The inspiration for this article came from a conversation I had with my coworker Katya. She is one of the most dog-savvy dog people I know, a certified dog trainer, who writes amazing dog training and dog behavior articles for Adopt-a-Pet.com, as well as her “Ask Katya” video series Woof University. She told me, “My friend was telling me her cat hates being pet on the belly! And I was like WHAT?!?!? My dog would fix a virus off my computer for a belly rub! I had no idea! Someone has to teach me how to love on a cat!” So for all the other dog people out there like Katya who would love to know how to love on a cat, and other important cat-iquette rules cats would really appreciate you following, I’ve put together this quick guide to cats for dog people!
So dog-person, you go over to a friends house, sit down on the couch, and your friend says, “I’ll be right back, say hi to Tabby cat, he’s friendly.” In strolls her big orange tabby cat. He sits down a few feet away and looks at you. You look at him. You want to make friends – but you need help as you don’t speak cat!
Talk to him. Most people-social cats love being talked to. Introduce yourself!
Admire him. Cats especially love being told how handsome or beautiful they are. Unlike dogs, most don’t mind being looked at directly in the eyes, especially if you are commenting on their gorgeous color. Not a hard stare of course! An admiring gaze.
Slow blink. I think of this as a cat way of saying “I like you” or even “I love you.” Cats won’t usually return the blink right away, but you can slow blink a few times at a new cat to let him know you are a friend.
Hold out your hand. Cats appreciate being asked if they would like to be pet. If a known-to-be-friendly cat doesn’t immediately approach you, you can invite him with an outstretched hand. Many cats will accept the invitation by coming over, sniffing your hand, then and rubbing their chin or body against your hand. If he doesn’t, let him set the pace of getting to know you, and let him decide if he’d like to allow petting on your first ‘date’.
Neck and chin scratch first. If he does approach, since many cats prefer a new person scratch their neck under their chin first, try that before reaching over his head to stroke their back.
Don’t over do it. A neck scratch, a few strokes of his back, and then stop. Some cats prefer a few pets only, and you want to make sure you have his permission to proceed. Some cats get overly wound up by too much petting. Since you as a dog person might not recognize those signs, best to wait for his owner to come back before any more petting, or ask if there’s a toy on a string you can play with together.
No belly rubs! Even if Tabby cat flops down and shows you his belly, he is likely NOT asking for a belly rub! Cats usually show humans their belly more as a sign of trust than a desire to have their belly rubbed. (There is the rare exception.)
That’s it! This is just a very basic getting-started guide to meeting a friendly cat. Entire books can and have been written about cats and their behavior. We will have future articles to help you understand some of the BIG differences between dog and cat sounds and body language too, to help you on your way to becoming a cat enthusiast as well as a dog lover!
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