Introducing your cat to visitors
05 August 2020
How is your cat around strangers that visit your house? Does it purr, rub against their legs and jump on their knee or does it bolt the minute the door goes, hiding under the bed for the duration of the visit?
Making sure your visitors know the least confrontational way of greeting your cat can decrease kitty's anxiety and make the meeting a pleasant experience for all.
If your cat is very nervous of strangers and/or people in general, the most important advice to give to a visitor is to ignore your cat completely. This means no attempt to touch or talk to the cat, so beginning the process of the cat learning that the newcomer is not a threat.
Your visitor can then try offering a treat. Even cats that are generally friendly and confident around people they know can find new people a little unnerving.
To minimise this ask your visitor to sit down before attempting to interact as the visitor being in a lower position is less threatening to a cat. Ensure the visitor avoids direct eye contact with the cat - cats can find this threatening as they use fixed stares between each other in confrontational situations. This can be done by averting the gaze or blinking slowly as cats will slow blink at one another as well as to humans during positive communication.
Positioning your body side-on to the cat can also appear less intimidating to it. Try asking your visitor to call the cat's name gently or to mimic the chirrup sound cats use when greeting one another positively ('prrrrrrp'!)
Offering a closed fist or pointing a finger outstretched from the body can allow the cat to investigate the hand safely without having to come to close to the body. Doing this gives the cat the opportunity to sniff and facial rub against the visitor's hand if it wishes to.
If your cat actively seeks physical contact with your visitor by rubbing itself on their body, you can then invite them to touch your cat. Explain to your visitor that as a general rule the best place to touch a cat is on the forehead, above the eyes, on the cheeks behind the whiskers and under the chin.
These areas contain many of the facial scent glands that deposit chemical signals used in communication, and research has shown that cats give more positive responses to being touched in these areas in comparison to other areas of the body.