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It can seem pretty daunting when it comes to figuring out how to approach a cat, especially if you haven’t been around many felines in your life. But if you’re careful and respectful, you might actually find it pretty easy to introduce yourself to a new cat. Here are some tips that will help you break the ice with your new feline friend.

Before starting, however, it’s important to note that these tips are only for people who are either meeting a friend’s adult cat or adopting one. They aren’t to be used for approaching a stray cat, or a feral cat, or a mother cat with kittens. The result could be an injured cat – or an injured human, for that matter. 

Visiting A New Cat? Learn How To Approach A Cat For The First Time

Say you’re visiting a friend who recently brought home a new kitty and you want to make a good first impression. The friend may have recently taken in a lost cat, or brought one home from a Humane Society or rescue organization. How do you introduce yourself to a new cat in someone else’s home?

One of the first things to remember is to get down to the cat’s level. Sit down on the floor if you can. When you try to introduce yourself to a new cat, they might be intimidated by your size. That could make them fearful. By getting down to their level, you may help take away that fear.1

The next thing to try when you introduce yourself to a new cat is to gently reach your hand forward. Ball your hand into a fist, keeping it below the cat’s head level. The cat will then decide whether to sniff your hand or rub on it. These are both signs of acceptance.2

Let The Cat Initiate The Introduction

Letting the cat “make the first move” could help increase the chances of a good first meeting. Whether the kitty is an indoor or outdoor cat shouldn’t matter. Take it slow, and you might just find it easy to introduce yourself to a new cat.

Wait until the cat starts to rub against you before you start petting them. The cat will do this to share their scent with yours. Once this happens, gently pet the cat under the chin and on the forehead and cheeks. Don’t pet any other part of their body until the kitty gets to know you a little better. Also, don’t try to pick up the cat until you two are more familiar with each other.3

Another thing to avoid when you introduce yourself to a new cat is petting the kitty anywhere near their tail. This is a very sensitive area on a cat’s body, reserved only for people the cat knows really well. Also, stop petting if the cat’s body starts twitching or if they start to bite in a, hopefully, gentle fashion. Those are signs the cat is really stimulated and could possibly attack.4

How A Cat’s Eyes Can Tell You What They’re Thinking

Looking at the cat’s eyes can also help when you try to introduce yourself to a new cat. They give you an idea of how they feel toward you. Here are a few examples.

  • Their pupils are narrowed – If the cat’s pupils seem to be in the form of a slit, that means they’re aroused in some way. It could be that they’re really excited or happy, or that they’re angry or scared.
  • Their eyes are wide open – This is a sign the cat trusts you. Another sign is if you receive a friendly head-butt.
  • The cat stares without blinking – Don’t get into a staring contest or anything like that, because the kitty could interpret that as a sign of aggression. Staring can also be a sign of trying to establish dominance.5

How Do You Deal With A Scared Cat?

When you try to introduce yourself to a new cat, you might not get the reaction you want. More than likely, if you get a negative response, the cat is frightened. If you’ve just adopted a stray or brought home a kitten, there’s a chance the kitty will be too scared to want to bond with you right away.

A fearful cat may want to hide in a safe spot, at least for a little while. As long as you know the cat is healthy, let them do it. Trying to force things will only make the cat feel more scared. Just remember to clean the litter tray or litter box regularly, and make sure there’s plenty of food and water. When the cat is ready, they’ll come out.6

If, on the other hand, the shy cat is only fearful toward one person in your home, try having that person feed them. Cats, like most pets, are very motivated by food. They may warm up to your family member or friend fairly quickly if they know who is providing their meals.7

Understand Body Language And Cat Behavior

cat rubbing on person | Ultimate Pet Nutrition

All cats have their own type of body language. They may give you signs that you need to back away from them. They may give you an indication they’re ready to be petted, or they want to play. This is the case whether you have an indoor cat, an outdoor cat, you’ve adopted a stray, or if you and some neighbors are taking care of a community cat. A cat’s tail and ears are particularly telling.

How The Tail Can Tell You What A Cat Is Feeling

When you want to introduce yourself to a new cat, pay close attention to their tail. It can let you know a lot of things – like if the cat is relaxed or scared. The tail can even tell you if you’re about to have an aggressive cat on your hands.

If the cat is relaxed, for example, the tail will be loose. A happy cat may have a raised tail, and the tail will twitch every once in a while, or have a slight curl at the end. If the tail looks like it’s wagging, that means the cat is interested in something. It could be a bird or squirrel outside the window, a toy, or you.8

There are other not-so-positive signs a tail can give you as well. When a cat moves their tail in a forceful manner – such as moving it faster than normal – that’s a potential sign of agitation. If the tail is wrapped underneath the cat’s body, that’s a sign of concern. If you see the tail completely spread out (with hair standing on end), that means the cat is frightened of something.9

A Cat’s Ears Aren’t Just Used For Hearing

Introduce new cat | Ultimate Pet NutritionThe position of the ears is also key to reading a cat’s emotions. When a cat is relaxed, the ears will typically tilt forward a slight amount. When the ears are straight up and down, that’s a sign of friendship and interest. Twitching ears typically mean a cat is nervous or agitated. Flat ears may mean you need to leave the cat alone because they’re in an aggressive mood.10

Hopefully, these tips will make it easier to introduce yourself to a new cat. Just make sure to take things slow and easy. Over time, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually have a new feline friend to love.

 

Learn More:

Understanding Cats: How To Read Your Cat’s Body Language

Cat Behavior Problems That All Cat Parents Should Watch Out For

Why You Should Adopt A Pet: Adopt Don’t Shop


Sources:

1. https://www.humanerescuealliance.org/blog/posts/tips-for-a-successful-meet-and-greet-with-a-cat
2. https://www.humanerescuealliance.org/blog/posts/tips-for-a-successful-meet-and-greet-with-a-cat
3. https://medium.com/@SummerSamba/how-to-introduce-yourself-cat-bf695400ba5
4. https://medium.com/@SummerSamba/how-to-introduce-yourself-cat-bf695400ba5
5. https://www.thesprucepets.com/cat-talk-eyes-553942
6. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/how-help-frightened-cat
7. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/how-help-frightened-cat
8. http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/5-keys-to-decoding-your-cats-body-language
9. http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/5-keys-to-decoding-your-cats-body-language
10. https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/cat-body-language