How to Make Your Bond with Your Cat Stronger

Cats may seem absurd, aloof or simply independent to us.  There is more to them, and maybe you have yet to experience it or you simply want more affection.  We crave their attention.  We love those snuggles and we love feeling their soft fur.  You've probably often asked yourself, "I wonder how I could convince Garfield to interact with me more?".

Here are 5 ways to increase the depth of your bond with your cat - ready?

1. Spend Time Alone with Cat Everyday

It's important to find time everyday, even if it's only 5 minutes, to sit alone with your cat.   When I say alone, I mean in a room, without distractions like kids, spouses, loud trucks passing by, other animals, etc.  During this time, just sit with him or her.  Only interact if the cat chooses to interact with you.  You can solicit engagement by slowly blinking your eyes then looking away as a sign of trust, as well as laying on the floor.  Your cat determines the activity - not you.

Observe when your cat is most interested in you during the day, and pick this time as your alone time with him or her.  Is it when you come home from work?  Is it right after meal time?  Is it in the morning, right after you get out of bed?

Lady Asti and I having a quiet moment alone.

Lady Asti and I having a quiet moment alone.

2. Go on an Adventure Outside Together

In recent times, cat culture has pushed cat guardians to keep cats indoors mainly out of concern of safety and health - which are both totally valid.  It is true your kitty will likely live longer by being kept indoors.  On the flip side, we have removed the cat's natural environment.  Most cats would love some time outside, so wouldn't it be wonderful to let them have that time with you?  Just imagine, strolling down the boulevard at sunset with your special feline friend.  Maybe you'll even meet some new human, canine, avian or reptile friends!  You will both enjoy this bonding activity!

Before embarking on your outdoor adventure, be sure to go in proper fashion.  There are three options: limited free roam, leash walking and a pet stroller.  

  • Limited free roaming includes setting up a cat-safe fence (see links at the bottom of the post) and enjoying time together with your cat on your patio, backyard, etc.  A great activity if you are interested in reading outside in nature while your cat basks in the sun or sits in your lap.
  • Leash walking is a great option for boisterous, outgoing cats who respond well to clicker training and/or are not distracted or scared easily by noises, smells, etc.
  • Pushing your cat in a pet stroller is a great option for cats who aren't very adventurous, but still enjoy the sights and smells.  It's also a great option if you live in an area with lots of dogs on a leash, because your cat is elevated and enclosed from well-meaning all-too-friendly pooches who are clueless about feline etiquette.  As I like to say, it's a stress-free way to "stroll together & soul together".
Lady Asti and I on our walk outside.

Lady Asti and I on our walk outside.

3. Talk Out Loud to your Cat

Yes, you may think this is silly, but there is some awesome rewards in it for you, too.  There's a few things that talking out loud to your cat can do to increase the closeness of your bond.

First of all, your cat has probably already learned to meow at you when he or she wants something from  you.  Take that opportunity to talk back, and reward the cat with the play, food or pets that it desires.  You have now positively associated meow, talk and play/food/pets together.  You've learned of one way to communicate with each other.  

Second of all, on a spiritual level, when you talk, you are also setting an intention.  This intention is what your cat (or any other animal, for that matter) can pick up on and understand.  So, yes, when you call your cat those funny nicknames like Poopybutt, Fatty, and Dumby - they understand those words, because they understand the intent you had behind them.  It's all energy.

Jack and I having a little chat about our day.

Jack and I having a little chat about our day.

4. Playtime Before Mealtime

Playtime is a mimicking hunting prey, and it's the most fun activity a cat can engage in.  If you make time to share that exciting moment with your cat, everyday, you will reap the rewards of companionship.  Imagine if your favorite activity was skydiving, and everyday your favorite person said "Ok, let's go skydiving because you love it, then we'll go eat a spectacular meal once we've worked up that appetite".  You'd think that was pretty pawsome, right?

Now, just to clarify, cats do not hunt in groups.  Unless it's a lion, which I sure hope you don't have a lion.  You are sharing in an experience by being present during the play and providing the stimulation, but you are not "hands on" in the play time.  That means, your body should not be "in the play", only the "prey" (toy) should be.

Playtime with Bailey and Lady Asti.

Playtime with Bailey and Lady Asti.

5. Clicker Training

I would vote that clicker training your cat is the fastest way to increase your bond together.   There are lots of books written on how to clicker train, so I will not dwell on that here.  If you have multiple cats, like me, train them one at a time otherwise it turns into a food fight.  Just know that the activity is very exciting, rewarding and fun for your cat.  It's like a fun game with food to them.  I don't know about you, but I love games that involve food for myself, too!  

Captain Jack Sparrow and I clicker training for high five.

Captain Jack Sparrow and I clicker training for high five.

Now, go enjoy your kitty time and click on a few links below to learn more :)

Suggested Related Resources:

Book Review: Beneath The Surface by John Hargrove

One-Sentence Synopsis: 

John Hargrove was an orca trainer for 14 years, where he transitioned from die-hard SeaWorld employee to an advocate questioning every aspect of orcas in captivity, and this is his true-life story.

                                                                                    Source: seaworldpledge.org

                                                                                    Source: seaworldpledge.org

The Good:

John truly spoke only from his experience.  He gave the facts based on his observations and his knowledge while an orca trainer, including coverage of the SeaWorld artificial insemination program, calfs forcibly removed from mothers, withholding food, small pools, and improper foresight into orca's social structure.  His love for the orcas shines through the entire book, where he details the relationships he built with them.  It's inspiring to hear how intelligent and social these whales are.  There's a dark side of captive orcas, though, which I thank John for sharing with the world.  Everyone needs to hear it.

The Bad: 

There were a few typographical errors, but other than that, I really have nothing to say negative about this book.

I also came to another realization as I trained the stars of SeaWorld. The whales were motivated to perform in shows for two reasons: it gave them more opportunities to be rewarded with food and it provided them with a temporary escape from their horrifically sterile lives in captivity. They were bored.
— John Hargrove
My experience in France with orcas unaccustomed to humans in the water only reinforces my belief that while the relationship between trainer and whale can be beautiful, the overall situation - that of captivity - makes the orcas dysfunctional and dangerous.
— John Hargrove
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SeaWorld spins its stories this way to minimize the damage to corporation and to manage the commercial image of the orca. While acknowledging that the killer whale can be dangerous, SeaWorld keeps the risk within the realm of public acceptability. It would not be advisable - from a business point of view - to admit that a combination of behavioral strictures and cramped quarters have deformed the natural character of the orcas and made them riskier for trainers to deal with.
— John Hargrove
How do you explain that to the public? ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Ky (male orca) was terrified by a female whale because in SeaWorld we keep our whales so enclosed that they cannot swim away to protect themselves from other whales who might hurt them with their teeth.’
— John Hargrove

What I learned: 

I'm not sure how to properly put into words how much John's story moved me.  Before I saw the Blackfish documentary and read Beneath the Surface, I had little knowledge of orca behavior, social structure and intelligence.  I also had little knowledge of the orca's conditions at SeaWorld.  I was aware that they put on a "circus-like" show, because I had visited SeaWorld as a child once or twice.  Now that I have been exposed to the behind-the-scenes truth, there is no going back, emotionally or physically.  

Why should you care?

Once you read this book, the glamourous veil will be lifted.  You will see the exploitation of both the orcas and the trainers. It may move you in ways you didn't know existed.

I don’t really see myself as the man with the megaphone, though I’m glad there are people who do that. I see myself as speaking on behalf of those who have no voice themselves, who cannot speak for themselves: the whales. The perfect word is ‘advocate.’ There is still a lot of work to be done to change laws and win hearts and minds.
— John Hargrove