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Whether they’re your own cat or a cute stray you’ve met on the street, discover how to get a cat to like you and how to know if they’re your friend

Cats can make wonderful, loveable companions, but some kitties can take a bit of time to form a bond with you.

Much like us two-legged folk, cats can be extroverts and introverts. Some lap up the attention and are quick to trot over for a fuss, while other kitties will take their time to warm to you, especially if they are anxious, nervous or shy.

Whether they’re your own cat a home, a cat you’re visiting at a friend’s house, or a stray cat on the street, there are a few simple tricks you can use to build up their trust in you.

With a bit of patience and our top tips, they’ll hopefully soon be winding around your legs, head butting your hand and maybe even jumping on your lap for a cuddle!

black cat sitting on woman's lap having their head stroked

How long does it take for a cat to like you?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it will be different for each cat. Some particularly confident cats will become your best friend in a matter of minutes, but others who are more nervous may take several weeks or months to form a bond with you. Some cats may never feel comfortable around you, but don’t take this personally! If they had little or no contact with humans when they were a kitten, then they’ll forever be fearful of people. Find out more about feral cats.

How do you know if a cat likes you?

Cats can be a bit of enigma so it can be difficult to know how they feel about you. However, there are a few signs that show a cat likes you.

brown-and-white tabby cat rubbing their cheek on some brown boots on someone's feet

Why doesn’t my cat like me?

If you don’t see any of the signs that your cat likes you, don’t worry, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t like you! Some cats are just more aloof and independent, preferring to keep to themselves while you still tend to their every need. If your cat hides from you or is aggressive towards you, then this also doesn’t necessarily mean they don't like you. There could be other reasons for this behaviour, so speak to your vet to see if there could be any underlying issues you’re not aware of. As long as you give your cat space and keep any interactions on their own terms as much as possible, you're more likely to develop a close bond. 

How to build trust with a cat

1. Back off 

Your first temptation when you see those big adorable eyes might be to run over and say hello, but this could startle your new friend. If they run away, just leave them be. Felines need time to get accustomed to your scent, sound, and presence before they realise you’re not a threat. When they’ve decided you can be trusted, curiosity should take over and you’ll hopefully hear the pitter-patter of paws coming over to you.

2. Don’t lean over them

Great! The curious kitty is getting closer to being your forever friend. Now it’s time to get down to their level, or if you can’t do that, simply avoid leaning over them. Allow them to make the first move which will normally happen through a gentle rub against you — cats rely heavily on scent, so this is the perfect way for them to get to know you.

3. Keep calm 

If you talk in a soft, slow tone, cats are much more likely to warm to you with ease. Keep a calm demeanour by avoiding loud noises, sudden bursts of movement and make sure you announce yourself before walking into a room. Unexpectedly disturbing their cat nap could frighten them and set you back when building a feline friendship.

white-and-brown tabby cat having their head stroked

4. Slow blinking 

As primates, we prefer to look at other living beings in the eye. Unfortunately, this can cause kitties to be uncomfortable. So when befriending a cat, if they catch your eye, try half-closing your eyes and blinking slowly, then peacefully turning away.

5. Be their new playmate 

A great way to bond is playtime. You’re unlikely to meet a cat that doesn’t enjoy chasing something — whether it’s a homemade toy or pet shop fishing rod— and this activity also helps build their physical and mental health. Find out how to play with your cat.

6. Avoid that fluffy tummy 

Don’t assume a cat is asking for a tummy tickle when they lie on their back. While exposing their belly and neck makes them vulnerable and is essentially a sign of trust, most cats do not appreciate tummy tickles from people they are unfamiliar with. In fact, this affectionate act is likely to be met with aggression.

brown tabby cat on top of cat tower lying on their back showing their tummy

7. Keep calm and quiet

Whether they’re clawing your cashmere jumper or pawing at the fishbowl, never raise your voice to a cat. Shouting will not teach them positive behaviour; you’ll simply scare them and lose any trust you’ve built. Instead, give them alternative outlet for their scratching and hunting behaviour with a scratch post and cat toys. Find out why cats scratch.

8. Keep your hands to yourself 

As natural hunters, cats can easily confuse your hands for prey to paw, claw, and play with. To avoid injury and make sure your feline friend does not see you as a toy to attack, never use your bare hands to play.

9. Save them a space 

Cats love to elegantly walk around and mind their own business. Feel free to admire their beauty from a distance, but do not follow them. This can make them feel threatened, especially if you end up accidentally cornering them. Of course you’re only looking for a cuddle, but a cat’s affection cannot be rushed.

10. No one likes a tease 

Tricking or teasing a cat with toys like lasers may cause a cute reaction, but can lead to a lack of trust and build behavioural issues. Receiving an unexpected fright could even result in an injury, which is no way to make friends with any kind of animal.

Find more advice on understanding cat behaviour.

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