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Top Tips to Help You Approach a Cat for the First Time

Mar 31 2023.

Cats can be territorial and are often wary of anyone they don’t know. So, when you’re about to meet a new cat sitting client for the first time, it’s important to know how to approach the cat so that you leave a great first impression. The right introduction will not only help Mr Whiskers feel comfortable around you, but it will reassure paw parents that their kitty is in the right hands. Want to learn the best way to meet a new feline? Cat in a Flat offers some great tips on how to approach a cat for the first time so you start off on the right foot (or paw)!

How should I approach a cat for the first time? 

While dogs will work to earn a human’s trust, cats are quite the opposite. Most felines prefer to build a relationship with a new human on their own terms. Our fur friends have great memories, so a kitty will remember a bad first meeting. Here’s how to properly approach a cat for the first time: 

Let the cat come to you

It’s important to respect a cat’s boundaries, especially if you don’t know them well. Keep in mind that your fur friend may be upset their owner is gone, and therefore feeling more vulnerable than usual. Don’t approach the cat, instead let them come to you. Most felines are naturally cautious and may want to observe you from afar (or up high!) before coming any closer. Try to stay very still and don’t make any sudden movements or loud noises that may startle Mr Whiskers. 

Talk in a soothing tone

Cats can pick up on and mirror the moods of the humans around them. It’s one of the reasons why traveling tends to be stressful for cats—because their humans are usually stressed too! Help decrease your new kitty client’s anxiety by talking to them in a soft, soothing tone and using their name. Sometimes Mr Whiskers just needs to feel reassured, and talking to them in a calm voice can help. 

Let the cat sniff your hand

If the cat approaches and seems interested in knowing more about you, gently extend your hand for them to sniff. Our fur friend’s noses are remarkable and they can smell food from between 126 – 154 feet away (which explains why a sleeping cat will immediately wake up and come running the moment you’re ready to feed them!). 

By holding out your hand, you are allowing a cat to get to know your scent. It’s a great sign if Mr Whiskers starts purring and rubbing their head against you—this means your fur friend feels comfortable in your presence! However, be aware that the smell of an unfamiliar cat can be upsetting to your fur friend. So, if you’re seeing multiple kitty clients in one day always wash your hands when arriving and leaving a fur friend’s home. This ensures you don’t carry the scent with you to the next client. 

Pet the cat

Only try petting a cat once they’ve approached and seem comfortable around you. Start at the kitty’s head and gently pet stroke along their back. Avoid touching Mr Whiskers’ tail or belly—even if the cat is lying on their back. These are no-go areas for most cats and you don’t want to be on the receiving end of an annoyed paw swipe!

Watch for signals

While cats can’t speak the same language as us, they do tell us a lot through their meows and body language. If your fur friend suddenly seems agitated, flattens their ears against their head, or hisses, immediately stop petting them and slowly back away. On the other hand, if Mr Whiskers seems comfortable with you—if they are purring, butting or rubbing their head against you, or following you around—you have the pawpproval to continue petting and interacting with them.

What to do if a cat still won’t approach

Don’t take it personally if, after several interactions, a cat still doesn’t want to approach you. Remember, it’s not personal and each feline is different. Some kitties may adjust to your presence quickly, while others can take more time. And if you never form a close bond with a cat client, that’s perfectly okay! Don’t force the relationship. Our furry friends like to do things on their own terms and Mr Whiskers will appreciate you respecting their boundaries. 

If you have a shy cat client, here are a few DOs and DON’Ts to interacting with them without forcing the situation. 

  • DO sit quietly in the room where the cat is, ignoring them. You can read a book or do something else. This way the kitty won’t feel pressured or anxious and can get used to your presence.
  • DON’T make eye contact. Direct eye contact can come across as a threat to felines, so avoid looking directly into your kitty client’s eyes. Instead gaze off to the side while speaking in a soothing voice.
  • DO give them treats or play with them. It’s perfectly okay to buy your fur friend’s love with treats or playtime! Some kitties might need a little convincing, and a few tasty treats or a fun toy might be just the thing to coax them out of their shell. These will also allow your cat client to develop a pawsitive association to spending time with you. (Note: always check with your client’s fur parents first to make sure it’s okay to give them any treats. Some cats may be overweight, have food allergies, diabetes, or be on a restricted diet for other reasons.)
  • DON’T be impatient. It may seem difficult at times to earn a kitty’s love, but it’s always worth it. Focus on giving Mr Whiskers the best care you can so their paw parents will want to rebook you. The more your cat client gets used to you, the more likely they’ll want to approach you. So, don’t get discouraged if a cat doesn’t take to you right away! 
  • DO learn their favourite hiding spots. During the initial meet and greet, ask your client’s paw parents about their kitty’s favourite hiding spots. This way you know where to look if you don’t see them out and about the home. However, never force a kitty to leave their hiding spot, nor should you try to reach into their area. A simple visual check to make sure they’re okay is more than enough. 

Looking for more great cat care tips? Check out our blog posts on how to give cats medicine and how to help an injured or sick cat

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