32 ways to bond with your cat

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If you're anything like most pet parents, looking for new ways to bond with your cat is likely high on your priority list. And the good news is, there are so many wonderful things you can do to strengthen the connection you share with your feline friend.

While investing in a few of the best interactive cat toys and spending time playing with your kitty is certainly one way to deepen your relationship, you may be surprised by just how many different activities and experiences can create bonding moments. 

Although some cat breeds may bond more quickly with their owners due to how friendly and affectionate they are, all cats (yes, even the ones that seem super independent!) are attached to their humans in very real ways — even if they prefer to hang back and take more of a 'paws off' approach. 

To help you develop a stronger and deeper relationship with your kitty companion, we've rounded up our favorite ways to bond with a cat. Why not give them a go sometime? 

1. Play with them

Woman playing with kitten

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Learning how to play with a cat is one of the best things you can do to strengthen your bond with your fur friend. Regular play sessions are brilliant for letting your cat burn off extra energy, providing much-needed physical and mental stimulation, and helping them express their hunting instincts. Cats are naturally playful creatures and while they will play independently, they prefer to have fun.

2. Brush them regularly

Cat lying on floor being brushed

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Cats regularly groom each other as a way of expressing their bond, so it makes sense that grooming your cat would be interpreted by them as an act of love. Brushing your cat daily allows you the opportunity to spend quality time with them and the physical contact involved is brilliant for strengthening your connection. Be sure to look for one of the best cat brushes to use for your grooming sessions.

3. Feed them a healthy diet

High angle view of tabby cat looking at hand holding bowl with cat food

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Feeding your kitty a bowl of the best dry cat food or wet food at a specific time of day (instead of free-feeding them) enables you to engage and interact with them. Feeding time can be an important bonding time as this daily ritual provides your cat with the security and comfort of having a predictable routine. 

4. Learn about their body language

Ginger cat in domestic living room, standing up on his hind legs looking alert and staring past the camera

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Cat body language is fascinating and it can provide you with all sorts of interesting insights into how your feline friend is feeling. Understanding what your cat is trying to tell you by the way they’re positioning their tail or through the behavior they’re exhibiting can help you to get to know them better. Plus, if you respect what it is they’re communicating, their trust in you will grow — which is a brilliant way to strengthen your bond.

5. Give them space

Bengal kitten sleeping on cat tree

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While all cats are different, most have an independent streak that will lead them to seek out time alone. It’s important to respect your cat’s boundaries and allow them to retreat when needed. Doing this is great for building trust and communicating to your kitty that their space and privacy will be respected. 

6. Provide them with a place to scratch

Maine Coon kitten sat beside scratching post

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Scratching is incredibly important for cats. As well as providing them with a good stretch and helping to keep their claws in tip-top condition, it’s vital for their mental health that they have a designated spot to engage in this natural behavior. Providing them with one of the best cat scratching posts isn’t just the answer to how to keep cats from scratching furniture, it shows that you understand them — which can deepen the bond the two of you share.

7. Do a food puzzle together

Siamese cat doing treat puzzle

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While we’re not suggesting that you eat all the cat treats you uncover (your feline friend may wander off in a huff if you do!), sitting down and doing a food puzzle with your kitty can be a great way to connect. There are lots of reasons to use a cat puzzle feeder toy ranging from banishing boredom to reducing stress and anxiety, but using it as an opportunity to spend quality time together is one of our favorites.

8. Avoid punishment

Woman points finger accusingly at cat

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Cats are very intolerant of punishment and do not respond well to negative reinforcement. Not only that, but they don’t learn from punishment, so regardless of whether it's physically tapping them on the nose with your finger as a way of reprimanding them or verbally scolding them, you’ll find this destroys trust and damages your bond over time. 

9. Seek permission before touching them

Woman's hand stroking cats head

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While it may seem like a strange thing to say, cats have boundaries just like we humans do, so seeking permission before petting them is a wonderful way to build trust. One way to do this is to extend your hand in the direction of your cat — if they wander over and bump your hand with their head or rub their cheek against it, that’s a great sign they want you to touch them. Your cat may also signal they want to be touched by bumping up against you, vocalizing, or heading to a favorite spot (like a scratching post) and looking at you expectantly. 

10. Create plenty of safe and cozy spaces

Cat sleeping on garden swing

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A big part of bonding with your cat is having a good understanding of what it is they need to thrive. One thing that’s crucial for their wellbeing is having lots of cozy spaces they can retreat to when they need some quiet time. Sometimes that safe space might be a warm blanket positioned next to you on the couch, while other times it might be enclosed in one of the best cat beds where they can enjoy some solitude or a window perch that lets them survey their kingdom from up high. 

11. Don't clean all their items at once

Cat sleeping on orange sweater with teddy

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It may make sense to clean all of your cat’s bedding and toys at once, but it’s best to refrain from doing this unless absolutely necessary. Cats have sensitive noses and it’s vital for their mental wellbeing that they always have items around that have their scent on them. Part of bonding with your cat involves creating a happy environment for them, so make sure you wash their toys and bedding at different times. 

12. Train them

Woman training cat

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Can you train a cat? Absolutely! We often think of training as something we do with dogs, but our feline friends are super duper smart, and learning a new skill, trick or behavior is a wonderful way to give their brains and bodies a good workout. Plus, it’s also great for helping them to overcome fears, building their confidence, and of course, strengthening your relationship through lots of quality time. 

13. Protect them against parasites

Woman applying flea treatment to cat

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We know it might not sound glamorous, but nothing says I love you quite like making sure your feline friend is protected against fleas and ticks. While having one of the best flea treatments for cats applied to their skin every month may not be their idea of fun, if you reward them with a tasty treat afterward, it’s another good way to bond with them. 

14. Have a stable routine

Image of cats paws stood beside alarm clock

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Cats thrive on predictability, so having a stable routine that you follow each day is a wonderful way to ensure they stay happy and healthy. Build trust and create safety by sticking to a regular feeding schedule and playing and grooming them at roughly the same time every day.

15. Let them come to you

Image of hand petting top of cats head

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With cats, it’s almost always better if you let them seek you out as opposed to the other way around. Our feline friends have very clear boundaries and don’t enjoy forced interactions, so keep an eye on their body language and behavior — if they’re choosing to sit beside you or on your lap, or are rubbing up against you in search of affection, these are all good signs that they’re wanting to be close. Likewise, if they’re curled up fast asleep or have hidden themselves away for a few hours, take that as a sign that they’re content in their own company. 

16. Reward them with praise and treats

Person giving ginger cat a treat

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This is one of the most effective tips for training your cat. Whether you want to encourage your kitty to spend more time with you or you’re looking to put a stop to challenging behaviors (like scratching the couch or late-night meowing!), always reward what it is you want to see more of. Cats respond very, very well to positive reinforcement, so if there’s something they’re doing that you like, make sure you’re liberal with the praise and treats.

17. Take a cat nap together

Woman and cat sleeping

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Given that your cat likely sleeps anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day, why not join them for a little nap? Cuddling up next to each other is a wonderful way to bond and it also triggers the body to release oxytocin — the feel-good hormone which helps to decrease our levels of stress and anxiety. A good cuddle session is just one of the ways having a pet can lower your stress levels.

18. Understand how they communicate

Cat meowing

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Trying to decipher cat communication can feel more than a little complicated some days, but once you start to learn the different ways your cat lets you know how they’re feeling, you’ll find it gets easier. Meowing, for example, is typically their way of getting attention while scratching isn’t done to deliberately destroy your stuff but is instead a primal urge that serves all sorts of purpose. Understanding what it is your cat is trying to communicate will help bring you closer.

19. Pet your cat the right way

Hand petting cat under the chin

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Did you know that there’s a right and a wrong way to pet a cat? As it turns out, most cats prefer to be petted using soft, gentle strokes that move in the direction of their fur — as opposed to a more vigorous back-and-forth action. The most enjoyable place for cats to be petted tends to be their head, cheeks, neck, and behind the ears, where a large number of their scent glands can be found. 

20. Clean their litter box regularly

Woman cleaning cat litter box

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If you spent time learning how to litter train a kitten when your beloved bundle of fluff was young, then you’ll want to make sure they’re using it. Part of encouraging good litter box habits is ensuring that you spot-clean their box for them daily and replace the litter once a week. Nothing says I love you to a cat quite like a nice, fresh litter box filled with the best cat litter! Just be sure to clean it with warm water and avoid harsh chemicals as our fur friends like to be able to detect their scent when using their box. 

21. Check for signs of anxiety or stress

A timid Tortoiseshell domestic shorthair cat with dilated pupils peeking out from under a blanket

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Keeping an eye on your cat’s mental health is important when it comes to building a deep and trusting relationship. Cats can become stressed and anxious for all sorts of reasons, but changes in their environment are often top of the list. If you notice that your cat is hiding away regularly, that they’re meowing excessively, scratching everything in sight, hissing or growling, overgrooming, or you have a cat not eating, it’s worth getting them checked over by a vet. 

22. Talk to your kitty

Senior woman sitting on couch with her ginger cat

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Cats are brilliant listeners and the chatty breeds in particular will love hearing all about your day — and telling you all about theirs! Using low, soft and friendly tones are particularly useful when it comes to helping your kitty feel connected to you.

23. Ease them into transitions

Couple sat on floor in new house with their two cats surrounded by moving boxes

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Have you ever moved your couch from one side of the room to the other only to find your cat enter the living room, notice the moved object, adopt a startled expression, and immediately flee? If so, you don’t need us to tell you how much cats hate change. To keep the disruption to a minimum (and save their sanity as well as yours), try to ease them into transitions by making changes gradually. 

24. Know your cat's personality

Kitten playing with toilet roll

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Just like us humans, every cat has their own unique personality and temperament. Understanding what your cat likes and dislikes (and doing your best to honor their preferences) will help you deepen the bond you share with them. 

25. Enjoy some quiet time together

Senior woman petting her ginger cat

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One of the best ways to nourish the bond between you and your cat is to simply spend time with them. Whether that’s feeding them, grooming them, playing with them or just hanging out side by side, quality time isn’t just a love language that humans have — our cats love it too! 

26. Give them a massage

Cat sleeping on massage table

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Physical contact is huge when it comes to bonding with your feline friend, so why not give them a massage? A gentle massage works wonders for lowering stress and anxiety, relieving tension, and relaxing muscles. Plus, it’s a great way to detect small health issues and wounds so that you can treat them before they go any further. 

27. Take them for a walk

Woman takes cat for a walk in the park

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It may sound strange but walking and hiking with cats is becoming more popular these days and what better way to bond with your feline friend than by getting out and about in nature together? Just be sure to harness train them, using one of the best cat harnesses first to ensure they remain safe and secure. 

28. Watch cat TV together

Portrait of adorable bengal cat lying on sofa with TV remote control, covered with warm blanket

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Watching TV can be a fun enrichment activity for cats — and if they have you sat beside them, then they know they’re in for some quality bonding time. YouTube is full of fantastic videos made specifically for cats with plenty of birds and squirrels to keep them entertained, so next time you’re looking for an activity to do with your kitty, why not try some cat-friendly TV?

29. Play a game

Cat getting ready to pounce on toy mouse

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There are plenty of fun games to play with cats that will help you build a stronger bond with your feline friend. Hide-and-seek, fetch, and even games that can be played on a tablet are all fantastic options for adding variety to your cat’s day and will bring you closer together.

30. Blow some bubbles

Little boy blowing bubbles in the garden with his cat

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Blowing bubbles isn’t just for kids (or us adults who are big kids at heart!), it’s also a super fun activity that is sure to fascinate your kitty and capture their attention. You can purchase bubble mixture online or make your own using diluted dish soap. If you have a backyard, we highly recommend doing this outside where you can watch your beloved bundle of fluff tear around your backyard trying to catch the bubbles. 

31. Throw them a birthday party

Funny shot of cat wearing birthday party hat

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Celebrating the day your cat was born can be a huge bonding experience — especially if you buy them one of the best automated cat toys or spend some time playing games. Why not go all out and decorate your house? You could even make them their very own feline-friendly birthday cake! 

32. Do some bird watching together

Woman and cat looking out of the window

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Birdwatching together (either from a window or an enclosed catio) won’t just benefit your kitty by offering them vital mental stimulation and enrichment, it’s also a wonderful bonding activity. Plus, the sound of birds chirping is super soothing, so it may do wonders for your own mental health too!  

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.