How to build a strong bond with your cat

If you’ve recently adopted a rescue cat or taken a stray into your home, you’re undoubtedly excited to get to know your new kitty and welcome them into your family.

Photo by Magali Merzougui on Unsplash

While your cat may be grateful for their new home, they’re likely still scared and stressed over their recent changes — sometimes they may even be traumatized by their past. Because of this, it will take time for your feline friend to open up and for you to build a strong bond.

Read on to learn 7 key tips to build a strong bond with your new, future best friend.

1. Give Your Cat Their Own Safe Space

Especially with strays and potentially even feral cats, starting slow and establishing a territory that feels safe for your cat is important.

Set up a room that’s just for your kitty and fill it with all the things that they need: food, water, a litter box, toys, and a comfortable bed. You should also place cat furniture in the room, like a tall cat tree or a cubby hole where your cat can climb or hide if they feel uncomfortable or stressed.

Territory is important to cats and establishing a place right away that can feel and smell like theirs can help ease your cat’s anxiety.

2. Build Trust with Food

The key to a strong bond is to establish trust with your cat, and one of the easiest ways to do that is with food.

When you bring your cat their food every day, talk to them. This might seem strange at first, but it will help your cat start to associate you with their food and, by association, with safety.

You can also use treats or high-value food like canned tuna to build even stronger positive associations with your presence.

3. Create a Consistent Routine

Cats are creatures of habit, and they feel their calmest when they’re following a consistent routine.

Create a daily schedule for your cat and stick to it. This means feeding your cat at the same time every day, in the same place, as well as scheduling in time for play.

A routine makes your cat feel safe and secure in their environment, and they will associate you with that sense of safety — a sure-fire way to build a strong bond.

4. Let Your Cat Make the First Move

While it may seem tempting to approach your cat to pet them or even pick them up, it’s best to let your cat call the shots while you’re establishing your connection.

Some cats love affection, while others are content with just being in the same room. Forcing your cat to participate in behaviors they aren’t comfortable with could build negative associations with you.

Your cat will start to open up as they become more comfortable in the house, and they’ll let you know when and how they want to bond with you.

Watch for behaviors like kneading or bunting (rubbing their forehead on you), which are both cat signs of affection. Your cat may also purr or simply sit beside you on the couch.

5. Practice Patience

Cats need to do everything at their own pace and rushing them to try to help them feel more comfortable can have the opposite effect.

When your cat first comes home, you’ll need to keep them inside of their one safe room until they’re ready to explore the house further. Taking this step slowly helps them establish their scent inside their safe space, helping them to feel more comfortable and secure in the house.

When they’re ready to explore further, you can slowly introduce them to other parts of the house, always letting them decide what the next move should be.

Letting your cat settle into your home at their own pace helps to build trust between you, establishing a great foundation for a strong bond as time goes on.

6. Read Their Body Language

In all of your interactions with your cat, always watch their body language to know how they feel and if they’re comfortable.

Approaching your cat to pet them or interact with them when they’re clearly uncomfortable can cause major setbacks in your relationship and break the foundation of trust that you’ve built.

Many people associate purring with happiness, but that’s not always the case. A cat’s purr is a method of communication, and sometimes it’s a sign of anxiety or agitation. Even If your cat is purring, look for these signs:

If your cat shows signs of being uncomfortable, back off immediately, and never force your cat into any interaction that they don’t want to have.

7. Help Your Cat Relieve Anxiety

For many cats, especially those that have experienced traumatizing pasts, they need a little extra help to manage their anxiety and help them relax. One great way to help your cat feel less anxious is hemp seed oil.

Hemp seed oil interacts with your cat’s endocannabinoid system, a network of neuro receptors that controls many of your cat’s natural processes like sleep, pain, and mood. Giving your cat hemp seed oil could help manage their response to stress.

Other great ways to help reduce your cat’s anxiety and help you build a stronger bond:

Are You Ready to Build a Strong Bond with Your Cat?

Bringing a new cat into your home, especially a rescue cat, shows that you’re willing to do what it takes to help your cat live the happiest, healthiest life possible.

By creating a calm environment, letting your cat initiate bonding interactions, and knowing when you should leave them alone, you’re well on your way to building a strong bond with your cat.

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Dr. Ailsa Rutherford

Senior practicing veterinarian. Member of the Australia and New Zealand College of Veterinary Surgeons in Emergency. Head of Animal Health at Buddy Pet P/L.