It’s an unfair reputation they just can’t seem to shake.
People tend to misunderstand cats. Perceived as the polar opposite to the warmth and affection exuded by dogs, they’re often pegged as aloof and unloving. Cats are labeled solitary and selfish, only desiring to seek their human owners’ presence when they need something.
While it’s true that our feline friends tend to possess an independent streak – and that their personalities can vary considerably – many cats, in fact, demonstrate a remarkable propensity to bond and be affectionate with people. They’ll climb into your lap when you least expect it, purring lovingly along the way.
That the human-cat bonding experience can be complex is hard to refute. Bonding with feral cats with limited previous human contact proves difficult, as these felines struggle to award trust. And even human-raised cats don’t necessarily bond equally with every person within their home.
But with a balanced approach of effort and patience, you can establish a bond with your cat that’s based on mutual respect and, possibly, even love.
Understanding the Human-Companion Animal Bond with Cats
With estimates indicating that nearly 100 million cats are owned within the United States, it’s safe to say humans genuinely enjoy having felines as pets. Unlike many animal species, cats have the capacity to enter into bilateral relationships with us, whereby they invest dependence, trust, and affection and – in return – receive care and love.
The interaction between a cat and his human family has many different facets. People and cats share experiences ranging from fun moments (playtime) to quiet times (silently enjoying each other’s company) to less joyous occasions, such as when an owner becomes exasperated by his cat or vice-versa. Yet even when negative experiences occur, the theme of the relationship should remain one of mutual respect.
As their relationship evolves and matures, an owner can grow to know a cat inside and out – his needs and wants, likes and dislikes, and strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, the cat develops a better understanding of what to expect from his human caregivers, evoking an even greater level of trust.
Do Our Cats Really Love Us?
Cats are said to be independent, aloof, and not in need of company except on their own terms. This is true only of some cats; certainly not all. Cats raised by people from an early age either think they are almost human, or that the human is almost a cat.
Contrary to popular belief, many cats demonstrate love towards their owners on a daily basis. While the receipt of a “love offering” from your feline in the form of an animal carcass may be unwanted, cats have a multitude of more flattering methods for exuding affection toward their human companions:
- Following you around the house, casually sauntering into the room where you’re sitting.
- Jumping on your lap and beginning to purr.
- Greeting you enthusiastically when you return home.
- Sending subtle cat signals of affection to you, such as staring at your adoringly, then squinting or slowly closing his eyes.
- Rubbing his head upon you to mark you with his scent.
- Lying on his back in your presence, with his stomach exposed. This is a sign of trust, because your cat is in a vulnerable position.
Bonding in Cats
When it comes to bonding with a kitten or young cat, you must consider that animal’s history and personality. Assuming he’s had prior human contact, your cat will likely be relatively friendly and accustomed to being handled. If, however, your cat appears frightened and timid, focus on making him feel safe. By utilizing a laser pointer for play and avoiding actual contact at first, you can help ease your cat’s nerves.
Imprinting, an elemental form of bonding, occurs most readily during a sensitive time of development for kittens between 2-7 months of age. This ultra-impressionable period marks the perfect occasion to optimize your cat-human bond, and establish additional human acquaintances.
However, even if your feline has surpassed this period, there are various strategies an owner can employ to induce bonding. These include:
- Avoiding punishment of your cat at all costs
- Getting your cat spayed or neutered
- Serving as the food source for your cat
- Practicing patience with your cat’s development
How to Convert Your Reclusive Cat to a Cuddly Lap Kitty
The majority of cats are trainable with regards to affection. While this scenario may sound too good to be true for some cat owners, it’s indeed possible to transform some seemingly anti-social felines into genuine lap-lovers.