by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Most people approach a cat anticipating petting soft fur reciprocated by grateful purrs. But some cats turns tail and run for the hills when you offer attention. Does that mean you’re the worst cat person in Wisconsin when cats act that way in your presence? Not by a long shot.
It’s not kitty’s fault, either. She doesn’t necessarily need a pet trainer or the help of a cat behaviorist. Some timid cats feel overwhelmed when this gigantic individual (that would be you) swoops into their personal space. Retreating makes sense.
Ever notice that in a room full of people beckoning a kitty, she nearly always seeks out the non-cat person (and sometimes hops into the lap uninvited)? No vengeful cat trainer reinforced this behavior; the cat instinctively seeks the quietest person in a room full of strange and scary sounds, sights and smells. While everyone else calls, “Kitty, kitty” and reaches out for a pet, the non-cat person presents a quiet refuge from the chaos in the rest of the room. Everyone makes a fuss except for him. A cat sitting in the lap of a quiet person makes perfect sense!
If you want to make friends with a scaredy-cat, take this cat training lesson for humans. Copy the non-cat people and pay no attention to the kitty. Sit quietly and wait until she comes to you. If she completely ignores you, make a soft kissy sound, but stay still.
When kitty spots you, offer just an extended finger. Your huge body seems less intimidating. Resist the urge to rub under her chin or talk with her until she rubs on you or bumps her head on you. If she turns to present her backside, you’re officially a pal. It may seem a dubious greeting, but look at how two cats interact. They sniff noses and faces, rub cheeks and shoulders and continue down the body lightly rubbing until they sniff rear ends.
Cats greet this way to “make small talk” since their noses reveal cues about the other cat’s gender, health and recent activities. Their rubbing helps their own scent on the other cat’s body. Thus, the sniff, rub, and backside presentation indicates kitty has accepted you.
Above all, be patient and let the cat warm up to you. It may take several tries to build trust, but soon you will be the one with the content, purring cat sitting on his lap.