How to Approach a New Cat in 5 Easy Steps

Some cats are curious and friendly by nature, which makes it very easy to approach them and gain their trust. However, a good number of cats can be extremely shy or downright scared of all new people and environments. In these cases, you really need to understand what is going through a cat’s mind, and know how to act when meeting a new cat for the first time.

How to approach a new and shy cat for the first time
How to approach a new, shy or scared cat for the first time.

As a cat sitter, I have the opportunity to meet many new cats when their owners leave them in my care. Experience and research on cat behaviour has taught me that the first meeting with a new cat is crucial. Do it right, and the cat will feel comfortable and will quickly learn to trust you. Approach a new cat in the wrong way, and it might mean it will take forever to gain its trust!  So, how should you act when meeting a new cat for the first time? And how do you approach a strange cat without scaring it?

5 Easy Steps – How to Approach a New Cat for the First Time

Below are 5 easy steps (with cat behaviour explanations) that will help you approach a new cat for the first time. These tips can do wonders and will have most cats trust you in no time!  Here is what you need to know.

1. Do not stare a cat in the eyes

Always avoid direct eye contact when meeting a new cat for the first time.

DO NOT STARE a cat in the eyes. Look how uncomfortable this kid is making it!

In the animal kingdom, intense and direct eye contact is considered a challenge. In fact, when cats fight they will try to out-stare each other to determine who is most dominant. On the other hand when a cat tries to avoid a fight, they will drop their eyes and look away. This will tell the other cat that it is not threatening them.

So, always remember, when you approach a new cat never stare it directly in the eyes.

2. The Calm & Low Approach

As animal lovers, our first instinct when meeting a new cat is to rush towards the cat and shout, “Oh, how cute!!”. For the cat’s sake, please don’t! Do not rush to the cat. Ignore the cat for a while and respect its space.

The Calm and Low Approach – The best way when meeting a new and shy cat.

Keep in mind that you are a much larger animal than the cat. You will just startle the cat and scare it. The best way to approach a new cat is to do so calmly and quietly, while lowering yourself to their level as much as possible. Remember to avoid direct eye contact and try to get closer to about a meter’s distance from the cat. Always assess the cat’s reaction. If the cat is visibly stressed you might need to move a couple of steps back and ignore the cat for a while. Make sure to leave enough distance and space so that the cat does not feel cornered in any way.

3. Let them come to you

Once you are close enough let the cat do the next move. Most cats are curious by nature, and will come over to inspect and have a sniff at the new visitor.

However, not all cats are the same. Some cats will approach you within less than a minute. Other cats that are more timid can take days or even weeks until they are comfortable enough to approach a new person. In any case, it is always best to give a cat the time and space until it feels ready.

Feliway spray can help a shy cat to feel calmer around new people and environments
Feliway® spray can help a shy or scared cat to feel calmer around new people and environments.

You can use yummy treats or curious toys to help this part of the process. For very problematic cats, you can also try helping the process by using Feliway® Classic, which mimics the feline pheromone that indicates a safe and secure environment to the cat. This is a liquid in a small spray bottle and you can read more about the science behind it here.

4. The cat “Hello”

Have you ever observed how a cat explores new territory and meets new cats? A cat will always approach nose first and cautiously take in the new scents. This is the way cats say “Hello”! And, here is how you can mimic it when meeting a new cat for the first time.

The Cat "Hello" - This is how cats explore their surroundings.
The Cat “Hello” – Keep your hand relaxed and never make grabbing motions.

Once the cat approaches you and shows interest, just extend your arm with a slightly closed hand. Let the cat have a good sniff. This is the equivalent of the human “Hello”. Make sure to move your hand in relaxed and gentle manner so that it does not look menacing to the cat. Do not make any grabbing movements. The softer and gentler you can make your hand look the better.

Once the cat seems comfortable, you can try to pet the cat lightly under the chin or behind the ears. Proceed only if the cat rubs its face against your hand. Basically, just let the cat make the first move and let it lead the way.

5. The cat “I love you” – A Slow Blink

In all the above steps, we keep emphasising to avoid direct eye contact when meeting new cats for the first time. However, not all eye contact is bad.

Once the new cat starts to feel more comfortable around you, you can try what is called “Blink Kissing” or “The Slow Blink”. This is done by looking directly at the cat and blinking slowly and deliberately at the cat. This prolonged break in eye contact will tell your cat, “I’m not threatening, I trust you blindly, you can trust me.”

Watch Jackson Galaxy from the series #CatFromHell teach us how to say “I love You” to a cat.

Some cats may even “blink kiss” back! However, some cats may become more self-aware. So make sure to assess the cat’s reaction and adjust accordingly. If you see that the cat is getting uneasy, stop and just keep avoiding eye contact as much as possible until the cat gets to know you more.

Summary – How to introduce yourself to a new cat

Always keep these 5 easy steps in mind to make sure you start any new cat relationship on the right foot. When meeting a new cat for the first time, avoid eye contact, approach the cat calmly by extending your arm and keeping low. Let the cat make the first move and let it come to you for a good sniff. If you are feeling a great vibe with the new cat you can also try “blink kissing”!

As a recap on how to approach a new cat, you can view this great educational video created by the International Cat Care organisation.

We hope you will find these 5 tips on how to approach a new cat helpful! If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.

And if you have any other tips, tricks and suggestions on how you usually introduce yourself to a new cat, please leave us a message below. We would love to know more!


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