Greeting a cat: Using proper cat etiquette
When it comes to properly greeting a cat, you may think all you have to do is walk right up to him, reach down and offer a few loving strokes along his fur. If the cat is familiar with you and likes you, that may be perfectly ok, but if it’s an unfamiliar cat or if he’s reluctant to interact, then the above method will likely result in you getting scratched or the cat backing away. If you don’t give the cat time to first do a little scent investigation then he may feel backed in a corner. That, combined with the fact that you’re advancing toward him, can set off alarm bells telling him it’s better to either strike out or just get the heck out of there. From his perspective, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
In the cat world, cats approach each other and engage in a round of nose-to-nose sniffing to determine familiarity and do an initial scent investigation. When you extend your finger at the same height as the cat’s nose, it becomes a surrogate kitty nose. When you hold your finger still and don’t advance toward the cat, you give him the option to approach or not. By giving the cat that choice it immediately reduces his stress level.
When the cat approaches he’ll do a little sniffing of your finger. If he wishes to interact further with you he may rub his cheek or side of his head along your finger (this is a very affectionate gesture) or he may engage in flank rubbing your finger or hand (a respectful way to combine his scent with yours). If he advances toward you, it’s usually an indication that he is ready for more interaction. It’s at that point that you may pet him if his body language indicates relaxation. If, after sniffing your finger, he stays still or backs away, then he’s NOT ready for further interaction… at least not this time.
Continue to use your finger for the proper human-to-cat introduction, even if the first few times don’t result in the cat wanting to interact further with you. Continue to give him the choice and show him you aren’t a threat and you acknowledge proper feline etiquette. You’ll eventually win him over. #catfacts
Excerpt from Cat Behavourist, Pam Johnson-Bennett