Depending on your Myers-Briggs Type indicator personality, would you like someone to force you to convert from an introvert to an extrovert? Probably not. That said, don’t give up - you may be able to slowly convert your cat from a loner to a lover. Remember, cats are like men. With appropriate behavioral modification, even an anti-PDA boyfriend can learn how to hold hands in public. All in moderation. And with patience. And Pounce treats. So while it seems impossible, be gently persistent.
Keep in mind that cats, like dogs, humans, horses, and any other random species out there, have different personalities. It may be that you just own an aloof cat. If you’re about to buy a purebred cat, and want a jovial, outgoing Paris Hilton socialite, realize that there may be some breed variety, so do your research first. For example, Siamese and Maine Coons are particularly friendly. If you’re adopting from a shelter situation (good owner), I find long-haired gray cats particularly shy, while orange and white tabby males seem to be the friendliest (see “Why are orange tabbies almost always male while calicos and tortoiseshells always female?” in Chapter 1). Of course, don’t judge on color alone; just take this as some word to the wise.
If Skidway, your newly adopted cat, is skittish, start slowly. If you’ve given him plenty of time to acclimate to your house, and he still runs away from you, try making less noise. In other words, heavy footsteps running down the stairs may scare him away, and so gentle, slower movements toward him may help. If you have Skidway’s kitty litter and food tucked away into the dark, damp corner of the basement, try slowly moving his food to an area that is low-traffic but more social (such as in a quiet corner of the kitchen or dining room). Begin by placing his toys, treats, and cat house in a peripheral area of the room that you mostly frequently inhabit. A quiet area under the table may offer him some more security, while allowing him to survey the entire room (in case you decide to attack him with some canned food when he least expects it). Once he starts branching out and showing his face, gradually (I mean gradually, as in weeks) move the toys and treats to a more central area of the room. Offer him irresistible toys such as, you know, a plain paper bag or cardboard box to hide and play in, and you may find that his inner scaredy cat melts away. Try tempting him with his favorite treats (such as dollops of canned food) a few feet away from you while you’re quietly vegging on the sofa. He’ll start getting closer and closer, and before you know it he may soon be sitting on the arm of the sofa. Provide a plush fleece on top of the sofa for Skidway to lie on. When in doubt, try chemical bribery such as some catnip sprinkled on that blanket near you. In just a few weeks, he’ll be lovin’ you up on the sofa. Give Skidway a gentle, soft pat on the head or rub on the butt. As he gradually warms up to you, extend the time you pat him by just a few more seconds. After doing so, give him a dry kibble or a treat as a reward for tolerating you. Over several weeks, you’ll have gotten him used to a few minutes of nice touches. Small baby steps, and before you know it, your little introvert may start hanging around you.
Biography: Dr. Justine Lee is a veterinary emergency critical care specialist and the author of It’s a Dog’s Life… but It’s Your Carpet: Everything you ever wanted to know about your four-legged friend and It’s a Cat’s World… You Just Live In It: Everything you ever wanted to know about your furry feline.