How to get cats to like you?

How to Read a Cat’s Body Language

Meowing and purring are only a small part of a cat's communication. To really speak their lingo, you have to look at their body and behavior, Radosta explains. These are the telltale signs that a cat is in a friendly mood and wants to interact with you:

  • Tail is shaped like a question-mark (up, with the top part flopped over)
  • Pupils look like slits or almonds  
  • Ears are forward
  • Cat walks right up to you

On the other hand, avoid making contact with a kitty if you notice any of these signs: 

  • Round pupils
  • Tail moving back and forth
  • Ears are sideways or back
  • Cat stays beyond your reach


5. Dont overfeed your cat

Many think that food equals love, and that withholding food might make your kitty hate you, but a 2016 study of obese felines from Cornell University showed the opposite is true—at least for a period of time. About a month after 58 overweight kitties were placed on a diet, three-quarters of their owners reported that their dieting felines were more affectionate, purred more often, and were more likely to sit in their owner's lap. This adorable behavior came with some not-so-cute side effects—the cats also begged and meowed more—but by week eight, both the good and bad behavior had abated for about half the animals.

Regardless of whether a diet makes your pet cuddlier, keeping your pet on the slender side is a great way to help them stay healthy and ward off problems like diabetes, joint pain, and uncleanliness. (Overweight animals have difficulty grooming themselves—and do you really want them sitting on your lap if they can’t keep their butt clean?)

3. Pet cats where they like it most

They're very sensitive to touch, and generally, they tend to like being petted in some places more than others. A small 2002 study demonstrated that cats showed more positive responses—like purring, blinking, and kneading their paws—to petting on the forehead area and the cheeks. They were more likely to react negatively—by hissing, swatting, or swishing their tails—when petted in the tail area. A more recent 2021 study validated these findings with a larger sample size—and many owners can testify to these preferences.

Of course, every animal is an individual, but these studies give us a good starting point, especially if you're meeting a cat for the first time.

Make Your Cat Visitor-Friendly

There’s only so much you can do to win over a new cat. But if you’re a cat owner, there’s a lot you can do to help your cats get along better with visitors.

A treat works better if the cat only gets it for special occasions, says Galaxy. “Nothing wrong with bribery.” In fact, he believes bribery should be more fundamental to treat-giving. “I’m not a fan of just doling out treats for nothing. Food is all we’ve got. They don’t give a rip about making us happy. It’s just not part of their wiring, as opposed to dogs.”

He suggests reserving one “jackpot” treat for guests alone to hand out. Ideally, a visit from a guest should be like a visit from Santa.

As an owner, you can advocate for your cats and give visitors all the advice above. “We feel uncomfortable telling people what to do or what not to do,” says Galaxy, but “it’s OK for you to protect your cat in that respect.”

You don’t want to freak out your friend — if they feel anxious, the cat will read that and get anxious too. You want to help them understand what appeals to your cat. In his book, Galaxy even recommends that guests ignore a cat on the first visit, and wait for later visits to establish trust.

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Its Impolite to Stare at the Cat

In the animal world, a direct stare can be interpreted as a threat. Avoid staring, and instead, if you do look at the cat, make your glances soft and brief. Don’t ever be tempted to star back at a cat who is looking at you. Let the cat feel in control and comfortable.

2. Let the Cat Approach You

Cats can be irresistibly adorable. But as much as

Cats can be irresistibly adorable. But as much as you may want to greet Snowball with a big ol’ hug, don’t. “This is a common mistake for people who love cats,” Krieger says. “They’ll go up to the cat and corner the cat, try to pet the cat, and try to win over the cat.” In this situation, she explains, your advances will either be ignored or cause the cat to bolt.

Instead of making a beeline for the cat, encourage the feline to come towards you, says Krieger. “Crouch down or sit, and then extend your index finger towards the cat,” she explains.

The next thing to do, Koski adds, is to let the cat sniff you. “Either lay your hand on the floor, outstretched so that she doesn’t have to come too close,” she suggests. From there, you can begin to pet or scratch the cat’s head – but take it slow. “Make friends at the pace of the cat,” Koski says, “if she walks away, let her go.” The key is to let the cat set the tone of the interaction, and to give her space to relax.

Are cats happy when they purr?

The expert consensus: purring cats are often happy creatures, but not always.

Pankratz says that while purring is often an indication of cat contentment, it can also be a common way for cats to self-soothe when stressed.

Pay attention not just to a cat’s purring, but to other body language cues to get a better read on whether your cat is purring because they’re pleased — or displeased — with your actions.

DeVoss agrees.

“Purring can certainly mean a cat is relaxed and comfortable, but purring can also mean a cat is in pain, so evaluate with the whole body language in perspective.”

About this article

Co-authored by: Brian Bourquin, DVM Veterinarian This article was co-authored by Brian Bourquin, DVM. Brian Bourquin, better known as “Dr. B” to his clients, is a Veterinarian and the Owner of Boston Veterinary Clinic, a pet health care and veterinary clinic with three locations, South End/Bay Village, the Seaport, and Brookline, Massachusetts. Boston Veterinary Clinic specializes in primary veterinary care, including wellness and preventative care, sick and emergency care, soft-tissue surgery, dentistry. The clinic also provides specialty services in behavior, nutrition, and alternative pain management therapies using acupuncture, and therapeutic laser treatments. Boston Veterinary Clinic is an AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) accredited hospital and Boston’s first Fear Free Certified Clinic. Brian has over 19 years of veterinary experience and earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. This article has been viewed 629,460 times. 8 votes – 100% Co-authors: 152 Updated: December 24, 2021 Views: 629,460

Article SummaryX

If you want to get your cat to like you, give it a comfortable living space where it feels safe. Create a feeling of security in your cat by feeding it at about the same time every day, and by providing it with fresh water. Cats love to be clean, so empty the litter box daily. Don’t chase the cat or force it to interact with you, especially when it’s eating, sleeping, or cleaning itself. Instead, wait until the cat shows interest in you, then gently stroke it on its cheeks, under its chin, and along its back. Give the cat a variety of toys, and talk to it often so it will be used to the sound of your voice. For tips from our veterinary reviewer on helping your cat learn its name, read on!

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Activate hunter mode

Nagelschneider suggests a more proactive method: play with the cat using a wand toy or laser pointer. “It’s a preemptive strategy to keep that fear out of the equation,” she says. “It helps them feel confident and relaxed around you.” You want a confident cat, and not just because that is the cutest thing to imagine. A confident cat isn’t as afraid. You can trick their little cat brains.


A wand toy lets the cat keep their distance while interacting with you, especially if you slide it behind couches or in other spots to make the “prey” more realistic. “The one little trick is to trigger what’s called their ‘seeking circuit,’” says Nagelschneider.

Galaxy is skeptical of this approach: “Confidence only comes on their terms. There is no way to bypass what their ancestry is telling them to do.” You might try the play method after you’ve established some trust. It doesn’t instantly win over every cat, but I’ve certainly gotten more love from a friend’s cat after giving it some laser pointer action.


You can also go for straight-up bribery. Put a treat on the floor, “maybe three feet out,” says McNamee. Then leave treats closer and closer. Galaxy suggests dropping treats like “pennies from heaven,” again avoiding direct contact that could feel too much like confrontation.

Feeding the cat its normal meal is another great opportunity, says McNamee. “Put the food down in their usual place and then sit next to it.”


5. Use Treats Strategically

This one’s pretty straightforward—give a cat a tasty morsel, and she’ll be more likely to warm up. However, this doesn’t mean showering the cat with treats all day long. Koski recommends using cat treats strategically “to either reward good social interactions with you, or to entice a shyer cat to move towards you and get to know you better.”

Keep in mind that not all cats have the same tastes—if you want to build a lasting friendship, it’s best to do your research. “Some cats are not very food-motivated so you might have to search for a treat that they like,” Koski explains. To start, she suggests “plain cooked chicken breast, a little nugget of stinky cheese, or tuna flakes.”

Use Your Voice Carefully

You may have gotten an over-the-top positive reaction by doing a high-pitched squealing tone or talking in a baby voice to a dog but that doesn’t fly with the felines. Keep your voice soft and reassuring. Cats don’t react well to loud sounds so your tone of voice should be similar to what you would use to calm a nervous child.

Photo: Pexels

Photo: Pexels

Raise a friendlier cat

“Fear is always present” in a cat, says McNamee. “They’re very easily spooked. So if you can arrange their lives so that they don’t get scared, it makes life a lot easier.” That includes taking care of their litter box, their feeding habits, and more that’s explored in all three of these experts’ books.


A lot of cat behavior is set during its childhood. “There’s a certain way of raising kittens that will give you a much more friendly, domesticated cat,” says McNamee. An under-appreciated study, covered in his book, indicates that kittens handled as early as one or two weeks old (instead of the standard seven weeks) are better socialized as adults. He also recommends that cats stay with their mother for the first 12–16 weeks, instead of being taken away after seven. Short of breeding cats for friendliness—which McNamee feels would rob them of their appealing wildness—a well-socialized kittenhood is the best way to make a friendly cat. After that, it’s a lot more work for the cat lover.

This story was originally published in 2018 and updated with new information on 2/19/2020.