Handling Your Cat with Respect: Three Easy Steps

Does your cat seem hesitant when you pick them up or get agitated when you try to pet them? Although you intend to be loving and affectionate, your feline friend may be uncomfortable with your touch. Here are a few tips to make the experience more enjoyable.

Step 1: Approach

Cats have strong instincts and may be tempted to run away if caught by surprise. That’s why it is important to approach them correctly.

  • Make sure they can see you and then move towards them slowly. If not surprised, your cat will feel safer and thus more likely to accept being touched and picked up. Always leave them a way out so they can “escape” if they feel uncomfortable.
  • Pet them gently. If your cat approaches and pushes their head against your hand, they are asking for more attention! But if they back away or hide, they don’t feel like interacting.
  • Sit on the floor at cat height, to make yourself less intimidating. Certainly don’t grab your cat with both hands or when standing over them—both could make them feel trapped and on the defensive.
  • Cats, like all other animals, work by association. To make interactions with your cat more pleasant over time, you need to associate your presence with something positive (like play or food).
  • Since cats are independent by nature, always give them their personal space and be respectful if they refuse interaction, if that’s what they’re communicating to you. The key to success lies in a progressive approach and in respecting your cat’s boundaries.

Step 2: Consent

Just like humans, cats do not like to be touched when they don’t want to. That’s why your approach should be gentle and gradual. This will give them a chance to communicate their discomfort or leave the situation. Since cats don’t talk with words, be attentive to their body language throughout your interactions.

The golden rule: Let the cat come to you. Take your time and let the cat adapt, especially if it’s in a new environment or with someone new. Don’t forget that some cats can easily be lured over to you with tasty treats!

Don’t ever punish a cat who refuses petting. Rather, encourage any progress and openness they may show, since positive reinforcement will build a foundation of respect with your animal.

Step 3: Handling

Once your feline friend has shown their consent, start with the petting they like most. Generally, cats prefer to be stroked on their cheeks, head, neck and chin. Always move your hand gently and in the same direction, with the fur. You’ll notice over time what your cat enjoys or doesn’t.

Felines generally don’t like to be restrained. This is why most adult cats don’t like being caught, although some may tolerate it. Since you sometimes must hold your cat in place, during a veterinary examination, for example, here are two practical tips to make the experience less stressful for your cat:

  • Giving meds: Rather than forcing your cat into your arms and struggling to get them to swallow their medication, opt for treats specially designed to conceal medication.
  • Wrapping: Use a towel or blanket to wrap your cat. That way, they won’t get hurt and neither will you! Being enveloped will also make them feel safe.

It is important to always respect your animal’s boundaries and, in doing so, these steps will quickly become habit. By taking your time and being gentle, you’ll create a solid and trust relationship with your cat. You might also like our article about learning to “talk cat.”

Keep in touch

Sign up for our newsletter to stay on top of our activities and get news about our furry and feathered residents.