How can I interact with my cat?

There are two points to make about interacting with your cat, (1) who should initiate it and (2) what types of interactions are there?

Cat interacting with owner. You can feel the bond. It is the kind of bond which encourages the cat to initiate an interaction. Photo in public domain.

Let your cat call the shots

The heading words are those of Jackson Galaxy in Total Cat Mojo. He refers to a study of over 6,000 interactions between domestic cats and humans in 158 homes. The clear conclusion was that when the cats initiated the interactions they lasted longer than when the humans began the interaction. So, as Jackson said if you want to maximise the amount of time you spend in close proximity with your cat doing something with her or him let them start it off.

Clearly you cat will have to be keen to interact with you in order to follow this guidance. You can only achieve this by being an excellent cat guardian. This means being aware of your cat’s needs. It means understanding domestic cats and above all else allowing them to express their natural desires.

Also there is no way around the demand that you are at home sufficiently often and for long enough periods to form a close bond with your cat.

This is not a boast but all the interactions with my cat are initiated by him. He wants to be picked up and cuddled when I come in, be fed, sit on my lap, come to bed with me, go outside with me, play with me, come upstairs to go to the bathroom with me and so on. He is on the bed with me right now at my feet. He is the boss in the relationship about 90% of the time. There are times when I simply can’t comply with his request and he accepts it.

The cat-to-human interactions

I have mentioned some typical ones above. The kind of interaction that you should not try are those that you do entirely for yourself and which are foisted on your cat. Cats should not only initiate the interaction they should dictate the type of interaction.

For example, you want to cuddle your cat because it will make you feel better. The question is does you cat want to do it? He may not mind and be emotionally neutral about it. He may love it and he may dislike it. You just have to understand him and make sure that nothing is forced on him.

I have seen men grabbing cats too hard. It is horrible and crude. You have to be gentle at least. Men should make a particular effort to be gentle although that may be unnatural for some guys. Why is being gentle so important? Because domestic cats are (1) much smaller than us and can be intimidated even by their owner who they know well and (2) their senses are finely tuned. They are not as crude as humans in terms of sound reception and being touched. For instance it is unwise to play rough with a cat. Some might accept it but often it will provoke hostile play in the cat bordering on real fighting. People need to be aware of the size difference between domestic cats and humans and think what it might be like if they lived with a potentially dangerous animal that was 16 times heavier and 6 times taller than them.

Of all the different kinds of cat-to-human interaction the three most popular and important are (1) your cat being in contact with you when you are both resting e.g. on your lap when sitting down or on your legs in bed1, (2) playing with him and (3) feeding him. Cat guardians don’t play with their cats enough and I am one of those people. Play achieves so much that is good for the cat and the relationship. The cat can hunt safely in play and express his drives and it improves the bond which is good for the cat’s guardian.

I hope this answers the question: How can I interact with my cat? This article is not for experienced cat guardians. It is written for people who are learning about living with a domestic cat.

1. Not all cats are lap cats and some won’t like to be in direct contact with you but I feel sure that 95% or more will like being in contact with their caretaker because cats like this between themselves and they like warmth.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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