It’s a running accusation that cats are jerks—unloving and uncaring creatures that couldn’t care less if you’re around as long as their food bowl is full. Cat people, however, know this is far from the truth. If your cat likes you, you basically have a tiny, fur-covered BFF for life.
It’s the getting them to like you part that can be tricky.
Cats are very different than dogs. They’re not attracted to enthusiastic greetings or belly rubs—in fact, those actions will probably get you black-listed with your cat pretty quickly. Cats are different animals (literally) so it takes entirely different behavior to get them on your side. And it’s not going to happen overnight. Winning a cat over takes time and dedication.
Here’s what the experts say you should (and shouldn’t) do to get your cat to like you.
What not to do when interacting with a cat
We know you’re excited about your cat, and you want them to love you just as much as love them. But the first thing you need to do is dial all that enthusiasm back…a lot.
Cats like calm, quiet, and doing things on their own terms. Greeting your cat with an enthusiastic “Hi kitty!” and rushing towards him is a surefire way to send your cat into hiding—and to make him be on guard the next time you’re around.
The same goes for forcing affection. If your cat trusts you enough to be in the same room as you, forcing him to sit close or be held when he isn’t interested is only going to work against you in the long run. In fact, it might eat away at the trust you’ve built.
Even worse may be force-petting your cat, according to Dr. Marty Becker of Vet Street. “A recent study found that cats who reluctantly allow people to stroke them are more stressed than cats who simply avoid being petted.” she wrote on the site.
Instead, dig down deep and find your chill. Resist all urges to show your cat just how much you want to be friends and take it slow.
How to get your cat to like you
1. Give your cat some space
When your cat comes into the room, your instincts may tell you to keep him there by any means necessary. But blocking his exit is the last thing you should do, according to what Jackson Galaxy, author of Total Cat Mojo and host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell, told LifeHacker.
When your cat enters a new space, he’s judging the whole area and always monitoring the way out. Galaxy explains that by blocking the way out, you’re making yourself more of a foe than a friend.
2. Act like you don’t care
You know how your cat sometimes acts indifferent to you? It may be hard, but it’s time to mimic that behavior.
According to research explained by Mental Floss, the best way to bring a cat to you is to act like you couldn’t care less. Read a book, watch TV, maybe even take a nap. If you’re not interested, the cat is more likely to approach.
When you take this tactic, your cat is in control. If it was his idea to approach you, you’re already on the right track. Once he comes over to visit, how you react matters more than you think.
3. Avoid eye contact
Now that you have your cat’s attention, it’s important not to spook or intimidate him. You may glance over to notice your cat’s proximity to you, but do not hold that gaze.
Once cat expert told Slate that in cat language, holding eye contact is basically like trying a start a fight—which is exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to do here. Instead, take a page out of the cat’s own book and practice the art of the slow blink. You’ve probably seen your cat do this a time or two, and now it’s time to try it yourself.
Turn your head back to face your cat and wait for him to look your way. Once he does, slowly close your eyes, scrunch your face, then slowly open your eyes again. Do this a few times and wait to see if your cat does it back.
He’ll probably only play this game of back and forth a time or two before he loses interest, but that’s OK. You’ve passed a major milestone by bonding with your cat in their very own language.
4. Offer a finger
Once your cat is comfortable enough to stay within reach of you, your instinct may be to reach out and give him a pet. Don’t do that.
According to Mental Floss, cats greet nose to nose. It would be weird for you to try this move, even to your cat, so the next best thing is to offer a finger, which closely resembles the tip of a nose.
Nonchalantly stick out a finger or your whole hand—not directly at the cat, just in his general direction. Chances are, your cat will walk up and sniff your finger, and may even rub it against his face.
Take that as a win.
4. Pet your cat the right way
If the finger greeting went the right way and your cat is still hanging around, it may be time to try to pet him. But be careful, because the way you do it matters.
According to LifeHacker, it’s time again to discuss the difference between cats and dogs. With a dog, you’d reach out and pat his head or scratch his side, but those movements would be a lot less successful with a cat.
Instead, rub your cat on his cheeks, or behind his ear. These are the spots where the cat has glands and where they would be licked by their mothers. Becker says you may even have some luck stroking the cat along their spine.
Whatever you do, don’t try to rub your cat’s belly—and stay away from the tail.
“Many cats feel vulnerable when their tummy is at risk, even if you’re not a threat to them,” Becker explains. “And while they like to scent us with the glands on their head and face, they don’t love it so much when we pick up the odor from their tail glands.”
5. Groom your cat
Cats spend a lot of time grooming themselves and they also like to groom each other. If you want to be a member of your cat’s inner circle, you’re going to have to be down with that, too.
Use a brush approved for cats to groom your cat. Slowly brush him and talk to him in a gentle voice, stopping if he shows signs of being uncomfortable.
“Watch your cat’s body language to make sure he’s enjoying your attention,” warns Becker. “If his tail starts to twitch—or if he simply gets up and walks away—he’s had enough.”
6. Play with your cat
Of course, getting your cat to like you isn’t just about slow blinking and pretending they’re not in the room. Part of bonding with your cat is about showing them that you know how to have a good time.
Cat behaviorist Mieshelle Nagelschneider, author of The Cat Whisperer, recommended playtime to LifeHacker as a good way to get your cat to like you. Use a toy on a wand or a laser pointer to allow them to play near you, but still leave enough space that they’ll feel comfortable.
Galaxy, also speaking to LifeHacker, warns that this tactic may only work with a cat who has already built up trust, so it’s not something you want to try right out of the gate.
4. Bribe your cat
If all else fails, encourage your cat to get used to being near you by bribing it with treats.
“Carry around some nice, soft, stinky cat treats wherever you go,” advises Becker. “Reward your cat whenever he approaches you for some loving or settles in next to you or on your lap.”
Tom McNamee, author of The Inner Life of Cats, told LifeHacker that it might be even easier than that. “Put the food down in their usual place and then sit next to it.”
5. Take it slow
Overall, the best advice you can get for getting your cat to like you is to take it slow, be patient, and let your cat run the show.
Follow your cat’s cues and back off if he hisses, swipes at you, or just seems unhappy. It may take a while, but if you follow these tips, it won’t be long until your cat is your feline bestie.