Every worthwhile relationship is built on a foundation of trust. When it comes to human relationships with animals, that two-way certainty is even more important. Animals know that the playing field isn’t always fair, and they’re gifted with instincts meant to help them survive. Cats know that before they can let their guard down, they need to be sure they’re not misplacing their trust. Establishing trust should be your first priority with every cat you meet. The trick is, some cats are more trustworthy than others. You’ll need to take active steps to prove yourself a worthwhile friend.
Here are a few ways you can start establishing trust with even the most cautious cats.
Learn Feline Body Language
Cats communicate with humans all day long, but they aren’t doing it through speech. Their language has to do with how they twitch their tail, flatten their ears, or puff their fur. It’s called body language, and cats use it to communicate with both humans and other animals.
It’s your job to study feline body language and correctly interpret your cat’s every message. You wouldn’t trust a person who continually ignores what you say, and the same goes for your cat. When a cat flattens their ears at you, they’re telling you to back off. If you don’t respect what they’re “saying,” they’re not going to trust you…they’re also probably going to scratch you.
Respect Their Space
We all know cats are irresistibly cute. They’re covered in the softest fur you’ve ever felt, and all you want to do is hug them close. Unfortunately, this is usually a bad idea. Cats don’t care that you think they’re cute. They also don’t care that you want a hug.
Most cats prefer to maintain their personal space. If they’re feeling cuddly, they’ll be happy to jump into your lap. But they have to initiate that close interaction. Forcing yourself in your cat’s bubble by picking them up when they don’t want to be held or hugging them when they try to get away won’t help in establishing trust.
Maintain a Routine
Cats are built like predators, but they’re also prey. This means they can spook easily, and don’t like when things happen that they weren’t expecting. You have a choice between being a potentially scary and unpredictable part of your cat’s life or being a source of safety and consistency. It’s not hard to guess which option your cat will trust more.
Your cat will never trust you if they’re constantly on edge when you’re around. They won’t like it if you make surprise loud noises or jump around the house without warning. It’s best to always speak in a calm voice, control your actions, and think about how everything you do has potential to hurt or help your relationship with your cat.
Appeal to Your Cat’s Interests
Establishing trust with your cat happens with every positive interaction. Every time you make them feel good, you get one step closer to forming that ideal relationship. Your cat starts to think that if they can rely on you to make life happy and comfortable, you’re worthy of not only their affection, but also their full trust.
To do this, think about what your cat likes best. It could be treats, playtime, belly rubs, or relaxed cuddles. You should offer up these enjoyable experiences on a regular basis, and also use them as rewards for positive interactions. For example, if your shy cat slinks out from under the bed to say hello, give them something they truly love to really cement that positive association with you. Engaging with your kitty while offering mental stimulation is a way to hold their interest and offer them much-needed enrichment simultaneously. Enrichment toys are a purrfect way to do it!
Establishing trust with your cat won’t happen overnight. Some cats are completely confident and open to making new friends, but you might have a cat that’s more cautious or timid. Either way, trust can’t be rushed.
Don’t be discouraged if you’ve had your cat for a few days, or even a few weeks, and they’re still running under the bed whenever you approach. It’s important to remember that there is no time limit. Every cat will adjust at their own pace, and the best you can do is follow the above tips and be patient. There’s a good chance you’re making progress even if you can’t see it, and trying to force your cat to accept you will only undo what you’ve already accomplished.
It’s also important to realize that your cat’s unique backstory will influence their decision to trust you. Cats that haven’t spent a lot of time with people or associate humans with negative feelings will take longer to come around. This doesn’t mean establishing trust is impossible. If you practice patience and thoughtfulness, you can help your cat feel safe and secure.