How to Interact Safely with Cats

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Cats are complex animals that may display a variety of behaviors in any given situation. Any cat —from your best friend at home to the stray cat on the street—will react differently, and possibly unexpectedly, to people, places, and other animals.

Animal behavior can shift from moment to moment, so it is important to constantly be aware of changes in the cat’s behavior and in the environment. The cat’s personality plays a major role in how they will respond to situations and people. Because there is such variation between each cat and their environment, it is important to understand how to interact with cats as safely as possible in any circumstance.

Approach the cat in a safe manner

Here are some basic tips for approaching a cat in a non-threatening manner:

Look for signs of stress in the cat

When interacting with any cat, it is vital that you are aware of what the cat is communicating to you. It is usually easy to identify a cat that clearly doesn’t want you to approach; it will hiss, growl, hide, run away, or roll over onto its back. However, cats may show more subtle signs of stress, even while you are petting them. These warning signs indicate that the cat is uncomfortable and may include:

Based on the signals cats use to communicate, it is important to know when to back off and when it is OK to continue interacting with the cat.

Safety tips for cat owners

As a cat owner, it is your responsibility to know your cat’s personality, stress signals and limits; to avoid situations that put your cat in a potentially stressful and dangerous situation; and to watch for signs of stress when encountering people, animals, and situations.

For more information on cat behavior and handling, please visit http://ddfl.org/behavior-help for behavior handouts or to sign up for a free behavior helpline appointment.