How to Convert Your Reclusive Cat to a Cuddly Lap Kitty

Cat Behavior & Training >
reclusive cat

We should start out by tempering expectations. Not all cats can be converted into a cuddly lap kittens. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for example, to take a formerly feral cat and convert her into a feline lap-lover that purrs like a steam engine upon human contact. Some cats are were just meant to roam free and live an independent life. However, if you have an independent cat who isn’t big on cuddling, there’s no harm in trying to get him/her to come around.

Another reason why some cats aren’t big on cuddling has to do with an inherited disposition. Some cats, by nature, are more independent and aloof than others; whereas some are just plain fearful. Such traits manifest as an anti-social nature with respect to would-be human companions. Some of these reclusive cats may be coaxed out of their shell by kind and patient treatment from their owners, but even the best results that can be achieved in terms of friendliness to people may be a far cry from relaxed lap sitting.

Start Slow, Start Young


The best way to make your cat more friendly to human contact is to start when their kittens. Kittens are far more impressionable than adult cats, and the behavior and environments they are exposed to at a young age can have a great effect on their adult disposition. Whether you’re working with a young kitten or an antisocial adult cat, there are some general things you can do to slowly start to increase his desire to cuddle.


Talk to your cat

By talking to your cat, you’re creating a positive relationship between you and your cat. It doesn’t really matter what you’re saying, but use a light and friendly tone. Let your cat know that you want to build a relationship with her.


Slow Blink

When looking at your cat blink slowly. A slow blink is a comforting non-verbal gesture for animals and will project friendliness to your cat.


Don’t Chase Your Cat

This is a common mistake cat owners make when trying to forge a bond with their cat. Though dogs love to be chased as a form of play, cats typically don’t. They feel threatened and can become anxious if you chase after them. If you try to pet your cat and he runs away, let him be and try again later.

Cuddling = Treats

In addition to the above tips, another suggested option for cat owners looking to transition their cat from antisocial to a cuddler is to design comfortable situations for your cat to be affectionate. Animals are very behavioral, so to get them to learn a new behavior you need to incentivize them. Find a treat that your cat is fond of and stage the following situation.

  • Go into a large, quiet room with cat treats.
  • Wait for your cat to enter the room.
  • Your cat will come to you if she smells the treats.
  • Once your cat arrives, dangle the treat and gently call for her to come to you.
  • Arrange for the cat to take the treat from your hand, gradually moving your hand toward your lap, only releasing the food treat if the cat puts her paws up on your lap.
  • By giving a treat to your cat after some light petting, you’re conditioning her to know that there are rewards for social behavior.
  • Repeat a few days later.


Unless you’re some type of wunderkind cat whisperer, it will take some time to modify the antisocial behavior of your cat. The whole process may take several weeks or even months. Be patient and be grateful for modest improvements. Never attempt hurry things along or become verbally frustrated with your cat.

If the scent of the treat alone isn’t compelling your cat to come toward you, try employing a the click strategy. This focuses the cat’s attention on you, the source of the click, and cues her to the subsequent gift of the food treat from you. The use of a clicker in this way may help quicken the retraining process.

If your cat lives with multiple humans, it’s best to start by forging one positive relationship at a time. Have the person conducting the treat-for-pet sessions be the same person that feeds the cat. Your cat will automatically begin to bond with the person who feeds him, so compounding his feeding with the treats you’re doubling your chances of creating an affectionate bond between the two. In addition to feeding and treats, make sure your cat is getting plenty of attention. The person trying to draw the reclusive cat out should probably arrange to play games with the cat at least a couple of times a day. Moving toys are best, such as cat dancers and pull toys on a string. Once one human is able to pet and cuddle with the cat, let another human start the process.

Stay The Course

You don’t want to force affection on your cat by chasing after him or forcing a cuddle session, but at the same time your cat won’t naturally curb his antisocial behavior and leap into your lap. You will have to be active and deploy some of the tips that we mentioned above.


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