Caitlin UltimoPet Lovers / Pet Parenting

Are You Showing Your Cat Enough Affection?

When you walk in the room, your cat may not jump up on you, lick your face, or excitedly wag her tail. In fact, she may not even acknowledge you at all. But just because she’s not outwardly lovey-dovey like a dog, she still needs affection, says Carole Wilbourn, a cat therapist who helps caregivers solve behavioral problems with their pets.

However, leaving toys lying around or putting up a few scratching posts isn’t enough. “All living things like to be acknowledged,” she says.

“Cats have self esteem and emotions. Don’t ignore them.”

Create an enriching environment so your feline can thrive. A few ideas: Brush or stroke her fur. Leave the faucet dripping so she can stick her tongue under it. Talk to her—if she loves to chase balls, tell her she’s doing a great job as she runs one down. Give her catnip. Teach her to fetch. Set up cardboard boxes around the house for her to explore. The possibilities are endless, says Wilbourn.

Remember: No one wants to be touched or played with all the time, though. “Sometimes less is more,” says Wilbourn. Don’t force affection on your cat. Look for signals that she’s done or wants to be alone. She may turn away from you or swat your hand away.

But the more you interact with your cat, the more you’ll know what type of activities she enjoys and how much attention she wants. For instance, Wilbourn’s cat, Orion 2—or O2 for short—is from a shelter. She brought O2 home, and would brush his hair. One time, she grabbed the Dustbuster to clean off the fur from the furniture afterward. She turned it on, and O2 rolled right under its nozzle, loving the feeling of the handheld vacuum being run over his back. Now, its part of their routine.

“Cats have self esteem and emotions. Don’t ignore them.”

“You have to figure out what your cat’s idiosyncrasies are,” she says. “There are different ‘catsonalities.’ Just like humans, cats can be extroverted or introverted. Some can be more sensitive, while others just go with the flow. They will all like different things.” Spending time together figuring this out is how you’ll bond with your feline.

Sure, you may not spend hours cuddling on the couch or giving long belly scratches to your pet. But there are many ways to show your cat that you love her besides the occasional scratch—and they can be fun, too. “You cat is a living being and part of your family,” Wilbourn says. “The happier your cat is, the happier you’ll be.”

Image: Stokkete via Shutterstock

Jill Fanslau