Zen of Cat Greeting.
You might be a cat
magnet. If you’re not, you probably know someone
who is. Cat magnets are people who attract cats wherever they go. Cats
they’ve never met before, often go out of their ways to fraternize
with them, sometimes gracing these special people by settling on their
laps or soliciting strokes and attention from them.
Even though some of these cats have earned themselves reputations
of avoiding and distrusting people, they go out of their way
to be close
to these strangers. It seems counter-intuitive. Cat magnets don’t
try to be cat magnets—cats just naturally gravitate to them.
Then there are those cat-admirers who find it challenging to make friends
with cats they meet. No matter how hard they try to befriend them, their
efforts are often met with indifference and avoidance. Sometimes cats
will literally turn tail and hastily retreat from them. When their overtures
are overly enthusiastic, some cats respond hostilely.
Why are some people cat-magnets and others cat-repellers? It’s
all in the approach—or non-approach.
Cats need to have a choice in the matter. They do not respond
favorably when cornered or forced to submit to stroking, fondling
or being picked
up. Compared to people, cats are small and vulnerable—it’s
not surprising that most do not enjoy being approached by a stranger
who hovers threateningly above them.
It’s not hard to become a cat magnet. Anyone, anywhere, can become
a cat magnet. Even though there isn’t magic involved, there is
something akin to a secret handshake or pawshake that cats understand.
Proper cat greetings are universal—recognized by cats in all parts
of the world. You can be in Rome, Japan, the United States or any other
area in the world, remote or populated and the language of the cat greeting
is the same.
The first rule in greeting a cat in a non-threatening way is
to allow the cat the choice of socializing on her own terms.
or stand over the cat. Instead, sit or crouch a distance from her. Depending
on the cat’s human-trust level, the optimum distance might be a
few feet away, or it might be across the street or room. It depends on
the circumstances and on the individual cat. Whatever the distance, make
sure that the cat can escape or retreat. The cat should never feel cornered
Once in position, initiate the greeting by extending your index
finger towards the cat at about the cat’s nose level. One way friendly
cats greet each other is by touching each other’s noses when they
meet. Your extended finger is the human version of initiating this cat
salutation. It’s now up to the cat to make the next move. When
she feels safe and is ready to say hello, she will approach your extended
finger and touch it with her nose.
If she wants to continue hobnobbing with you, she will move
her head until your finger is on her cheek. Once your finger
is positioned on
her cheek, she will rub your finger and hand, marking you. Cats have
scent glands on their cheeks that produce friendly facial pheromones.
Pheromones are part of the cats’ communication system—broadcasting
information about them while marking territory. Cheek rubs also indicate
the cat is open to socializing—an invitation to pet her head, cheeks
and neck. The start of a beautiful friendship!
Try it. Are you near a cat, or is there one across the room from you?
Sit down and extend a welcoming finger towards the cat and see what happens.