10 tips on how to approach a cat

This is about meeting a cat you don’t know and vice versa. The ‘rules’ are obviously different if you live with a cat and have done for some time. Under those circumstances your cat will approach you confidently and all the rhythms and routines of interaction are well known to both.

The Michelangelo technique for humans greeting cats
The Michelangelo technique for humans greeting cats. Illustration: PoC. My apologies to Michelangelo.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats
  1. Perhaps the first step is to remind ourselves that we tower over domestic cats. We are very physically dominant to the domestic cat. You could say intimidating. Confident cats might or will approach but many will do so reluctantly. So, if feasible, get down to the level of the cat. Right down on the ground. Cats like this anyway. We should do with the cat we live with too. This can help to remove that potential or actual intimidation barrier.
  2. Cats are sensitive to human body language. You’ll have to present a non-hostile, quiet body language! Click this for a good example of human body language which helps.
  3. Offer the back of your hand. I always present the back of my hand. It is better than flapping fingers in the face of a cat. Fingers tend to stimulate the predation response in cats. The back of the hand is more passive. And the movements should be slow, almost static. Also if a cat takes offence and bites it does not hurt on the back of the hand. Finger tips are more sensitive. And finally, a cat will struggle to bite the back of a hand. Fingers are ideal bite-sized objects.
  4. Present yourself to the cat but let her approach and make the decisions. A cat might do this straight off but if not the points above help. Normally cats need to time to become familiar with a strange person; their scent, appearance, sounds and movements.
  5. They – the experts – say that you should not stare at a cat as it puts them off. It is said to be a bit hostile. I am not sure that this is true to be honest. It is normal to look at the cat you are meeting. There is a fine difference between staring and looking.
  6. Let the cat approach and sniff the back of your hand. You might try Jackson Galaxy’s Michelangelo technique which is to gently place the tip of your finger against the cat’s nose. This is an attempt at the friendly nose touch greeting cats make when meeting. Movements should be confident and even-paced.
  7. Watch the cat’s body language. Check the general demeanour. Is she relaxed or wound up? You have to go with the flow and adapt to the attitude and behaviour of the cat rather than driving the interaction along at your pace and with your preferences. The show is run by the cat.
  8. If you are visiting at a shelter it might help to get some background information about the cat from shelter staff. And if visiting a cat in their home, their human caregiver can provide some information. The way the meeting goes is dependent on the confidence level of the cat.
  9. Let the cat touch your hand and then you can gently stroke the top of the head and the cheeks; some early introductory petting if she allows.
  10. If she does not want to interact, let it go. Just wait in her presence on the ground if possible and let her get used to your presence. Each cat has their own speed of getting acquainted based on confidence levels. If she eventually approaches you can then use the Michelangelo technique or gently pet her once she has checked out your body scent.

Future meetings will be easier and faster until she approaches and asks for some petting and interactions. These tips are very flexible and adjustable. I suppose the basic rule is to do things slowly, quietly and gently and at the cat’s pace.

Lewis Hamilton takes time to pet and interact with the Imola cat Formulino
Lewis Hamilton takes time to pet and interact with the Imola cat Formulino. Screenshot from Twitter video.

Lewis Hamilton likes animals particularly dogs it seems. Verstappen likes cats (he lives with two).

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