Trust is an essence for any relationship in life, and it does not differ when it comes to our feline companion. As adventure cat owners, we must establish a bond and companionship between us and our beloved cat when we are outside together.
My cat, Archer, and I have been on countless adventures alone, and trust is one of the most critical factors that helped us to get through stressful situations, like encountering an excited dog or fast-riding bicycles on a trail.
Have you ever wondered what you could do to strengthen your bond with each other? Here are some tips you could try with your adventure cat to build a stronger trusting relationship.
Tip #1 Respect your cat’s boundaries and limits
As humans, our trust is built upon the interactions we have with others. Imagine if your friend always pushes your boundary, and makes you feel uncomfortable, I’m sure you would be more cautious and uncertain when you’re around them. Cats are exactly the same!
Every cat has a limit and boundary for adventures; therefore, it is prudent that we always observe their body language, and respect their comfort level. As cat adventure owners, our role is to make sure they are confident in their adventures, and ensure that we do not force them into anxious or stressful situations.
I remember when Archer and I visited a beautiful trail near a stream of water. I wanted to get a better view of the scenery, but was worried that he would not be comfortable with the water nearby.
Instead of forcing him into jumping on the rocks in the stream, I hopped onto one of them first, and encouraged him to follow me. After some hesitation, Archer did follow me and stood on the small rock right behind. Even though he was not comfortable with water, he trusted my judgement and knows that he is safe with me.
Therefore, it may take a cat many tries and failures to achieve a milestone in their adventures, but we should always stay patient and encouraging throughout the process.
Tip #2: Use positive reinforcement to reward behaviours
Raising an adventure cat could be similar as raising a child, except that our cats have a different way of expressing their emotions and thoughts, and may not always understand what we are trying to teach them.
If we are looking to guide our cats into the right behaviours, focus on positive reinforcement to help them associate the behaviour they need demonstrate outside.
For example, whenever Archer and I are exploring outside, I often stop in between, with the leash in my hand, to practice recall with him. I usually lower my body to the ground level, and call his name in a cheerful and encouraging tone. If he approaches me, I would give him affectionate pets on his head and back. This training has helped him to understand that positive behaviour means reward, and it’s important that he reacts to his recall.
Regardless of the situation, always provide your cats with encouragement. This will help them to build more confidence in you and their surroundings, and it’s a nice way to remind them that you are there for them along the way.
Tip #3: Empower your cat’s decision making
They always say that cats have a mind of their own, and I believe that it is true in some situations.
Empowering our cats is crucial as it not only helps them to build confidence in their choices outside, but it also shows the level of trust we, as cat owners, have in them.
Often times when we are out exploring with our cats, they may wander off the trails and would choose to walk in the direction that piques their interest. Let’s try to let them be the leader of the walk, at the same time, ensure that they are still safe in the direction they are going.
So, next time when your cat tries to lead you somewhere, follow along, and you might discover a whole new scenery!
Tip #4: Protect your cat from predictable uncomfortable situations
As we go on more adventures with our cats, we will be able to gradually understand their reaction and behaviour to certain things.
You could observe for the following:
How does your cat react around dogs?
Is your cat comfortable with people approaching?
How does your cat react to the noises in nature (bicycles, runners, etc.) or the city (cars, strollers etc.)?
Based on the adventures and observations with your cat, stay alert and be proactive in protecting him/her from the uncomfortable situations that may arise. This will make him/her feel more secure when they are around you.
Any time I could hear an income bicycle on the trail, I would lower my body to be closer to Archer, and give him encouraging pets. If he still feels anxious, I would immediately pick him up and place him on top of his cat backpack. My proactive action provides reassurance to Archer that I am there to protect him.
Tip #5: Build bonding and trusting relationship both indoor and outdoor
Building trust with our cats does not only occur while we are out adventuring with them, we could also continue to bond at home.
Regular meal feeding, play time, and cuddling are great ways to strengthen our trust as it demonstrates that we are the caregiver. Also, continue to provide positive reinforcement at home to reward the correct behaviours.
Tip #6: Set an example for your cat
Sometimes in stressful situations, we, as cat owners, may feel overwhelmed or frightened. Of course, depending on the circumstances, it could be difficult for us to have a clear head; but, I do believe that our cats are always observing our behaviours and emotions.
As a result, it is very important for us to remain calm and be strong in stressful situations to show our assertiveness and strengths to our cats. This will provide reassurance to them that they could rely on us. If we feel scared and frightened in these situations, I’m sure they also feel the same way!
Final Thoughts Building trust does not happen overnight, it takes a significant amount of time and patience. However, our adventure cats can certainly feel the genuine love and support we show them. Having a strong bond and trust is the foundation for our cats to feel safe and confident when we are out adventuring.
At the end of the day, we are their parents, and we will always be there for them every paw step of their learning and growth.