Marilyn Krieger, CCBC on August 05, 2010
Most of you probably know at least one person who seems to be a cat magnet. Cats gravitate naturally to them. Some of these people don’t particularly like cats, but they are the ones who, like it or not, end up at the end of the night with a cat relaxing in their lap. You may also know folks who receive the opposite reaction from cats. Even though they adore cats, the cats at best ignore, at worse, turn tail and become invisible entities to their friendly and insistent overtures.
Why are some people instant cat magnets while other people are systematically ignored by the subjects of their adoring eyes?
This little mystery can be unraveled through observation. You may have noticed that some people, craving kitty attention will use every trick in the book to solicit the smallest shred of cat interaction. Many of these admirers and cat-groupies will try to force their attentions on the cat by approaching and immediately trying to pet the cat. Sometimes the cat’s human companions will try to accelerate the introduction process by chasing down and extricating the cat from her hiding place. On the other end of the spectrum are natural cat magnets who either ignore the cat or their overtures are subtle. Cats seem to gravitate towards them, socializing with them on their own time schedule.
The secret is in the approach. Cats usually do not respond well when strangers try to pick them up or inadvertently corner them in their attempts for a kitty-fix. Cats need to feel safe, secure and to socialize on their own terms when they choose to. Formal hellos give them that choice.
Formally greeting a cat is simple. Sit down and extend your index finger towards the cat at about cat-nose level. The initial greeting distance depends on the individual cat and her circumstances. You might be only a foot away from the cat or across a room from the cat. If you know the cat, and the cat is comfortable with you, the distance can be decreased.
It’s now up to the cat to make the first move. When she’s ready to say “hello” she will walk up to your extended finger and touch it with her nose. Next she will move her head so that your finger is on her mouth and then she’ll move her head so that your finger is on her cheek. If she wants to continue with the meeting, she will rub your finger and your hand with her cheek, marking you. Cats have scent glands on their cheeks that produce “friendly pheromones”. This formal greeting is similar to us shaking hands. After she marks you, you can now gently pet her and socialize with her.
Try it with your own cats. Extend your index finger towards your cat buddy and say “hello.”
Marilyn Krieger, CCBC
The Cat Coach, LLC
On-site and phone consultations
Member BOD, co-chair of Cat Division IAABC