How to Get a Cat to Like You

It seems like a silly topic, but every cat lover probably worries about how to get a cat to like them at some point. Cats are often moody and whimsical, and their personality is based on doing pretty much whatever they want, then getting annoyed if you don’t give them whatever you want. I love cats, but as a dog owner, I’m always struck by how dogs get excited much more easily. So how do you get along with a cat?

Fiona was a cat who belonged to a friend who I stayed with for a month, so I got to know her fairly well. She only lets about four people pet her, and she hisses at anyone she doesn’t know. It took me days before she would even let me touch her, or come indoors to eat dinner. By the end of the month, she still didn’t let me pet her whenever I wanted - cats generally don’t - but she had warmed up significantly to me, and apparently would watch for me on the porch when I was gone. (Disclaimer: the cat in the photo is her identical brother, Otis, who is significantly more social and sometimes would just not leave me alone.)

It’s really important to respect a cat’s boundaries. If they bite or scratch you, then don’t pet them, even if you think you’re being totally reasonable. A cat will realize when you respect their boundaries and be much more willing to be your companion because of that. Obviously if they’re trying to eat plastic or something, you should take the plastic away from them regardless of whether it makes them happy or not - unfortunately, you can’t always make a cat happy.

It also helps to let cats come to you on their own terms. Cats are often more inclined to come to people with cat allergies and demand attention, because people allergic to cats usually want to actively avoid them. Cats are curious creatures, and if you play just a little bit hard to get, they’re more likely to be interested in you. If you’re busy, don’t drop everything when they want to be pet, and don’t actively pester them to give you cuddles and attention.

Give cats food they like. This rarely fails; just keep your cat’s health in mind so they don’t eat too much.

Many cats are particular about where they want to be pet. Just because someone else can pet them in a bunch of different areas doesn’t mean they’ll enjoy it coming from you, especially if that someone else is someone much closer to them than you are. Watch for what seems to be areas they’re universally okay with being pet - for many cats the head is a safe bet - and don’t touch super sensitive areas like the paws unless you’re already confident they’re okay with it.

Every cat is unique in its own ways, and some will be more receptive to your attention than others. If they reject you, don’t take it too personally, and continue doing your best to be a good friend to cats! 

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