When you bring a new kitten home, you feel an immediate bond to them. But a kitten’s bond to you will build over time. A new kitten needs time to warm up to you. And you must first work on gaining their trust.
> If your kitten is acting scared of you, check out: How to get a Scared Kitten to Trust You (12 key tips)
There are ways to build a special bond with your kitten faster and get them to love you as much as you love them.
How to get a kitten to love you (and bond with them quickly)
I’ve had cats almost my entire life. And my bonds with them have only grown stronger.
Most recently, we adopted two kittens who are bonded brothers. I’ve never had two cats from the same litter and it’s been a different experience.
The kittens are bonded to each other and spend most of their time playing together, exploring together, and sleeping together. They’re less interested in us than our previous cats.
But over the past few months, I’ve built a special bond with each of them.
Although they’re brothers, their personalities could not be more different. So the fact that we’ve been able to bond with both, tells me the following steps work.
#1 – Respect your kitten
This is the number one key to bonding with your kitten and getting them to love you quickly.
You must respect them and what they want.
They can’t speak to you, but their body language and behavior will guide you.
To respect your kitten means that:
- When they’re trying to sleep, you let them sleep.
- If they’re backing away from you, you give them space; don’t pick them up and force them to be held.
- When they’re showing you they want playtime, you try your best to give it to them.
- When they’re crying, you give them attention and try to determine what they need (it’s almost always food, fresh water, attention, or playtime. But watch for signs they’re not feeling well, as their crying may also be a way to let you know they need medical attention).
- You’re never aggressive with your cat and never try to intimidate them (that’s the fastest way to break your bond with them).
If you don’t respect your cat’s wants and needs, it will be hard to gain their trust. And without trust, you can’t build a bond.
If your kitten doesn’t want to be held and anytime they come near you, you force them to be held, they’re going to start avoiding you.
It may seem counterproductive at first, but giving your kitten the space they need will pay off.
As you can imagine, forcing them to do something they don’t want to do (e.g. sit on your lap or be held) does not make them trust you or want to be around you more.
Paying attention to their body language and responding accordingly is the fastest way to bond with your kitten.
#2 Lots of playtime
Let your kitten tell you when they’ve had enough playtime. Most kittens and cats need more playtime than humans give them.
Each cat’s activity level will be different. One of our kitten brothers is extremely active (Charlie) while the other is much more laid back (Arthur).
Arthur will sleep half the day away while Charlie will wander around, looking for ways to relieve his boredom.
Even though they have each other to play with, Charlie needs lots of playtime. When he doesn’t get it, he acts out by knocking things over, jumping on the counter, or scratching furniture.
Now I realize, Charlie could play all day. And I need to give him as much playtime as I can.
I find time throughout the day to break and play with the kittens and I always devote at least twenty minutes (but usually more) to play with them before sitting down to watch a show at night.
Even when I’m watching TV, I’ll wave a wand for him or throw a toy, which he fetches for me to toss it again. Charlie and Arthur both love these little springs:
I know all the time I spend playing with Charlie has strengthened our bond. He doesn’t purr very often but does when we’re having a good play session. He also doesn’t meow very much but will give me some excited meows when we’re playing.
There isn’t always time to play with your kitten throughout the day, but when you have a few spare minutes, pick up a toy.
Instead of browsing social media or surfing the web for ten minutes, play with your kitten.
I promise, your kitten will bring you so much more joy than the Internet ever will.
My kitten’s favorite toy, that’s held up really well, is this wand.
You need to buy attachments for it. My kittens love feather attachments but rip them apart in a matter of days. This has a good variety so you can test which attachment your kitten likes best:
This wand looks similar and comes with a variety of attachments:
*Please be sure to always watch your kitten carefully when playing with a wand and never leave them with it unintended.
Kittens flail themselves around when playing and one of our kittens wrapped a wand string around their neck when we were playing with them. Luckily we noticed immediately and untangled it but everyone was panicked for a few seconds.
If you’re short on time, invest in some fun interactive toys for your kittens. Get them a new one each month so they don’t get bored.
This toy is one of our kittens’ favorites. If your kitten is very young, simply put batteries in it (so it balances) but don’t turn it on. They can bat at it and the bee with spring back at them. I put a piece of tape over the laser. The laser isn’t strong but I was concerned about it being directed at their eyes.
They also like their floppy fish and usually do play with it. But on this day, Arthur wanted to use it as a pillow.
There are many other interactive toys to choose from that will keep your kitten active when you’re busy. Check out all the choices here.
#3 Talk to your kitten
When my kittens are up and moving around, I’m constantly talking to them. As they learn their names and the tone in which you speak to them, this will be another way of giving them attention. Cats love to have your attention.
I speak to my kittens in a higher pitch than I do when I’m talking to other humans.
I also use their name in almost every sentence.
“That’s a good boy Charlie!”
“Hi Charlie! Are you ready for some breakfast?
“Wow Charlie, you can jump really high!”
Yes, it’s a bit overboard and I’m sure if I did it in front of people outside of my household they would roll their eyes.
But I can tell by the loving way my kittens look up at me when I’m speaking to them, it’s helping us bond.
I also go overboard adding excitement to my tone.
This has been hugely beneficial when it comes to training the kittens.
Simply by speaking in a lower tone when they’re doing something wrong (e.g. scratching the furniture), they know to stop. And as soon as they do stop, I give them praise “Yes! Good job Charlie!”.
#4 Lots of positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement can come in the form of a sweet, loving, and upbeat voice (as mentioned in the point above), petting, or even treats.
When your kitten does something you want them to do more of, be sure to show them, what they’re doing is good and comes with rewards.
No positive action is too small to praise them for.
If you want your kitten to spend more time around you, tell them “yes, good job!” in a soft loving tone when they come towards you.
If your new kitten is still a little timid, speak to them when they allow you to pet them. Or break up some treats and keep them in your pocket so you can give them a small nibble when they come near.
The more you want your kitten to do something, the more positive reinforcement you need to feed them when they do it.
However, be careful with treats. You don’t want to rely on them too heavily to show your appreciation.
Many treats are high in calories and carbs and can lead to weight gain and an unhealthy cat. Stick to something more natural and break it up into small pieces.
Our kittens love these freeze-dried salmon treats. You still need to be careful with how many you give them, but they’re a healthier option than Temptations.
#5 Discipline them correctly
Your kitten will test your patience. They might break stuff, keep you up at night, go places you don’t want them to, etc.
But to keep the bond between you and your kitten strong, you must respond in the right way.
Positive reinforcement is especially important when you’re trying to teach a new kitten not to do something.
Cats don’t learn by punishment. They learn by positive reinforcement.
Praise them when they’re doing what you want them to do (e.g. walking on the floor in the kitchen, instead of on the counter).
When they take an action you don’t want them to take, such as jumping up on the counter, tell them “no”, “get down”, “stop”, or another phrase in a stern voice. It helps to use the same phrase for every “bad” action they take so they start to associate the sound of “stop it” with the action of stopping what they’re doing.
You don’t want to scare your kitten, you just want to communicate to them that they should stop what they’re doing.
Then praise them in a “happy” voice when they do get down from the counter (or stop an action), even if you have to pick them up and set them on the ground.
They quickly realized the difference between “good” and “bad”.
We’ve been training our kittens in this way and it’s worked wonders.
Teach them from a young age what’s good and what’s bad behavior, and be consistent with your training.
The more we use positive reinforcement, the less they do things they’re not supposed to.
#6 Get down on their level
You’re a giant to your kitten. When you’re down on the ground with them, you’re not only less intimidating, but you’re also giving your kitten a chance to walk on you, rub against you, get a close look at you, etc.
Your kitten will feel more comfortable exploring you when you’re sitting or laying on the ground with them.
If you simply bring them up to your level, by picking them up or placing them on the couch, they’ll be focused on exploring their new perspective or new ground. They’ll be less interested in you.
#7 Focus on the positives
Your kitten will test their limits, but it’s important to have patience with them. They’re kittens learning the ropes. Just like a child, they need to learn what they can and can’t get away with and they want to push their boundaries.
It’s been five months of teaching the kittens to stay off the counter. The proper techniques help them learn faster, but it takes time. They are getting much better.
Cats don’t necessarily understand the difference between good attention and bad attention; they just want your attention.
So when you try to punish them by getting mad at them and ignoring them, they act out more. Making you more frustrated and giving them less of what they want; your attention.
This can break your bond.
As frustrating as it can be to deal with a kitten climbing curtains, scratching furniture, or jumping on the counter, the more you focus on the positives of your relationship with your kitten, the less likely you are to overreact when they do something bad.
Think about how much you love your kitten each time you look at them. Tell them what a good boy/girl they are. Thank them for how much joy they bring to your life.
The more you focus on the negatives (scratched furniture), the more negatives you’ll notice. And it’s hard to build a bond with them when all you notice are their flaws.
Spend more time focusing on all the ways you love your kitten and all the ways they bring happiness to your life. It will be easier to let accidents and frustrating behavior slide so you can keep the love growing.
#8 Lead with love
Animals can pick up on your energy and how you’re feeling. If you’ve ever been sad around an animal you’ve bonded with, you’ve probably noticed how they pick up on your sadness and their demeanor and/or actions change.
Be conscious about the environment you’re creating for your kitten. If there’s a lot of fighting between people in a home, or you’re always stressed when you get home from work, your kitten will pick up on that. They’ll become more timid which will make it harder for you to bond with them.
Spend time looking at your kitten with love, telling them you love them, and giving them loving touches.
When they feel the love from you, they’re going to give that right back.
Animals are the best for that.
How long does it take to bond with a kitten?
To bond with a kitten is to have them trust you, feel safe around you, and show you affection. You can bond with a kitten within 1 – 3 days, as long as they haven’t come from a feral mom or have any past trauma. If your kitten has come from an environment that taught them to be scared of humans, it can take several weeks or months to get to a level you can start bonding with your kitten.
Your bond with your kitten will grow over time. I felt I had the strongest bond with our late cat Josh in the last few years of his life. I became more aware of what little time I had left with him and appreciated every moment. I think he could feel that and we were practically inseparable.
The more time you spend with your cat, implementing these 8 best practices, the more connected your cat will feel to you. And as they get older, they’ll settle down and become more cuddly.
However, each cat is different and you must go at their pace. So always follow tip #1 and go at their pace.
You may also be interested in: New kitten Scared and Hiding (10 tips to get them out)