While cats are known to be pretty independent and optional obeyers to us humans, there are things you can do and not do, to build a strong bond with your cat. By following these tips, you can build a bond that is just as strong or stronger than the ones normally reserved for dogs. And unlike dogs, who sometimes require food as bribery, cats, who usually are not so easy to manipulate, will choose to obey you without any food enticement.
The come-when-called cats
I often joke about my cats minding better than my dogs. While not 100% true, they definitely do mind better in some areas. One area that the cats excel in over the dogs is that they almost ALWAYS immediately come when called.
The only times the cats are a bit stubborn to come when called is occasionally on our way back from group walks, when they prefer to hang out in the drive instead of following us directly back to the house. Considering that is a pretty rare occurrence, they still easily beat the dogs who are much more likely to get distracted or be more opportunistic.
While the coming when called concept may be hard to believe by fellow cat owners, I can assure you it is the truth. I never really realized how unique that was until I started talking to other cat owners. Despite having free access to a very large unfenced yard and hundreds of acres of pasture, woods, and fields surrounding us, wherever the cats have wandered off to, I can call for them, and they always come.
Rain or shine, they come when called
Occasionally, a storm will suddenly pop up and I’ll go out and try to get whoever is missing back to the house. Unfortunately, sometimes I’m a bit late in calling and it’s hard to get your calls and whistles out when the wind (and sometimes rain) is blowing them back into your face.
Luckily, even when that does happen, the cat(s) still come, it just sometimes takes a bit longer as I have to make a few attempts through the weather in various directions, hoping I’m getting the right one. When you have cats that don’t mind getting wet, a storm doesn’t really concern them enough to get back to the house unless they are summoned.
Giving the cats a reason to want to come
So what is the magic trick for my cats to be so obedient? Kindness. All. The. Time. The cats are never treated with anything but kindness by us.
Even when I occasionally catch Sissy on the counter or on top of the clean towels on the dryer, which are both big no-no’s, I’ll just either sternly tell her to get down or gently pick her up and set her on the floor and tell her sternly she knows better. We never chase or swat at them with our hands, the broom, or anything else. Ever.
How my cats recognize their names
I’ve also named my cats, like my dogs, with unique sounding names, so when I call someone, they can easily make out who I’m yelling for. KK, Julien, Sissy, Rosie, Cooper, and Moose all sound completely different and thanks to Will and I using their names often when speaking to them, each cat knows them and responds when they hear them.
Using attention as treats
During the day, when I get up from working for whatever reason, I’ll usually do a quick head count, oftentimes stopping and petting whoever is along the way. Sometimes, if they are awake, I’ll just acknowledge them by saying hello, and asking them what they are up to and if they’re hungry. Other times I’ll pick them up for a quick pet and then put them back down and go about my way.
Unless we’re busy making dinner or on our way out the door, we never ignore the cats. When Will comes home from work, he stops and pets or picks up all the cats before he sits down to relax. With such a lovable, funny bunch, it’s honestly just instinct to want to pet or hold them.
I’ve never used treats or any other thing but love and attention to make the cats want to be near me. And to clarify, these are not even necessarily cuddly cats. Actually, I’ve found that there is really no connection between the cuddly factor and the obedience factor.
Julien is not a cuddly cat at all. He’s all macho, preferring to do his own thing and climb trees. He never gets up on our laps and hardly ever sleeps in bed with us. He’s one of the cats that travels the furthest outside and yet still always comes when called.
Despite not being a cuddler at all, Julien still lets me pick him up for a bit for some chin scratching or ear rubbing. Sissy, who we took in when Will’s grandmother passed away, is the least friendly of the bunch, only liking to be handled on her terms, is always one of the first to show up when anyone is called.
The reward for coming when called
Once everyone has assembled (and sometimes gotten dried off), they get loved on and if they’ve been out for a while, offered food or at least inside, depending on the weather. This is the routine I’ve had since KK first showed up in 2012. Having only had dogs up until that point, I just kind of treated the cats the way I treated the dogs.
One by one, as the cats came along, everyone has been treated the same, with equal love and attention. The result has been that I have cats that mind as well as or better than the dogs, are very loyal, and are easy to handle because they are shown so much love and kindness, why wouldn’t they want to come?
Bonding over playtime
Another thing I do to build a bond with my cats is to play with them. Often. The top toys I use are a feather on a stick, like this one, https://amzn.to/2lnGfU3, an old shoestring, or a long turkey feather we found on a walk. The sessions aren’t overly long, but they are often. They usually involve me playing peekaboo with the object around the cat scratcher.
This is the vertical scratcher shown below https://amzn.to/2lItqnw that we all love playing on/around and also keeps the cats from using the furniture as a scratching post. The more intense they can be on the scratcher, the more they seem to enjoy themselves. You being kind AND fun = irresistible to your cat!
All good relationships require nurturing
I know everyone is busy and has a million things to do when they get home from work or while they are home during the day, but like any relationship, you have to nurture it. That includes your pets. Cats aren’t complex creatures like we’ve been led to believe over the years. They respond to positive attention and kindness, just like every other living being.
A strong bond makes everything, including medical treatment, easier
Another perk of always being kind, attentive, and loving to your cat is that by forging that strong bond, you’ll find it is much easier when you have to medicate them or get them in their carrier, or whatever. They’ll actually come when you call, or at least not run away, and they’ll tolerate having stuff done to them much better.
I’ve never had to fish a cat out from under a bed or behind the furniture or anywhere else. They may grumble and be unhappy, but they still stay close by after I’ve done whatever I’ve needed to do.
Once the treatment is done and I put them down or let them go, they’ll immediately let me walk up to them and pick them up or just love on them. That’s my way of apologizing to them for doing something they weren’t happy with and their allowing me near them lets me know they still trust me. When your cat has no or very few bad experiences with you, I’ve found that they tend to forgive quickly.
It’s never too late to build a strong bond
If your cat came to you as an adult or from an abusive background, don’t fret. It may take time, but a strong bond is still achievable. Of my six cats, only two came as kittens that I had complete control over their early years. The rest came as young cats or adults with unknown backgrounds. You would never be able to tell which ones are which.
Even after years of having them, I still see my cats’ trust in me continuing to evolve in subtle ways. Ways like letting me hold them for longer periods of time than ever before, or being ok with being carried back up the drive when it’s too hot for them, but they insisted on coming along. They have all become unexpected, but faithful little companions and all it has taken is something so basic as kindness and attention.
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