Cat Relationship Built on Trust

How can you have a cat who is comfortable with new situations? It's a matter of trust.

When we are out and about, people are always amazed by how calm Summer is in a crowd. She is usually happy to sit next to me, and she loves seeing people gather around to take her photo. A lot of Summer’s demeanor has to do with breeding — her parents are known for their outgoing kittens — and a lot of it has to do with the socialization her breeder gave her from the time she was born. But all of that would have added up to nothing without one additional ingredient: Summer trusts me implicitly.

Summer’s comfort and safety is foremost in my mind whenever we go somewhere, and she senses that. She also knows that while I may occasionally do something that is mildly annoying, like put a hat on her, I’ll never do something that would put her in peril. When we’re together, we work as a team, and I am constantly monitoring her comfort level, seeing when I can push her a little, or when to call it a day and take her home. This worked really well when I flew her to the BlogPaws conference in Nashville. She actually surprised me often by rarely giving me a signal (vocalizing, or acting squirmy and squirrely) that she wanted to go back up to our hotel room. And when we entertained visitors in the hotel room (we had several get-togethers, including one small meet-and-greet party), she was polite about letting everyone know when she was done, just jumping under the table and looking up at her guests, bright-eyed, as if to say, “Didn’t you say you needed to be somewhere else?” No growling, sulking or hiding under the bed – she was actually a much more gracious hostess than some humans whose homes I’ve visited.

To keep Summer happy on our outings, I have to keep track of my own attitude. She can’t feel safe and secure if I don’t, and that’s probably the reason that car rides are the one thing she really doesn’t care for. I don’t like driving and can be nervous behind the wheel. On top of that, Summer’s stuck in the back seat, her carrier fastened with a seat belt, and I can’t be there next to her, holding her to look out the window or petting her inside the carrier, or handing out treats. She has gotten better about car rides over the months that we’ve been traveling together, but she still will fuss, especially if we’re flying at top speed down the freeway while surrounded by trucks (guess what? I hate that too).

Training an already-outgoing cat to be your traveling companion is as much about training yourself as it is training the cat. These incredibly sensitive creatures will absorb the energy you give out, and if you are nervous, they will be too. I’ve noticed that, with repeated practice, I’m more calm about taking Summer places — and she is too. She does lean on me a lot, looking to me for approval, and keeping a close eye on me when I step even a few feet away from her. But that’s fine — we’re a team and she should look to me for cues. When Summer and I go out together, it’s as two bodies, but with one heart.

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