Take time to get to know your cat

February 4, 2019

This post was submitted by Project MEOW, the West Philly-based volunteer-run cat rescue organization.

Cats are often generalized as mysterious or capricious animals. While humans have lived with cats for thousands of years, sometimes the communication methods or body language of cats can seem strange. Knowing what a cat is saying with its tail, eyes, and ears is instrumental to any interaction you have with them, whether its coaxing a stray out of hiding, handling a scared or distressed cat, or simply hanging out with your pet at home. Like any other relationship, communication is key to bonding and building trust.

When dealing with an unfamiliar or anxious cat, knowing its warning signs is crucial to help meet the needs of the cat, and make sure no one gets hurt in the exchange. A scared or anxious cat will often flatten its ears back and its tail may either thump up and down or stand straight up, Halloween style. When a cat is sending these signals, along with hissing or growling, stay away! Prolonged direct eye contact also means that cat is sizing you up. While eye contact may be a sign of intimacy and connection for humans, its probably best not to stare directly at an unhappy cat. The best way to calm down an aggressive cat is to simply leave it alone. Turn the lights off and provide a safe space for the cat to relax and feel safe before you try to interact again. If you are trying to build a bond with an unfamiliar cat, this may take some patience! 

Despite having a standoffish reputation, cats can be incredibly loving and affectionate and they do show it. Nuzzling, headbutting, and kneading are all ways cats show physical affection, but some less touchy cats may show their love just by hanging out near you, even if they are not touching you. And if your cat looks at you and slowly blinks, it’s a definite sign of trust. (You can blink back!)

Of course, like any other animal or person, personalities within cats vary widely. Interactions and communications with cats will depend on the individual animal. My own cat, whenever he is brought to a new place, disappears immediately and usually takes about three days to re-emerge from hiding whenever we change locations. My friend’s cat however, is an intrepid explorer and hops right out of her carrier to start investigating her new location immediately!

Take time to get to know your cat, and work with them so the two of you can have the best relationship possible.

Thinking of adopting your own cat? You can find a list of all the cats we have up for adoption on our website. Every cat we adopt out is spayed/neutered, vaccinated for FVRC/P, rabies, tested for FELV/FIV and free of worms and or fleas. Each cat has been quarantined for a minimum of two weeks. We would love to find all these former strays a loving home! If you’re unable to have your own pet we are also always looking for volunteers at Project MEOW.

– Allyson Church, Project MEOW volunteer

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