1. Tummy rubs
Petting on the belly is generally not welcomed: “Most cats don’t like to be stroked on their tummies,” says animal behaviour researcher Dennis C. Turner, who edited what’s considered the “cat bible,” The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behaviour. How can you tell?
“They will (try to) depart the scene or hit you with one of the front paws (with claws extended!),” he says, or they might bite (Turner emphasises that cat bites need to be thoroughly disinfected).
“Other cats love when a person pets their belly.” Just be ready to back off if the cat gets annoyed.
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2. Interacting with strangers
Paying attention to your cat’s reactions is also important when an unfamiliar person wants to pet him – especially if that person is a child or someone who hasn’t spent much time around cats.
“One way to see if the cat is amicable to being pet after just meeting them is to let the cat sniff your hand and then watch how they behave,” Vitale says.
“If they want to interact they will most likely approach you and engage in social behavior after sniffing you, such as rubbing on you or trying to sit with you.”
She adds that if they don’t want to interact, they’ll usually walk away or ignore you, in which case it’s best to let them have their space.
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3. Being picked up
“They certainly don’t like being held against their will,” Turner says.
He adds that most cats will forgive you for coming on too strong from time to time if they’re used to socializing with people and they trust you: “My research has shown that they accept most advances by their keepers, giving us the impression that we are in charge.”
But, he adds, for the sake of your long-term human-cat relationship, it’s always better to wait until the cat comes to you for attention.
“Then there’s more time interacting in the relationship.”
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