How to Get a Cat to Like You: 5 Essential Tips
People have lots of opinions about cats, good and bad. The bad often happens because the human didn’t know how to properly communicate with a cat, and it gave them a negative impression. If humans understood a little about kitty language, and how to approach us, the result would be much better for us felines, and the humans too. Here are my tips for you.
Don’t Make Assumptions
There are so many humans out there who think that they are kitty magnets, and they aren’t! In fact, cats often run from them because they are space invaders! By that, I don’t mean they are aliens from another planet. I mean, they invade kitty space before the cat is ready. That is why humans who don’t like cats often attract them — they ignore them, and that is giving the cat space. Instantly, it makes us more inclined to get to know that person. I’m pretty easy going so when a human looms over me, squealing, “You’re a kitty!” I don’t mind… but it’s off-putting to most other cats.
So when you first see a cat you’d like to be friends with, don’t approach her immediately. Let her know you respect her space — by initially keeping a few feet away. Check out the body language. Is the cat wide-eyed and ready to bolt? Or is she sitting or lying there, relaxed? Are her ears in what I call “the regular” position (the one you see me doing above)? Or are they flattened or highly alert? Is her tail swishing madly or still, except for a lazy swing? The more relaxed a cat is around you, the more successful your introduction will be.
Learn the Slow Blink
A lot of you have heard of the Slow Blink, but not so many know how to do it right. There’s a little bit of a knack to it. Don’t just lock eyes with the cat and blink. Staring into the eyes of a cat you don’t know comes off as rude and possibly threatening.
Start the slow blink by making eye contact with the cat briefly and casually and then, just as casually look away. That is a cat’s version of being polite. Then look back and make eye contact, then slowly and deliberately close your eyes and then open them. How long do you close your eyes? Think of it this way: with your eyes shut, mentally say, “I love,” and when you get to “you,” open your eyes. Then, as soon as you’ve reconnected, stop making eye contact and glance down. If you are lucky, the cat will slow blink back in exactly the same way, looking away when done. Some cats don’t close their eyes completely, and that is just as good. If you aren’t successful, keep trying!
The Sniff Test
When cats meet each other, they sniff each other’s noses, faces, and sometimes rear ends. You are a lot bigger than a kitty, so sticking your face in his might be scary. So make initial contact with your more kitty-sized hand. Some people suggest approaching the cat with the back of your hand. Others do it palm up. The important thing, really, is to be down on the cat’s level. If you can crouch, or better yet, lie down near the cat and then hold out your hand, it doesn’t matter which way you do it, as long as your fingers are relaxed.
If the cat has decided he wants to meet you, he will approach your fingers and sniff them. Let him — don’t try to pet him just yet. Let him get to know your scent. If the cat is reluctant to approach you, try some more Slow Blinks.
Let the Cat Initiate the Petting
Let the cat rub herself against your fingers before petting her. That means two things: 1) she is intermingling her scent with yours, and 2) she is telling you where she likes being petted. Most cats enjoy petting on their cheeks, forehead, and under the chin. A cat needs to trust you a little bit more for full body pets.
Don’t pet a strange cat on the area by her tail! That’s a sensitive spot and not all cats like butt patting. Save this for when you have already become good friends with the cat and only on a trial basis. Also stop petting the cat if the fur on her back or her tail starts twitching, if she starts doing purr-meows (purrs that sound like they have a meow buried in them), or if she tries to give you a gentle (or not-so-gentle) love bite. These are all indications that the cat is becoming overstimulated and she may turn and attack you.
Another don’t — don’t pick up the cat when you are getting to know her. A lot of cats don’t like being picked up at all. Wait until you know the cat very well (or preferably, if you have adopted her and have lived with her for a while) before picking her up. And when you do, prop up her back end with one hand, while holding her close to you with both hands. That way she won’t feel like she is being suspended in mid-air.
Bribery Works Wonders
Even if a cat decides he does not want you to pet him, he may approach you for a treat. It’s best, however, if you put the treat in the palm of your hand instead of holding it the way my human is in this photo — trust me, you are asking to get bitten! And it’s not the cat’s fault. The way our eyes work, we can’t tell where the treat ends and your fingers begin that close up. So hold the treat in your hand and see if the cat will take it. If he does, then maybe he will let you pet him.
Bonus Tip — Playtime!
If the cat is very shy and is reluctant to make friends, try playing with her. Use an extra long wand toy, or one of those cool fishing pole toys with a prey like lure on the end. If the cat doesn’t have to come near you but can still have fun, she will be more inclined to be friends at some point. When my human met Boodie, many years ago, she was semi-feral and cringed and hissed when any human approached her. But boy, did she like to play! (She still does.) That is how my human initially made friends with her.
I hope you enjoyed my tips, and that you make friends with lots of new cats!