Build trust with cats through play and slow blinking

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Build trust with cats through play and slow blinking

Updated Dec 21, 2021

Dear Cathy,

I have a seven-year-old cat named Squeaky. She was fixed as a kitten and is an indoor cat. She was the only cat for two years before we inherited a second kitty from my son. The second cat really brought Squeaky out of her shell. Both cats get along fine, but Squeaky is not friendly with other people. One of my sons moved back home and cannot get close to her. He loves animals and has tried to befriend her, but she won’t have anything to do with him. She is not a lap cat at all. She will sit somewhat close to him but does not want him to touch or pet her. She is like this with everyone. My son has been here for a year and a half and nothing has changed.

When I take her to the vet, she hisses and growls at whoever tries to get near her. She is very untrustworthy of everyone. Is there some kind of medication I can give her to become less hostile towards my son and other people? When I take her out of the house to the vet, it is like she needs a tranquilizer to calm her nerves. I realize each animal has their own personality, but hers is extreme with everyone except me.

— Carol, Aurora, Illinois

Dear Carol,

You can talk to your veterinarian about anxiety medication for vet visits, but I wouldn’t worry about trying to make her a people pleaser there. Most cats are not excited about going to the vet’s office and no amount of medication will make her “happy” to go.

As for the home, there are a few things your son can do to help Squeaky relax in his presence. One way is through interactive play. Just like how a step-dad might build trust with his new son or daughter by playing catch, animals relax and learn to trust people who play with them. 
Have your son get a fishing pole-like toy or a feather toy that he can use to entice her when she comes into the room. At first, she will be interested in the toy, but won’t approach. That’s okay. Let her watch. Do this for a few minutes a few times a day. Over time, she won’t be able to resist and should pounce and play with the toy.

In the feline world closing one’s eyes and blinking slowly around another cat or human also is a sign of trust. Throughout the day, tell your son to look (never stare) at Squeaky and do an exaggerated slow blink. You will know she is relaxing when she slowly blinks back.

Finally, tell him to never reach out to Squeaky. With cats, it’s best to let them come to you for affection.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal

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Cathy Rosenthal, CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 25 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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