Cats are well known for their independent nature, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t or can’t be affectionate. Every cat has an individual personality – some will stick to their people like glue and others may be more aloof and will choose to socialize on their own terms.
However, if you have a not-so-clingy cat that you’d like to spend some more quality cuddle time with, there are still ways to encourage positive interactions with your kitty friend.
1. A Safe Environment
The number one way to facilitate positive socialization and growth towards lap cats is to provide them with a secure and safe home. Stressed or anxious cats are not one to willingly lay down with you because they’re obviously on the edge.
A good environment is one wherein not only all basic needs are met – food, water, and a clean litter box – but also one where cats are offered both comfort and enrichment. Comfort includes places to lounge and hide in such as a cat walk, a perch or box, and enrichment such as toys to keep them stimulated.
Interactive toys are outlets for energy and can help cats feel more confident as they play hunt. A scratching pad or post is also a good idea to aid with destressing.
Multi-cat households can also be a source of stress, so you should make sure that your cat is eased into introductions with new animals. Don’t push your cat too quickly into unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations as this is not the proper way to encourage socialization.
If cats feel comfortable where they are, this goes a long way towards getting them into a frame of mind where being lap cats sounds appealing.
2. A Calm Presence
The second most important aspect that goes towards producing lap cats is you! Once they feel comfortable in their environment, they then need to feel comfortable with you.
You should be in a relaxed mindset when you want to cuddle with your animal and should communicate this through your body language. This means that you should have an open stance and avoid threatening gestures or mannerisms.
Cats can pick up on your emotions and if they feel that you are stressed or tensed, this will, in turn, give them a negative feeling when near you and make them unlikely to open up or feel at ease.
Never yell or punish cats as they respond poorly to negative reinforcement and can cause them to lose trust in you. Let them understand that they are safe with you.
Cats thrive on positive reinforcement. So, while you are sitting on the couch and your cat jumps up and sits next to you, treats can come in handy.
Make sure to be comfortable so that your cat can get comfortable in return. Even breathing can matter as cats can notice fast breathing as an indication of nerves; so slow, calm breaths are key.
You also want to avoid quick movements. Even a very friendly cat can be spooked by a sudden movement. In fact, cats will sometimes learn to avoid a place or a setting where they were previously frightened.
3. Rewarding Experience
Cats learn best through positive reinforcement. Therefore, if you want to help entice your kitty to come close, you can always provide rewards. Having treats that cats like on hand is a great way to encourage interactions and to build their trust in you.
Turning your feline into a lap cat is done not only through rewards during specific cuddle sessions, but should also be applied to all interactions with the animal. Bonding can be facilitated during feeding, play, and grooming time, for example. This is especially applicable to cats that are so-called social eaters or those that like to eat in the presence of others.
Even if your cat doesn’t fall under this category, you being nearby during feeding times is a technique used to associate food with yourself being the cat parent. This means that your cat will likely feel happy seeing you in the coming days – making socialization more natural for your kitty.
Playtime and grooming sessions – granted that your cat tolerates and seems to enjoy them – are additional ways to continue building up a relationship with your animal.
4. Petting Etiquette
Once your cat is on your lap, how do you make sure s/he likes it and will want to come back? This is where knowing how to touch your pet appropriately comes into play.
Cats can be very particular about where they want to be petted and each cat can be different in terms of what makes them feel good and what their limits are. Between the ears, the chin, and the upper back are the parts that most cats generally enjoy being petted and scratched.
Some cats can be sensitive about their legs, tail, and stomach being touched. Because of this, be sure to watch their body and tail language while you interact with them to get a better understanding of what they can tolerate. If you respect the animal’s boundaries, your cat is more likely to continue interacting and socializing with you.
5. No Staring
You may have heard of the so-called slow blink technique for socializing with cats. This involves slow and intentional blinks while looking at a cat to build trust and rapport.
Conversely, staring at a cat is not advisable as most cats will get upset by it after some time. This aversion to long eye contact may have something to do with an evolutionary avoidance of predators in the wild.
The slow blink, on the other hand, is a way to demonstrate that you don’t mean any harm. When cats do it back to you, it means that they understand and are showing that they have the same intentions. This goes a long way toward making your cat comfortable which is exactly what you need to help train a lap cat.
6. Avoid Unpleasant Tasks
If your cat doesn’t trust you, it will never willingly sit on your lap. Your cat needs to feel safe and secure with you.
This brings us to another aspect of socializing a lap cat which is to avoid unpleasant activities when they climb onto you and start to socialize. These include nail trimming, grooming in some cases, and especially giving medication.
Although your animal may need these, if your cat is just getting comfortable enough to go on your lap, these things will create a negative association with you and they might not want to come close anymore. You should separate cuddle time from medication time, for example.
Using a loud voice can also be frightening and confusing to cats and chasing them simply doesn’t work. In fact, some cats will just interpret this as a game.
7. Don’t Force It
Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that not all cats can become lap cats, so don’t try to force them to behave in a way that they are not used to. If you want a relaxed cuddle buddy, forcibly holding and picking your cat up is a big no-no.
Building trust can be accomplished simply by accepting cats the way they are. They are easily startled and generally don’t take too kindly to force.
Remember that cats need patient, gradual socialization taken one step at a time and you should only proceed with more interactions once your cat is comfortable. Sitting next to you or gazing at you from across the room can be a feline declaration of adoration, with no need to touch.
While humans are primates used to touching and hugging each other, whole-body touching is a foreign concept to felines. Hugging between cats only naturally occurs during aggressive interactions or mating.