face all over your leg? Comgratulations! You're officially part of their family.
High tails — A tail up high means a happy, confident, "Hello human!" They are excited to see you!
Kisses — Cat's spend much of their time grooming, but won't do it around you if they are stressed by your presence. If your kitty is grooming you, that's a very good sign!
Kneads — Making biscuits is a sure-fire way to tell that your cat is happy and relaxed.
Meows — Cat's almost exclusively meow at people they like- usually because they want something. Such is love.
Purrs — A cat purring is a pretty good indicator that they are happy and content, especially when combined with making biscuits!
Slow-blinks — If your cat is squinting and slowly blinking at you, do it back! It means "I'm chill; we're cool."
When can I grab them to snuggle?
Possibly never, as not all cats will like to cuddle. Socialization as kittens is key to getting a snuggly, friendly cat, but don't fret if your cat missed the kitten window. Some positive reinforcement might just win them over.
Get some extremely high value treats and sit somewhere comfy. Hold the treat in the lap and give it to your cat when they put a paw on you. Repeat this a few times, then, start rewarding when your cat puts two paws on you. If your cat puts two paws on you, don't reward them for one paw again. Over time, increase how far your cat has to come into your lap before they get the reward while also increasing the time they spend in your lap before getting the treat. Never grab the cat if they try to leave. Your cat will start associating you with positive treats, but still may never enjoy cuddles.
If I can't snuggle, how will my cats know I love them?
Learn and respect their body language!
Slow blinks are essential, and it's the most basic form of telling your cat "I love you."
If you are petting your cat, and their skin starts wrinkling, they growl, they twitch their tail, or they move their head suddenly towards your hand, stop petting them. They have very sensitive skin and can get over stimulated very easily.
Playtime is also essential, and try to spend at least 15 minutes playing with your kitty or until they have had enough. Catnip toys are great, as are silvervine sticks. Treats are great too!
Get your cat's plenty of high places and scratchers, play with them regularly, respect their boundaries, and maybe bribe them along the way and you're on your way to a long lasting, positive relationship!