HOW CAN I MAKE MY CAT FRIENDLIER?
What does cat food and cat treats have to do with making your house cat more friendly? One the most common questions I get as a cat behavior consultant deals with the evolving c’attitude of maturing kitties. Pretty much all kittens are in-your-face clueless (and confident!) spit-fires that never met a stranger. They gallop and pounce through life, love to play until they collapse–and then snuggle and purr themselves to sleep on your lap.
But the baby cat grows up and then OH NO! What happened to the snuggle-puss? Well, sometimes they stay cuddly throughout life. But very often, the baby grows up to be a bit more selective in how he or she wishes to interact. That can put the human’s nose out of joint when suddenly Junior-Cat disses the person who brought them into the house. So–what can you do?
TREATS & TIPS FOR TABBIES
People readily think about treats with dogs, but not so often with cats–and in fact, cats relish not only the tastiness but also the special interaction that comes with any food “extras.” That can encourage your cat to act friendlier and interact with you.
The key to treating cats, though, is to remember they are “grazers.” A full meal for a cat tends to be 4-8 individual kibbles. That’s all! They’re not going to belly up to the smorgasbord and gulp mouthfuls or handfuls the way Shadow-Pup does. So a teeeeeny tiny amount is enough–the smell as much as the taste and the attention–that associates something positive for the cat with your presence.
The human with the pocketbook decides the treat choice, but ultimately it’s in the cat’s paws whether or not s/he will indulge. Of course, we don’t want over-nutrition to create tubby Tabbies so it’s best to choose a treat that compliments the cat’s existing diet. Most pet food companies offer a “family” of products that go well together.
Treats that make kitty sit up and purr tend to be very different than what s/he eats on a regular basis. Reserving a very unique tasting/smelling food–a canned ration, for example–can be a great way to make your cat feel special without potentially upsetting the nutrition.
POSITIVE TREATING FOR FRIENDLIER CATS
How should you treat to help your cat be friendlier? Establish a routine. That could be every morning while you’re eating breakfast, or while you brush your teeth–or perhaps every evening while watching the evening news. Cats love routine, and once Kitty figures out the time and place that TREATS get delivered, you won’t have to remember–she’ll remind YOU!
Tiny bits are enough. You don’t want cats to gobble and spoil their appetite. Maybe dip your finger in the canned food. My Karma-Kat comes when called, sits up, waves, and (we’re working on) speak! with just me holding up my finger–he EXPECTS a tasty treat whenever I call. Eventually, you don’t need to reward every time. Intermittent rewards (reinforcement) works better, because Kitty never knows when he’ll get that reward, so he’d better come when called every time, just in case!
By rewarding your cat for a natural behavior, you also reinforce the interaction and teach the kitty there’s a benefit to paying attention to you. If the cat still won’t come near…use dry treats you can toss to him. And the next time toss it closer to you…and the next, closer still. Do this in cat-size steps, not all at once, and your cat will become friendlier without even realizing it!
FEEDING DIFFERENT FOODS?
Well, yes. Some cats do very well on the same old food all the time, but others relish variety. If your cat won’t eat, refer to this post. And let’s face it, PEOPLE love variety, So even if cats could eat MOUSE every single day, it makes us feel good (rewards US!) to offer variety to our beloved cats, too.
For instance, you could choose to provide a dry kibble in puzzle toys for “hunting” throughout the day, and then give a bonus wet food for the evening or morning meal. If your cat is a bit tubby, try putting treats in a cat puzzle toy for added feline enjoyment (and exercise).
For more tips on making your cat friendlier and having a great relationship, refer to this post on environmental enrichment. Be sure to check out the video, below. What are some other tips you have for helping cats act “friendlier?”
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!
Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!