for the love of cats
Once we understand the reasons why cats like being petted, the next step is to use it for bonding purposes. Not all cats will bond with us. Some will bond with one person in the household and not others. Nobody can predict who a cat will choose to bond with. But when they do, the result can be quite striking.
As predators, cats evaluate each contact they make, in degrees of danger. Even when encountering a mouse for the first time, a cat will approach it with caution. But soon the hunting instinct surpasses it's caution and the game is on. In domestic situations, cats do not hunt prey for food as they are rarely hungry having food around the house most of the time. But that does not alleviate its need to satisfy it's hunting instinct. Cats tend to turn the situation into play. But cats do not know when to stop. The more the prey struggles, the more the cat hangs on. Instinct is a hard thing to control.
Before a cat will bond with a human, a minimal level of trust must first be developed. Trust does not come easily to cats. Even though a cat may have evaluated a persons actions as posing no threat, that does not mean it has learned to trust. Example: A cat finds its way onto the roof of the house and cannot find its way down. Even though it becomes frustrated and meows for assistance, it may often keep its distance from you if you reach for it to take it down from the roof. It is also unlikely that bending over to offer your back as a platform for the cat to jump down to will be successful even though the cat understands climbing and jumping very well. Why is this? Why does a cat not immediately jump down to your back or allow you to pick them up when in distress? This is a trust issue. Some people may think the cat just doesn't understand what you are offering. Not true. Cats are quite smart and understand the concept very well. If they can understand jumping from the curio cabinet to the dining table to the floor, they can easily understand jumping from the roof to your back to the ground.
The reason they react the way they do is due to trust. They may not consider you any sort of threat, they still do not trust you completely. Or more correctly, they do not trust that you will remain unmoving during the jump. We humans are a bit unpredictable from the perspective of cats. They rarely know or understand what we are doing or why.
Here is where bonding makes all the difference. The key is to do exactly the same thing every time in any given situation. Once the cat sees you are predictable in certain circumstances, they begin to trust that you always will. Example: When Momma Beautiful was alive, our daily ritual was for me to let her out in the morning when I went to work. When I got home, she would meet me and jump into the bed of my truck. After I got my things out of the truck, she would climb onto my shoulder and I would carry her into the house. She would then eat and lay down to rest for a few hours and then come into my den for some bonding time. This involved either her jumping up in my lap for some petting (if I was at the computer) or laying down next to me for petting (if I was sitting on the floor watching the news or other TV programs). We did this every single night for several years. Then, one day, I came home to find she was not there waiting. I thought perhaps she was busy chasing a lizard or in the neighbor's yard. But I soon found that she was up on the roof and could not find her way down. My hands were full at the time and I had no ladder available at the moment so I led her to the lowest edge of the roof. I bent over to give her the opportunity to jump even though I knew she probably wouldn't. To my surprise, she did. I still don't know if it was the shoulder ride routine that caused her to make the jump or if she just trusted me but I believe it was the latter. From that time forward, she would jump without hesitation when she found herself on the roof. During her life, that happened at least 6 times. She jumped every time.
Now that's trust.