can close bonds develop over time? - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-12-2011, 05:23 PM Thread Starter
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can close bonds develop over time?

I've been reading with interest the posts about people's extra special bonds with certain cats, and I'm wondering. Most people have said it was there almost immediately, and I've had this experience with one cat I adopted as a kitten when I was a teenager. She stayed incredibly attached to me even when she hadn't seen me for months after I left home.

I don't have anything like that kind of closeness with my new cat and was wondering if anyone has experience in whether this can develop over time if it's not there from the start. I adopted her aged a little under a year, about 3-4 months ago. She was a street rescue - planned TNR - and had been living a relatively isolated existence in a small room with a foster family for a few months. I didn't meet her before adopting her, the rescue centre didn't have that many cats at the time and just suggested her because it was hard to find a home for her, being shy and adult - so she didn't exactly choose me.

She was very nervy at first, but has adapted well. She's very reasonable, seems fairly relaxed generally now, loves to play and trills at us all the time. She seems to be getting quite fond of me. She follows me to the bathroom and will let me pet her for a little longer than before, and also sleeps on our feet some nights as well as beside us on the sofa (but not on us, and she's not mad about being picked up although she'll briefly tolerate it). She purrs a lot, though usually it's heading for play pretty quickly.

So, after all that, how likely is it that she will come to love us over time? Can a bond grow with a slightly older cat? And is there anything I can do to encourage it?

(Sorry for the long post - I could talk about my kitty for hours!)
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-12-2011, 05:45 PM
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I'm guessing yes. My first kitten, Apollo, was pretty attached from the start, but we also got him when he was very young. The shelter estimated him to be about 8 or 9 weeks, so he bonded with us early.

Athena on the other hand was 4 months when we adopted her, and had been in a foster home with lots of other cats. The good news is she was well-socialized, being around so many people at adoption fairs all the time, but this also meant she wasn't particularly "attached" to us since she was just used to being around so many different people.

However over the course of the past few months, she's definitely started to grow more attached. She cuddles with us more, and rubs against my legs a lot. I think she's finally realizing that she's going to be with us for a while. I think your cat's bond with you will grow as she learns that you're always the ones there for her, the ones who feed her, etc.

As for sleeping close to you, I think that's more of an individual cat personality thing than a sign (or lack thereof) of closeness. Apollo sleeps under the bed most of the time, even though he's very bonded to us. I guess he just likes sleeping in his "den." Athena's very much a bed-sleeper, and sleeps on our heads/faces a lot, and did this even before she bonded much with us. Apollo has also started sleeping on the bed more since we got Athena (I think he's jealous!).

So even if your cat doesn't end up cuddling close to you when she sleeps at night, don't worry, that doesn't mean she doesn't love you. It could be she just likes her space when she sleeps, just like some people like to cuddle with their significant other when they sleep, while others prefer more space/breathing room.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-12-2011, 06:10 PM
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It took one of my rescue cats several years to learn to trust me, but she did, in time. Hers was an extraordinary case because she had been abused before I adopted her. She was so scared that she would hide if anyone walked toward her because she thought they were going to kick her.

We started very slowly, gradually approaching her on hands and knees so she wouldn't feel so intimidated. It took some time, but she did overcome her fears.

She still went into hiding if company came over, but once they settled down she would peek around the corner and eventually come into the room to keep an eye on them (and to be admired!). When she was home with just her people she would cuddle up or follow me around talking to me. In time, she even started sleeping on my pillow.

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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-13-2011, 06:35 PM
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I have experienced both bonds- my heart kitty that I've always been tightly attached to, and her to me, from the moment we met (my Nefertiti); and the bond that took a while to grow from both sides (my miss Mona).

Nefertiti was brought to me by a friend (I'd never had a cat before). She was under a year old, and had been found on the side of the road and then dumped at a wildlife rehabilitation center because she was "deformed" (she's a little knock-knee'd in the back ). She is my constant companion (she's laying on my lap between me and the computer this very moment). She's with me when I'm sick, sits in the window to say goodbye to me when I leave in the morning, meets me meowing at the door when I come home at night, sleeps with me under the covers, purrs and kneads me constantly, etc. My life would be no where near as full as it is without her here- she's been with me for two and a half years.

Mona has been with me for almost a year and a half. She is now a bit over five years old. She's technically not my cat yet- I foster her for a no-kill rescue. I HATED Mona when I started fostering her. Seriously. She was mean, destructive, anti-social, etc. She hated me because I had to catch her every day to treat her chin for feline acne. She wanted nothing to do with me, nothing to do with any other animal, nothing to do with anyone. She had no "manners" when it came to living in a house. It took six months for her to semi-settle in to life at my house and begin seeking out affection. It took eight months for her to begin sleeping in bed with me and Nefertiti, and laying in my lap. It was a whole year before I started seeing the real cat within Mona- the playful, happy, relaxed, affectionate, social cat that was just waiting for the right person to bring it out of her. Just within the last few weeks she (the cat that the rescue labeled as "Must Not Live With Other Cats") began playing with my cat and my mother's cat. Who knows how much further out of her own shell she'll come in the next months/years.
No one was willing to invest as much time and energy into her as I did. The rescue had no one else willing to foster her. She'll be adopted by me in the coming months so that she never has to be shuffled around from foster to foster or back to the shelter again.
I will say that my bond with her is not as strong as the one I have with Nefertiti. That may change though as time goes by.
Be the Bringer of Good Things for your cat, with treats, yummy canned foods, and the best and most fun toys that they enjoy. That helps form a bond. With Mona, I found letting her come to me when she decided she wanted affection was the most effective way to make us closer. The more she realized I wasn't going to force anything on her, the more she wanted to come to me for affection and lovings.
(And of course there's my new "permanent foster" Aiden, who I think anyone would love the instant they met him- you can't not love him!!)
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-14-2011, 10:46 AM
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Close Bonds

I too am proudly owned by Ritz, a formerly feral feline. A friend rescued her and her litter mates in December 2009 and socialized them. I helped a little, and adopted Ritz in late January 2010. Prior to this time, I'd never had a pet before, much less a cat. Ritz is now a lap cat, bed cat (preferred location, right in between my legs). Within the past six months, she loves loves loves to get her neck massaged. Within the past two or three months, her belly rubbed. Sometimes. I watch her body language.
In the past nine months, I have become the caretaker of a stray cat colony. Some I could almost immediately pet when feeding; some won't let me touch them even when eating; and one has recently put his paws on my legs, ignoring the food, so I could pet him.
I've learned that the level of bond a cat can form with a human is in large part based on his/her personality, as well as what "baggage" the cat brings to the table. Under what circumstances did the cat have to be placed into a shelter? Dumped on the streets; what was his/her life beforehand? (Ritz will always be food centric because she had to dumpster dive for the first six months of her life.)
Often times it's not You, it's the Cat.
I've also learned that patience is your best friend, and appeciate any little steps. (This weekend, I had to rehome three of the stray cats; they are in a friend's cattery. Today, one of the cats ate in front of me. That's a HUGE sign of trust.)
You'll get there.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-14-2011, 12:27 PM
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Yes, I most definitely believe bonds can be formed over time! Samantha and I hit it off right away in the shelter...she chose me and she's still my little special girl to this day. Then I got Rochelle. Rochelle was very indifferent to me when I first brought her home, due to trust and skittishness issues. She would hide constantly and flinch when I would bend down to pet her and it broke my heart. I made it a personal goal to befriend her and now, almost 6 months from the day we adopted her, she's like a whole different cat. She actually comes to me for pets now, plays with her toys with me, loves to cuddle on the couch, sits on the edge of the bath when I'm taking one, is very talkative (she was silent when I brought her home), and she sleeps snuggled right up next to me now. She hasn't hid anywhere in at least a month, and she's started to let me pet her while eating.

Cindy said it best...patience is king! I've found that you can't rush a cat...bonds will form, but it's on their terms. Each small step in a positive direction brings the two of you that much closer together, and I consider it an honor when they give just that little bit.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-15-2011, 10:43 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks so much everyone for sharing your experiences! It's good to know bonds at least can develop over time. I do respect Genie's independence and I know I can't really force anything. She's fun and cute anyway, and much more friendly than when she arrived, so I guess I'll just enjoy living with her and see what kind of relationship evolves
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