Ever headed toward a cat, had her take one look at you, then watched her hurl herself running in the opposite direction? You’re really not alone.
Now, if it’s your cat in question, and she only does this sometimes – especially if she is touching, tapping, or even whacking you with her paw right before scurrying off, you’re probably experiencing a harmless “catch me if you can” dare: a bait to try to get you to play. In cases like these, pick up an exercise toy and get to work – your feline overlord has some business she needs you to take care of.
The situation’s a little different if your cat or kitten keeps running away from you – consistently. If every time you head toward her, she flees. Cats are fickle creatures, and while there’s no doubt we humans love ’em to bits, it can feel more than a little hurtful when our very own resident furries give us the cold shoulder.
That being said, contrary to how a flighty cat might make you feel, this all-too-common feline behaviour is no indication your cat hates or even dislikes you. What’s it an indication of? You’ve got some training to do! And it’s actually a lot easier than you think! Let’s start at the beginning…
Why Does My Cat Run Away From Me?
You might not like the answer, but I’m sure you already understand on some level why your cat flees every time you come near or even enter a room: your cat is likely running away from you because it’s not a fan of being pet, picked up, or whatever else it thinks you might “do to it” once you actually get close.
When you make a move toward a cat, it’s 100% going to dart away if it thinks whatever’s coming out of you next is something it’s not going to enjoy.
But I want to pet my cat. Can I get my cat to like being pet more?
Yes, you absolutely can teach your cat to like being pet more. It’s all about a slow, steady process, but it’s actually very easy to turn your cat into a more cuddly version of herself. How? Take a peek at some of the tips I’ve posted here.
Do I think it’s possible to help every cat transform into a snuggle-loving lap cat? No. But I do think you can make considerable headway and train every cat to be happier than she currently is with cuddles, petting, and general affection than before you trained her.
But first things first. Before you can teach your cat to be snuggly, you’re going to have to convince her to stop running away from you every time you begin taking steps toward her – which is a separate training process in itself. Let’s start with that…
How Can I Train My Cat to Stop Running Away From Me?
Getting a cat to stop running away from you is a two-step process:
- Training your cat to be okay with you coming near.
Get your cat to initially trust you to be next to him or her by repeatedly being near your cat without interacting with your cat at all.
- Training your cat to be content to interact with you after you come near.
Get your cat used to the idea that you coming near to interact is not always a bad thing by cycling through different types of interactions each time you come near – many of which will be overwhelmingly positive and rewarding for your cat.
Obviously, I’ll get more into depth and share the play-by-play of the process you should use below, so keep reading if this is something you feel you want to do.
Step 1: Training your cat to be okay with you coming near.
The first hurdle you have to overcome with a cat who always runs away can be a pretty big problem, as it’s a bit of a catch 22. You can’t prove you’re not going to be annoying when you get up close and personal if you can’t even get near enough to your cat to prove that to him or her because each time you try, he or she runs away.
The solution? Work around your cat, approach when he or she is busy with something else – like sleeping or eating.
Put down your kitty’s grub for dinner. While he or she is distracted, literally stand or sit next to him or her.
Remember, don’t touch or even reach out to your cat at all. Just stay put, hands hidden behind your back, held together in front of you, or if you’re sitting, in your lap.
If you have an especially flighty cat and you sit or stand right next to the food bowl, your cat is likely to not want to go near dinner at first, but the allure of food when a belly’s rumbling, and the fact that you’ve stayed put without moving or making an attempt to come too near for a while will convince kitty it’s okay to come over and eat.
Repeat this process whenever you feed your cat, and if you’re interested in giving a few snacks throughout the day (make sure to use this trick to prevent overfeeding!) do the same – put the snack down, sit near your cat, stick around until he or she’s eaten and left, and in the meantime do not move or touch your cat.
You can do the same with naps. Kitty dozed off in the corner? Go near your cat and sit or stand by him or her. Your cat is likely to wake up and take a look at you, but if you’re still and do nothing, is likely to return to sleep in no time. Stay close for a minute or two then leave.
Do these things over and over and your cat will become perfectly content to let you come close because he or she will assume you’re simply going to stand or sit nearby and not try to interact when you do. You can tell that you’ve started to gain trust with your cat when there’s no longer any hesitation waltzing over to the food bowl even with you standing right there.
Once you do have this base level of trust, start slowly walking near your cat when he or she is not distracted. Like when he or she is sitting around doing nothing, hanging out in a cat tree, or whatever else your cat may be doing. Walk up to your cat, stand there for a few minutes, then just leave. Do this more and more often and your cat will stop running away from you when you walk up to him or her.
Step 2: Training your cat to be content to interact with you after you come near.
For this step to stick, your goal is to to teach your cat that:
- You coming near doesn’t always mean something it thinks is annoying is going to happen.
- You coming near sometimes means something really nice will happen.
How can you convince your cat? Whenever you go near your cat, walk up to him or her nice and slowly, then when you get nearby, mix things up! For the next few weeks, walk up to your cat at random intervals and do something different on this list, cycling through a variety of different actions so you don’t repeat the same one too many times:
- Go near your cat and simply sit near (not right next to) him or her.
- Walk up to your cat and “offer” your cat your hand to sniff.
- Walk up to your cat, pull out a treat from your pocket, and place it right in front of him or her.
- Go up to your cat while he or she is eating and stroke him or her gently.
- Go near your cat and sit right next to him or her without moving or making any attempt to interact.
- Walk up to your cat, pull out a treat from your pocket, and encourage him or her to eat the treat from your hand.
- Go near your cat and give him or her a very short, sweet, painless little pet on the back.
- Walk up to your cat and offer some catnip that you’ve brought with you from your hand.
I’d come up with a few more, but at this point I’m sure you get the idea. Make sure to intersperse really happy and rewarding things for your cat (let’s be honest, those pretty much all have to do with eating snacks) with a bunch of “neutral” things like walking up to your cat and not interacting, as well as some potentially “mildly annoying” things like being pet or touched. Eventually, your cat will learn to let you come near on the off chance that something really good will happen, and because most of the time, nothing too annoying happens. Spend as much time as you can mixing things up, and if you want your cat to be fine with being pet for a little longer, pet for a little longer each time you approach and it happens to be petting time.
The Next Steps Forward
Once your cat stops running away from you, you can slowly teach your cat to be a lot more snuggly, and to be content enough to be pet. I’ve written out a full article on how to do this here, so if that’s something you’re interested in doing, you can check that out.
You can also teach your cat to be okay with being picked up, which might be especially helpful in case for any reason you need to move your cat from one room to the next, or anything along those lines. I haven’t got an article on this topic yet, but I’ll be working on one soon and will link to it from this article once it’s done.
Have You Ever Tried Encouraging a Cat to Stop Running Away?
Have you ever met a flighty cat who runs away from pretty near well all people? What about a cat that ran away from house guests or specific family members?
Did this behaviour ever change in the cat’s life? If so: how did the change happen? Did you try to build up trust through training a cat it was going to be okay whenever you came near, or did you just leave the cat for long enough for it to trust you? If it was the latter – how long did it take for the cat’s behaviour to change?
Would hear your experiences in the comments!