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How to Approach a Cat (10 Great Vet-Verified Tips)

Written by: Cassidy Sutton

Last Updated on June 6, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

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How to Approach a Cat (10 Great Vet-Verified Tips)


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Interacting with a cat is like trying to close a business deal. You do your research, pitch the offer, set expectations, and deal with any objections along the way. If all goes well, you’ve got yourself a new business partner. If not, you shrug your shoulders and hope the next one works out.

Cats take boundaries seriously, so it’s important to honor these boundaries when approaching a cat. Here’s how to do it.


The 10 Great Tips to Approach a Cat

A Note From Our Veterinarian

These tips are drawn from the author’s experience on approaching a cat that’s owned by another person. Your experience may vary, and other people’s opinions may vary. The opinions do not necessarily reflect the veterinarian’s tips on approaching a cat. 

Approaching a feral cat that’s frightful of humans isn’t recommended, and these tips might not work on such a cat. Feral cats may also carry diseases that they may potentially pass on to you or your pets and shouldn’t be approached haphazardly.

1. Get on the Cat’s Level

Some cats will run up to any stranger, but most need a little give and take on our end. You can break the ice by matching the height of the cat. That could mean:

  • Crouching down on the ground
  • Sitting in a chair near the cat
  • Standing near a cat tree

In any case, you’ll be less intimidating and more inviting. Getting on the cat’s level will show the cat you’re willing to submit.

Woman Playing with Cat Outdoors
Image Credit: Helena Lopes, Pexels

2. Provide Personal Space

Cats need personal space with strangers. Otherwise, they’ll feel cornered and become aggressive. In addition, personal space allows cats to run if they need to hide. Space gives them peace of mind without feeling cornered.

3. Move Slowly

Fast movement is a quick way to scare a cat. Why? Because the situation can get out of control with rapid movement, at least from the cat’s perspective. Walking bit by bit, sitting slowly, and gently offering your hand gives the cat time to think about their next move.

fluffy ragdoll outdoors
Image Credit: Serita Vossen, Shutterstock

4. Use a Soft Voice

A soft-spoken voice is likely more calming for a kitty, so your tone may help a cat feel at ease when they first meet you. Cats eventually learn your voice and may even approach you when they hear you in the room.

5. Don’t Stare Intensely

Would you approach a stranger staring deep into your soul? Probably not. Cats are creeped out about it, too. Instead of staring intensely into the cat’s eyes, slowly blink as if you’re saying, “I love you.” The cat will know what you mean!

grey cat looks into a camera
Image Credit:, Shutterstock

6. Let the Cat Sniff Your Hand

Present your hand to the cat slowly, as if your hand was an animal’s nose. Allow the cat to sniff your hand for however long they want. Some people have had better success when their palms face down instead of facing up. Either way is acceptable, as long as you don’t pet the cat.

If the cat seems skittish, it’s best to face your palm downward and make a fist. This is to minimize the risk of injury in case the cat decides to bite your hand; a fist is less likely to be caught in a bite when compared to a finger.

7. Body Pets Are Invitation-Only

Petting a cat is like getting into an exclusive club: it’s an invitation-only event. Still, many people mistakenly pet a cat too soon after letting the cat sniff their hands. This may offend or spook the cat, ruining the interaction. You must follow cat interaction rules to make a good first impression.

Anecdotally, these might be good precautions on early interactions with a new cat.

  • Let the cat sniff your hand and wait for a head butt.
  • You’re free to scratch the head if the cat willingly rubs her face against your hand.
  • If you don’t receive a head butt, the deal is off. No touching!
  • Never pick the cat up.
  • Never touch the forbidden belly.
Petting a ginger cat outside
Image Credit: dashkabudich, Pixabay

8. Watch the Cat’s Body Language

For some people, cats are somewhat difficult to read because their facial expressions aren’t as obvious as those of dogs. Cats communicate through body language, like the tail and full body movements.

You’ll have a better relationship with cats overall if you can identify the difference between negative and positive cat reactions.

  • Positive: Head butting, tall tail, rolling on the ground, slow blinks
  • Negative: Biting, scratching, hissing, growling, ears laid back, running away, back turned toward you, rapid tail movement

9. Listen to the Owner

It seems like common sense, but it’s worth repeating: listen to the owner. The owner knows the cat better than you, so take any advice when getting to know a new furry face.

couple playing with their cat at home
Image Credit: – Yuri A, Shutterstock

10. Reintroduce Yourself

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a beautiful relationship with an animal. It’s true that some cats are social butterflies and will love everyone. Even so, it’s safe to assume that most cats won’t be your best friend immediately.

Reintroduce yourself by following all of the tips we just mentioned. You’ll be best friends in no time. Or at least good acquaintances!

divider-catclaw1 Conclusion

There’s an art to befriending a cat, so don’t take it personally if a cat doesn’t like you right away. Even friendly felines like some space when getting to know their new best friends. The best thing you can do is honor the boundaries set before you. Wouldn’t you want the same when meeting someone new?

Featured Image Credit: Rodrigo Munoz Sanchez, Shutterstock

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