If you’ve ever rescued a kitty, you likely know how important building your cat’s trust can be. While some people think that a rescued cat should just immediately be grateful for a safe, warm home and food, it’s far more complicated than that.
We’re often asked questions about cats hiding, hissing, not returning affection, or just being ‘mean’. All of these behaviors can indicate that our cats don’t yet fully trust us. Building trust with cats is much like building trust with another human. It takes time and attention. We need to observe their personalities (each cat has their own), learn their preferences, be considerate of their space, and respect their needs.
Most of all, we need to realize that building our cat’s trust in us is our responsibility. We’ve invited this special species into our home and we need to prioritize their care as a member of our family. Many people often make direct comparisons between dogs and cats – wishing their cat was happy to see them when they get home. They wish their cat was more attentive to them, or snuggled them when they want, or came when called.
News flash: Cats are not dogs. While cats are known for their hunting and predatory skills (like dogs), they are also prey. This makes them far more protective and stoic than any dog you’ll ever meet. An understanding of a cat’s instincts, body language, and basic needs is a great way to start building trust.
Being consistent with our cats also helps build a sense of security. It always breaks my heart when someone tells me they yell at their cat or whacks them with a newspaper for doing something like scratching the carpet – and in the same breath wonders “why the little a**hole” won’t come cuddle them on the couch.
Imagine someone 12 times your size yelling or whacking you. Do you then magically feel safe and secure when it’s cuddle time? Or what if someone thought they could touch you or just scoop you up whenever they want?
Yes, it can take time to build trust – especially with a cat that is not comfortable with humans – but it’s worth all the effort. Sometimes the relationships that take more time and compassion to create are the best bonds we’ll ever experience.