How to Gain a Cat's Trust

Two Parts:Creating a Nurturing EnvironmentEncouraging Contact

Do you find yourself wishing that your new cat would be more friendly and trusting of you? By nature, cats are more independent and don't depend on your friendship. They also take longer trust and respond less quickly to bribery, like treats. Let your cat set the pace for befriending you and simply focus on making your cat feel safe and secure. Once she feels nurtured by her environment, she'll learn to trust you.

Part 1
Creating a Nurturing Environment

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    Understand your cat's mindset. You won't be able to force your cat to do anything, let alone to trust you. Instead, the cat has to be convinced that she'll benefit from an action. For example, maybe she'll give up her nap if you offer her her favorite treat. Don't be offended if she decides not to be persuaded. By nature, cats often choose to remain aloof or unpredictable.[1]
    • Your cat will have a harder time accepting you if you're chaotic and noisy. Cats dislike stress, noise, or a lot of activity. Your cat will accept you faster if you're calm and relaxed around her.
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    Allocate room and places for your cat. A good way to make your cat comfortable is to give the cat their own space. A comfortable, warm place to sleep, eat, play and excrete/urinate. Another point is to look in pet stores and maybe even ask staff about cat shelves. These can be nailed to a wall in whatever position suits you and your cat so they have somewhere to look over the room and feel safe up there.
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    Offer space for safety and exploration. There will be times when your cat feels insecure, scared, or anxious. Give her plenty of hiding places to go to when feeling frightened, like a closet or spot under the bed. It's fine to know where her hiding place is, but don't force your cat out of it unless you absolutely have to. You should also make sure your cat can access high perches (like window ledges, furniture, or a high cat scratch platform) and toys for when she's bored and wants to look around or play.
    • Immediately creating a safe and secure place is important. If you're trying to gain the trust of a new cat, keep her in one room so she can get familiar with her territory without feeling overwhelmed.[2]
    • You should also take care to set the litter box in a private corner of the room. It should be away from anything noisy, like a dryer) and she should feel protected when she uses it (the 2 walls will offer this protection if it's in a corner).
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    Give food and water. Feed your cat on a regular basis so she understands that you provide food and shelter. When you set the food down, talk in a soft sing-song voice so she starts recognizing your voice and associating it with something positive, like mealtime.[3] When your cat comes over to eat, back up and give her plenty of space. If you'd like to keep her company, sit down on the floor so you aren't towering over her, which could intimidate her.
    • Make sure your cat can easily get to the food and water dishes. If she's shy, set them within reach of her hiding place, so she doesn't feel too traumatized or stressed by going out to get them.
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    Help your cat relax. Your cat may have trouble relaxing or feeling calm in a new environment. You can purchase a synthetic cat pheromone product (like Feliway) to diffuse in the room. This is a synthetic version of the chemical messengers a mother cat gives off to make her kittens feel safe and secure. The pheromone can reduce overall stress and can help the new cat settle in faster.[4]
    • You might also consider getting your cat used to your scent as something familiar. This will help her recognize you when you start to make physical contact. For example, you might try letting your cat sleep with one of your old T-shirts that has your scent on it.[5]
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    Offer positive reinforcement. A cat might be frightened of its new surroundings, regardless of how cozy you've made it. This is especially true if the cat was abused or neglected. Never yell at the cat when you notice her doing something she shouldn't. Chances are, she's just exploring her new environment. Instead, use a calm soothing voice to praise her for any good behavior she shows.[6]
    • If your cat still seems frightened of her new surroundings, make sure that you're not scaring her. Never sneak up on your cat or make sudden movements that may catch her off guard. Cats that have been abused are more likely to be skittish, when you surprise them.[7]

Part 2
Encouraging Contact

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    Watch for signs that your cat is ready for contact. Always let your cat come to you, rather than approach her. If you clearly see that your cat appears tense and is watching you intently (standing, tail stiff, pupils dilated), do nothing. Sit very still, preferably with your eyes closed. You'll be less of a threat this way and the cat will get used to your presence. On the other hand, if your cat is ready for contact, she may:[8]
    • Stay in your sight after she finishes eating, instead of running for cover
    • Take a few steps towards you
    • Sit near you and wash (which shows she's relaxed)
    • Sit with her back to you (which shows she trusts you)
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    Appear less threatening. There are several ways you can appear less intimidating and make your cat feel more comfortable. Lie down, if space allows. Being on her level keeps you from towering over her. Avoid eye contact, since direct eye contact is a challenge or threat display in cat language.[9] Instead, turn your head aside and look away.
    • If you wear glasses, you may even want to take them off since the lenses can look like large eyes to cats. This may look like a threat.
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    Let your cat set the pace for contact. Don't feel like you have to rush things. Eventually, your cat will begin trusting and approaching you. When this happens on a regular basis, the cat will then voluntarily bump her head against your hand or body. This bumping puts her scent onto you and shows that she's accepting you.
    • You can encourage your cat to come closer to you by offering tasty treats. Rest your arm on the floor and scatter a few treats around you. Let the cat pluck up courage to come and eat the treats. Gradually, set treats closer to you so she can approach without feeling threatened.
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    Create a good environment between your cat and other pets. Allow them to play or eat near each other. Of course, this will be a whole other process as you will have to start from a longer distance and move them closer each day. Of course it would be helpful to have someone else involved in this.
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    Rub her ears or chin. When your cat signals (by bumping her head against you) that she's ready for more contact, you can rub her ears or chin. Take it slowly and start by just extending a single finger to rub her. Don't make any sudden movements, and as her confidence builds, you can scratch her chin.[10]
    • Avoid rough-housing, since cats don't like it.
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    Spend time playing with your cat. When your cat starts approaching you regularly and purrs when you cuddle her, you can stop lying down around her. Sit up and cuddle her. She may even start to sit on your lap, which shows she completely trusts you.
    • Make playtime a regular part of your daily routine. This will strengthen your cat's bond towards you and she'll expect this attention from you. Studies have also shown health benefits for humans (such as lowered cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and less anxiety) from touching and talking with pets.[11]
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    Watch for signs that your cat needs space. This is especially important if you're rehabilitating a cat that has been abused or neglected. You may find yourself cautiously petting the cat, when all of a sudden, she bites you. This, along with surprise scratching, might mean that your cat is overwhelmed by the physical contact or affection. Give the cat some time on her own to calm down, since she's probably surprised too. Next time, avoid petting her for as long.[12]
    • Never punish the cat by yelling or hitting. Cats won't understand why you're hurting them. Instead, remove yourself from the situation for a while.[13]
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    If your cat does or you're worried about your cat scratching or biting you, this is usually because they have energy to burn. So always play with them at least once a day. A good time to do this is before you go to bed. This burns their energy which will help them associate that time of night with winding down and going to sleep just as you do.


  • Learn the proper way to pick up a cat so that it will feel more comfortable with you when you do. But wait until your cat is comfortable with you before picking her up or you may undo all your earlier good work.
  • If your cat has done something wrong, simply ignore the behavior and walk away. Punishing the cat will only make her associate the rebuke with your presence and make her anxious around you. To stop her repeating the behavior, try to understand why she did it in the first place and give an alternative outlet for the behavior.
  • If your cat is warmed up to you a little around bonfire night, this is a good time to try and comfort them. Chances are that every bang and sizzle in the sky is scaring them. Every time you hear a firework make sure to comfort your cat. Another point is, do not let your cat out in the first place, especially at a stage where they don't fully trust you and may not return.
  • When your cat is comfortable to allow you to pet them, never start above them, come down to their level, keep your hand low too, bring it under their chin and allow them to move their head down if they choose, never have your hand above their head as they associate over head objects with birds and will most likely swipe at your hand. Stay at the area around their head until they are comfortable with more. If you come to a point along the cats body where they become extremely uncomfortable and they hiss at you etc. this may not just mean that they are uncomfortable babe cause your new, it may mean there is something internal affecting that area and causing pain to the touch.

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Categories: Cat Training