How To Get a Cat To Like (Or Trust) You Again?

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Cats sometimes have the reputation of being very picky or restrained animals, so when you do have the chance to have a bond with a cat – it feels very special. So when something out of ordinary happens like an accident or maybe something just as simple as going to the vet might cause them a little discomfort, we butlers might feel a little sad or guilty.

Occasionally, it’s not something we did directly either, cats can associate their bad feelings towards us without us even knowing. This can be more frustrating because owners will have no idea what sparked the change in their cat’s behaviors.

Picture 1. Some living places have a lot of sounds and sights that might give our cats a fright.

So how do you get a cat to like or trust you again? The first step to regain a cat’s favor and trust is to identify what type of feeling the cat is feeling, is it fear or stress-based? Once identified, employ a slow and deliberate routine of basic cat socialization to create the bond again. Through consistency and habitual guidance, they can strengthen their bond and both you and your feline friend can be better prepared for any similar changes in the future.

There are times when your cats are standoffish, lethargic, or just don’t want to play. Whatever situation you might find yourself in with your cats – I hope it will bring you comfort that most relationships and situations can be repaired with your cat. As long as you try your best to prevent it from continuing to happen, things will work out for the better. Remember, cats are habitual creatures and they don’t care about one-off events – what they do care about is repeated events.

There might even be times that your cat refuses any interaction or touch. For those types of situations – I outlined several strategies and methods for cat owners to follow here: My Cat Won’t Let Me Pet Him! Helpful Strategies!

Common Cat Peeves/Situations That Cause Cats Stress and Discomfort

There can be a lot of things that can trigger a cat’s discomfort. The most common sources of stress and discomfort are:

  • Visits to the vet
  • Loud noises and sounds
  • Accidents (either human-caused or cat-caused)

Some less common sources of stress and discomfort:

  • Sights or smells of other cats or animals (this can trigger a fight or flight reaction)
  • A change in inter-cat relationships (if you have more than 1 cat in your home)
  • Hard to notice illness or injury

Observation and awareness are a big part of being a cat owner – although cats are known to be fairly relaxed creatures, they can get themselves into trouble more often than we think. Knowing where they are/what they’re doing can be a big help in what problems arise later on.

Identifying The Problem (What Feelings Is Your Cat Feeling Now?)

When cats are feeling discomfort or some sort of uneasiness, there are 2 feelings they’re usually grouped into, those being fear or stress. Perhaps maybe even a combination of the two.

If a cat is fearful, it might want to avoid everything. If you try to approach, they’re going to run away or hide in some dark corner of the room. They might even go into the litterbox for safety.

A cat might feel stressed for a number of reasons. How can you tell if they’re stressed? They might be lethargic, sleeping all day long. Possibly losing appetite and just general unresponsiveness.

Picture 2. Some cats will take their own time to get out of their funk. Ash, my Russian Blue will sleep it off.

It’s important to differentiate the two feelings (or the feeling that the cat might be leaning towards) because fear tends to solve itself faster than stress sometimes. In general, fear is quite fleeting because of one-off events such as accidents or noises but stress can have so many causes – at times, causes in which isn’t anything to do with their surroundings (i.e. illness).

Usually, cats will get back to their usual selves within a day or, maximum, a couple of days. If your cat is still exhibiting feelings of fear or stress for more than a few days – then definitely bring them to the vet.

Go Back to Basics of Cat Socialization (Recreating the Bond with your Cat)

Like any relationship, sometimes the more we try to apologize or force something with any living thing – it tends to backfire. It’s possible that the more that you try to make them feel better, the worse the situation might get because cats can’t understand our intentions, they can only understand the feelings that you’re making them feel at that moment.

Picture 3. With cats, less is more most of the time.

The first step is to first leave the cat alone. Be aware that it is feeling some discomfort from you or something but don’t make it obvious to him/her.

For example, many owners might have the experience of stepping on the cat’s tail and as a result, the cat might be surprised and run away. The owner might feel very sorry and try to approach the cat but again, the cat will likely run away.

The act of approaching and focusing on something is predatory behavior – so not only did you surprise the cat, but you’re also instilling a bit of fear (even though the intentions might be the opposite). As such, you might prolong the feeling of discomfort rather than leaving the cat alone to calm down.

The second step is to start enticing the cats with food. Food is one of the most powerful things to guide a cat’s behaviors.

Eventually, all cats get hungry and most of them will have a positive response to food. Offer some food on the end of a spoon and see if you can get the cat to move or lick it. If they do, reward them with a snack.

If it doesn’t work at first, don’t worry about it, try it again later. If they do respond to the food (either licking or eating it), continue to reward the cat with treats and progress to hand feeding next time. Just feed them very small pieces of food, such as tiny dry snacks or wet food (some cats might display meat aggression – growling or grabbing the meat/food if it’s too big).

Incorporating touch is the third step. The main goal is to be able to touch/approach the cat without them freaking out or being uncomfortable.

As owners continue to progress to hand-feeding the cat. It creates a positive association between the cats and your hand/touch. After they’re used to a couple of hand-feeding sessions, incorporate a gentle touch on the top of the cat’s head for a few seconds. If the cat reacts well, then you know you can extend it a little bit more next time.

Continue to reward them each session and progress to touching other areas of the cat. Always keep in mind that every cat is an individual, which means they might prefer being touched in certain ways. It’s up to the owners to discover and observe where and how the cat is going to be the most tolerant.

If at any point you feel like your cat has gone back into fear/stress – then go back to the first step and try again.

Fear tends to subside faster than stress. So keep an eye on how long it’s taking for them to get out of the slump.

Consistency and Habitual Guidance (Strengthening The Bond With Your Cat)

While the process seems a bit tedious, cats that are socialized well when they were young will tend to bounce back faster than cats that haven’t. You might only need to go through step one (leaving them alone for a little bit) and they’re completely fine later.

Some cats might be a bit shook for a day and then be completely fine the next. Other cats might need a couple of days if the event was seriously negative.

Owners just have to remember that cats are highly habitual creatures and will require lifestyle consistency. Consistency means setting a proper routine for your cats, whether it’s socialization time, mealtime, or playtime.

Picture 4. Cats feel the most comfortable when they have a healthy routine of food, play, and meaningful interactions.

For help to create an optimal routine for play, read more about Play Scheduling!

For meal scheduling and why it’s important for cats, click here!

The more routine you give your cats, the easier it is for them to bounce back after surprising/stressful events. Your cats will be more resilient to these types of events and more quickly adapt to changes as they get into the groove of their routines and schedules.

Other Tips to Help Cats Adapt To Stressful Situations

  • Trips to the vet – if you have frequent trips to the vet and the cat absolutely hates it, make them love their carrier. Have the carrier open around the home and give them snacks whenever they’re around or in the carrier by themselves. Use the carrier as a playtime prop. Then when you go to the vet, hopefully, the trip will be a lot less stressful and then you can reward them inside the carrier when you get home.
  • Moving homes – Whenever I move, I try my best to take the things that my cats are familiar with to the next home (i.e. the same scratching post, bedding, blankets). Also, the home environment/layout is important too. If the cats are used to vertical spaces, make sure they have plenty of vertical spaces in the new home as well.
  • Loud noises/vacuum cleaning – kittens and cats that are not used to the apartment/indoor environment might be scared of the vacuum cleaner. Clean slow and clean quickly, which is sort of a weird statement to make, but make your movements slow (no jerky movements, as it tends to surprise cats) but clean efficiently (don’t use it more than you need to). Your cats will learn to ignore the vacuum cleaner over time as they discover it isn’t a threat.

monsieurtn

With a science background and years of experience including learning, observing, and training cats - increasing our beloved feline's welfare and wellbeing is the priority and passion.

3 thoughts on “How To Get a Cat To Like (Or Trust) You Again?

    1. I had to do this for my youngest cat, Loki. He was very wary of everything when he was younger. So it took awhile for him to adapt to his environment. He gets most affected by changes in the environment! He’s getting better nowadays though!

  1. Me and my daughter just got a Tabby cat yesterday and she’s 8 weeks old and she’s a ESA cat and all she’s done is stress me out. She keeps getting into everything. My daughter who is 16 has fallen deeply in love with her. Can anyone give me advice on what to do? And also how do you get a cat to sleep all night?

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