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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

13 Ways to Get Your Cat to Like You

We asked the experts how you can make your standoffish kitty love you as much as you love her. Here’s what they recommend you do—and should never do.

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Happy kitten likes being stroked by woman's hand. The British ShorthairPHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Shutterstock

Pay attention to your cat

You should make a point of interacting with your cat, says Kristyn Vitale, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Human-Animal Interaction Lab at Oregon State University: “Research indicates that cats will more frequently approach and play with a person who is attentive to them compared to a person who is ignoring them.” Check out these 17 things you never knew about your cat.

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catAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

But not too much attention!

Sometimes cats want to be left alone—don’t pick them up or try to get them to play if they’re not in the mood. Vitale says that if your cat is showing signs of aggression (“dilated pupils, a fast/twitchy tail, fur standing up on end, hissing or growling vocalizations”), just walk away. “It’s better to end the interaction before an incident which may lead to a strain in the relationship occurs,” she says. In other words, don’t give your cat a reason to be mad at you. Take note of these 8 reasons you should never let your cat sleep in your bed.

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A cute healthy brown tabby white small cat hiding behind a man waiting to attack a toy on a wooden garden chair in a green park. Kitten playing with the owner in evening lighting Winessyork/Shutterstock

Play with your cat

When your cat is in the mood to hang out with you, don’t always make it about cuddles. “Try playing with your cat at least once a day to help stimulate your cat’s mind and build healthy interactions,” Vitale says. If you both look forward to playtime, it will help strengthen your bond. Know the 11 subtle signs your cat is depressed.

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Little kitten fighting with mouse toygregorschuessler/Shutterstock

Play the way your cat likes to play

Figure out what’s most fun for your particular cat, because they’re all different. Vitale says that some like passive playing, when they just sit and watch the toy you’re moving around, so if your cat is interested but doesn’t seem to be participating, don’t give up. Others like actively chasing the toy. “In a recent study, we found that most cats preferred to play with a toy that moves, such as a feather toy, compared to a toy that was stationary,” she says.

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Close-up of beard man in icelandic sweater who is holding and kissing his cute purring Devon Rex cat. Muzzle of a cat and a man's face. Love cats and humans. Relationship, weasel.Veera/Shutterstock

Train your cat to associate you with good feelings

Whenever your cat has a good experience with you—getting attention, playing a fun game, being fed a special treat—she becomes more likely to expect happy feelings when you’re around. “If you pay attention to your cat, play with them, and give them rewards for coming to you, all of these experiences will help build a healthy relationship,” Vitale says. “This allows the cat to see you are associated with positive things, which may increase the amount of time they spend with you.” Read these tips for training a cat to do life-changing tricks.

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red thick long-haired fat cat sitting on the windowsill and eating cat foodOlga Mazina/Shutterstock

Be strategic about offering treats

If your cat tends to keep his distance from you, Vitale suggests using treats to build up trust. She says to start by leaving the treats out at a distance, and then, as your kitty gets braver, putting them closer and closer to you. “You can also try talking softly to the cat as they eat the treats so they associate your voice with rewards,” she adds. Take a look at these 15 hilarious cat memes.

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The cat eats food from the owner's handosobystist/Shutterstock

Don’t try to buy love with food

Although treats can be one way to your cat’s heart, be careful to avoid overfeeding (which can lead to health problems including obesity) and also to resist rewarding undesirable behavior with snacks. “If the cat just jumped up on the counter and cried for food, giving them treats rewards that begging behavior,” Vitale says. “If the cat is sitting quietly looking out the window, giving them treats rewards that calm behavior. Pick your timing carefully!”

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Don't punish mePiyamol Singhasemanont/Shutterstock

Don’t punish your cat

Even if you don’t like a behavior, yelling at your cat or spraying her with water is less likely to make the cat stop than it is to make your pet stressed and unhappy around you, according to Instead, focus your efforts on teaching your cat alternative behavior. If your cat is jumping on the table, for example, resist the urge to shoo her off; instead, try to lure your pet with the promise of a special treat for coming down to the floor. To the cat, our rules (no jumping on the table) are totally arbitrary, so doling out a scary punishment is risky: Instead of associating the bad feelings with the specific misdeed, your cat might link them with the room or, worse, with you. Avoid doing these 13 things that your cat actually hates.

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Tabby cat lying in her owner's lap and enjoying while being brushed and combed. Selective focusImpact Photography/Shutterstock

Try brushing your cat

Again, if your cat doesn’t like being brushed, don’t do it—avoid stressful and unpleasant interactions whenever you can. “Some cats love to be brushed; others hate it!” Vitale says. If yours loves it, brushing gives you another opportunity to have up-close, personal interactions that give your cat good associations with you. “For those who like it, then being brushed will be a positive social interaction that helps build a healthy relationship between cat and owner,” Vitale says.

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Cute cat cuddled by a hand Constantin Plugari/Shutterstock

Pet your cat in his favorite spots

According to animal-behavior researcher Dennis C. Turner, who edited what’s considered the “cat bible,” The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour, most cats don’t like having their bellies rubbed. Instead, “they usually like being tickled around their necks or stroked down the back,” he says. But all cats are different, so watch your pet’s body language to make sure he’s enjoying the petting you’re giving. Avoid these 12 dangerous mistakes too many cat owners make.

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Happy little Asian girl cuddle lovely scottish fold kittenRonnachai Palas/Shutterstock

If you have a kitten, make sure she’s exposed to people

If you adopt a cat very young, you can help your kitty get used to people by handling her regularly. “We do know that cats that are properly socialized to humans as kittens display less fear of humans and more social behavior,” Vitale says. Pet the kitten all over (as long as your pet is comfortable—as always, leave animals alone if they get aggressive), including on the feet, while speaking to the kitten in a calm voice. Offer good treats at the end of a session.

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Two cute catsyakub88/Shutterstock

Don’t assume your cat will love you more if he’s an only cat

Whether or not a cat is happy around other felines is really unpredictable. “Some cats will feel more secure as the only cat in the house, and others will feel more secure in a multi-cat household,” Vitale says. A shy kitty might come out of his shell if you adopt a companion cat, but you can’t count on it. You should probably be worried if your cat shows any of these 15 signs he’s angry at you.

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cute ginger kitten peeking out of a wicker podAlexandra King/Shutterstock

Make sure your cat has a safe place to hide

No matter how much you love your cat, she must have a space of her own, where your pet can retreat if your affection stresses her out. “Allowing them to have their own space where they can deposit their scent will help cats feel more secure in the house and may lead to them displaying a healthier bond with their owner,” Vitale says. So when your cat runs off to hide in that special bed in the den, don’t chase her. Instead, trust that your pet is getting the alone time she needs to relax so that she will be ready to play and cuddle with you later. Next, check out these 21 cat adoption photos that will melt your heart.