Why Doesn't My Cat Like Me?

In some cases, pet guardians feel like their cat doesn’t like them or that the cat only likes them when it’s time to eat. There are numerous behaviors that come into play when this topic is brought up. Some cats show fear behaviors such as hiding or running away, defensive behaviors such as hissing or swatting, or just general disinterest in interacting.


Cats have individual personalities. Just like humans, some have a higher or lower tolerance for affection and attention. There are cats who would like to snuggle with their humans twenty-four hours a day, and others who are content with thirty seconds of attention.

Guardians must read their cat’s body language to determine if the cat is enjoying the attention at that moment. Cats show that they are uncomfortable with different body postures, such as a tense body, eyes dilated, ears back, or a low hunched position.

Other cats will seem to enjoy petting or attention for a certain amount of time, then like the flick of a switch they no longer want to interact.

This means that the cat is overstimulated, or in other words, they have hit their threshold of how much affection they can handle.

If the cat is showing these signs, it is best to give them space so they don’t need to escalate their behaviors. If the cat is ignored when it is showing signs of being uncomfortable, chances are they will resort to hissing, biting, scratching, or running away.

Nature vs. Nurture

The cat may be predisposed to fearing humans. Genetics and environment each play a part in a cat’s reaction to humans.

Some breeds of cats are more social than others, so if you are planning on purchasing a kitten from a breeder, it is important to choose a breed and bloodline that fits your lifestyle. This is not a guarantee though, because environment plays a large part as well. The kittens need to be raised in a nurturing environment with positive associations to humans and novel stimuli.

Adopted cats have the same potential for these issues as well. Many rescue kittens are born in colonies of feral cats. If the kitten was born to a feral mother who lacked positive interactions with humans, she may raise her kittens to fear humans as well. Kittens need to have these positive interactions with people during their socialization period to prevent them from becoming fearful.

Sometimes guardians adopt older cats with unknown backgrounds. These cats may not have been socialized to humans as kittens and may need patience and time to accept humans.


Newly adopted cats will need to have the ability to settle in comfortably so that they don’t become overwhelmed. Cats are sensitive to changes in their environment. There are new sights, smells, and sounds that they need to get used to.

Especially, if it is a hectic household, this can take a while for a cat to adjust to. Some cats may have even lived outdoors previously and have no idea how to navigate a house. Slow introductions into the house and having a closed safe space from the rest of the house, such as a bathroom may help the cat acclimate to the new environment.


Sometimes it is the guardians themselves that are overwhelming to the cat. Each cat has their own tolerance for handling. Some cats are comfortable with being picked up and held, while for others this can be scary. They are small animals and it can be overwhelming to be restrained by a large human.

Of course, guardians generally mean well in these actions, but it is also important to be aware of the size difference between the cat and human. Cats can be overwhelmed by our voices and even the steps we take.

Cats have preferences on how and where they like to be pet as well. Most cats don't like their belly rubbed, even if they are exposing it. An exposed belly is a sign of trust, not an invitation for petting. Cats typically like their heads and chin rubbed, but if your cat pulls away then they may not be a fan at that moment. 

What to do

A different type of love

As humans, we show our love to pets with hugs, petting, and holding. However, cats are generally less tolerant of our need to give them this type of love.

It may be necessary to give your cat attention in shorter sessions more times a day. Instead of thirty minutes of attention, you may give them a few minutes multiple times throughout the day, especially if they become overstimulated. Try petting them in a different place such as their head. Follow their cues on if they are enjoying it, if they aren't then try a new spot or at a later time. 

We want to give our cats attention, so it may be beneficial to engage with your cat in a different way. Play games with them. Even the less playful cats may find some games fun, experiment with different types. Some cats prefer to play with the mouse on a string, small cat balls, feather toys, etc.

Training is another great way to bond with your cat! Start with simple tricks and high value rewards.

The process of learning how to work together towards a goal can make your cat excited to interact with you. Using positive reinforcement techniques to motivate the cat to play a training game builds confidence in the cat as well as provides physical and mental exercise.

Respect your cat!

Life is not a viral video. Creating a solid trusting bond with the cat is more important than showing friends how the cat “plays the piano” by holding them by the armpits. Creating a stressful scenario to get a reaction out of the cat will destroy the bond between cat and guardian. The cat may show increased instances of problem behaviors and fear/avoid the guardian, it is best to avoid these activities.

Reading your cat

When in doubt, give your cat space. If the cat is struggling to get out of your arms, let them go. If you restrain them, the cat will learn that this is an unpleasant experience that happens randomly and they may start to avoid you. If the cat shows signs of tension, allow them to move away, so that they do not feel the need to escalate their behaviors.


If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!