First, create the right environment for your cat. Then, after a couple of days of letting your cat settle in, you’re ready to start interacting with them.
Step by step bonding
For the first few days, provide fresh water and food and take the litter tray out of the room to clean it – this reduces noise and movement.
Start with one member of your family visiting your cat a few times a day to build trust and a bond with them. Introduce a second person after the bond has been built with the first person and so on –until all members of your family have met your cat in one familiar place.
Understand your body language
The most important way to start to building trust with your cat is to understand their way of communication and adjust your body language accordingly. Try to sit down in the room – but not too close so you’re looming over your cat, as this may be overwhelming.
Cats perceive staring as threatening and intimidating, so try not to look directly at our cat. Instead, narrow your eyes and look away, this lets the cat know that you want to be friends. Gently licking your lips can also be a sign of friendliness too.
Then follow some of these steps:
- Sit in your cat’s room, side on to them if possible – so your cat sees you as less threatening. Read a book or something similar, so that you feel relaxed and in turn your cat feels relaxed
- Talk softly and use a word that becomes your special word that your cat associates with you. It is best to use a word that you don’t think will have been used around them in the past in any scary situations. Don’t use your cat’s name when you are trying to bond with them, as this may have been used for unpleasant experiences such as visiting the vets
- Sit and eat (or pretend to eat) some fish or chicken. Tuna or pilchards in tomato sauce are often a great way to entice cats as they have a strong smell and cats find them very tasty. If you want to make the fish smell even stronger, warm it up slightly in the microwave
- After about ten minutes get up and leave the room, leaving some of the tasty food in a bowl next to where you have been eating. Don’t try to offer it to your cat at this time, unless they approach you and nudges you for some.
- Go back an hour or so later to see if your cat has eaten the fish. If so, leave a little more and leave the room again. If not, leave the fish there and leave quietly. Go back again a little later and repeat
- Do this every day, softly using your familiar word as you approach and enter the room, for as long as it takes for your cat to start to approach you while you’re eating. You can continue to talk softly to them while they approach you, but remember to not stare directly at them. Instead keep narrowing your eyes and looking away
- When your cat starts to approach you, put some of the food in a bowl next you and stay seated until they’ve finished eating. When your cat realises there is no more, they may go back to their safe place or they may ask you for more. If they want more, give them some. Don’t try to stroke your cat yet, unless they’re nudging your hand to ask for affection
- Gradually, you can start to leave your hand down by your side as they eat, moving it gradually closer to them
- If they don’t mind this, gently place your hand to one side of your cat to see if they rub their cheek on it. Do this for 3 seconds and then remove it. If they ask for more affection then place your hand again in front of their cheek, allow your cat to rub on your hand for as long as they want. If your cat doesn’t ask for more affection, then give them more food and leave when they’re finished
- Gradually build this up over the next few days until you can stroke your cat’s cheeks and head. Some cats will only ever want to be stroked around their head and cheeks. Some may gradually allow you to stroke them down their back. Never attempt to stoke the tail, legs or the tummy unless you know a cat very well, as you may get scratched or bitten and your cat will lose trust in you
- Have imaginary lines that you reach every time you go to see your cat – never cross straight over this line
- Always end your session with some of the tasty food
- Your cat will begin to associate your special word with your arrival, especially if you visit them at the same times every day. They will start to anticipate the pleasant experience that is coming and this will make your cat feel much happier, trusting and more settled in your home
- Once your cat is walking round the room freely and is no longer hiding, allow them to have access to the rest of the house. Try to do this at a quiet time and try not to follow the cat around whilst they investigate, as this may make them feel suspicious and uneasy
- Once your cat is confident with you and the whole of your house, then you can start to introduce them to the outside world
Once they’re completely comfortable in their new home, you can start to think about letting your cat out for the first time.