Who are you? Don’t touch me.

Cats often get identified as stand offish because they aren’t attention needy with every person who enters a home. Why? What can you do to connect with cats? I’ll explain this part of cat behavior and give you five rules to follow so you can start greeting cats in a way that makes sense to them.

Rule 1: Stop thinking of cats as dogs

Yes, many dogs are like desperate guys on a Saturday night, happy for any amount of attention and physical contact they can get. Cats are not.

Cat meme: They call cat people crazy, but we're not the ones outside at 5AM putting fresh dog poop into tiny baggies.
Great quote from @TheCatWhisperer on Twitter, meme credit: humor by the book.com

You have to wine and dine cats before they let you in. You’ll have to put in a little work to gain their trust. Your presence isn’t enough to win them over.

There are a number of reasons for this cat behavior:

  1. Recent domestication – Cats only started living inside with humans when litter was invented in the 1940s. We are currently witnessing the early years of domesticated cats and studying cat behavior, and still have soooooooo much to learn about interacting, understanding, communicating with and training them.
  2. Instinct and survival – As masterful hunters and excellent survivalists, instinct tells cats to watch everything and prep to hide from danger if necessary.
  3. High-level of sensitivity – A lot of people don’t know this, but cats are highly sensitive creatures, even more so than dogs. Changes in their environment, food, adding or subtracting other animals or humans (and babies!), moving or changing litter, rearranging furniture – literally any change, is felt by a cat. They are also very attune to energy levels, so if you are stressed, mad, depressed, sick, or excited, they feel it. Because they are so sensitive, there are many reasons why they don’t want to pet or interacted with at times, even when you think everything is normal.

Rule 2: Think of cats like people

How would you act if someone you didn’t know started touching you? Probably uncomfortable and annoyed. You would either say something so the person would stop or back away. Since cats are non-verbal communicators (I’ll get more into this in another post), they tend to back away and try to avoid physical contact because, guess what, they don’t know you!

Rule 3: Do the Kitty Handshake

White cat smells finger.
Example of the kitty handshake, Dolly is smelling my finger.

This is the most important physical action for greeting cats: Extend your hand for them to smell. That’s a kitty handshake. They identify people and even other pets by scent (which is why a cat may hiss at another cat that just got back from the vet – she smells different and isn’t immediately recognizable).

Next, wait to see how they respond and behave. If they rub against you, you can attempt contact. Sometimes a cat will even present it’s head for you to pet. Go for it. If they back off, they just don’t want it right now. It doesn’t mean anything, so don’t take it personally; he’s just not in the mood.

Rule 4: Try not to act like a Scaredy Cat (See What I Did There?)

A cat will sense when you’re acting hesitant or unsure, and your anxiety will wear off on them. If you don’t want to pet the cat or are scared to, just don’t do it. And, it’s okay not to! You may find the cat rubbing against you after time passes because he feels more comfortable with your presence.

Rule 5: Master The Art of the Slow Blink

Have you heard of the slow blink? When cats slow blink, it’s the equivalent of blowing kisses. You can connect with a cat by looking her in the eyes and slow blinking. Trust me, you will feel like an idiot the first few times – I know I thought, “This is ridiculous,” but once she slow blinks back, congratulations, you are non-verbally communicating with a feline!

Side note: Now you know why this theme is called Thinks & Blinks.

Check out this video by the Cat Daddy himself, Jackson Galaxy, to learn more about the slow blink:

You’re on your way to greeting cats in a way they understand

Remember to:

  • Think of cats more like people than dogs
  • Extend a proper kitty handshake
  • Keep your anxiety in check
  • Connect non-verbally with slow blinks

Good luck and have fun.

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