How should I approach a new cat?
As a cat sitter, you will often find yourself meeting a new cat. These five tips are for cat sitters to ‘speak in cat’ and make a good first impression on their furry clients.
1 - Entering the cat's home
If you’re entering a new house as a cat sitter, stay quiet and respect the cat's domain.
It’s best not to bring anything with you that might make a startling noise. For example, leave crinkly shopping bags in your car or outside. Likewise, you might also remove your shoes if they make a loud noise. Doing this will avoid scaring the cat and help build a trusting relationship.
2 - Meeting a cat for the first time
When meeting a cat for the first time, don’t rush over to it and try to cuddle or pat it.
Instead, take the time to calm the cat by sitting or crouching in a friendly, open space nearby. It's a good idea for the owner to attend the first meeting so the cat can feel more comfortable near you.
If the cat’s owner is with you, hold a quiet conversation and do your best to ignore the kitty. This is the hardest part of being a cat sitter, especially when they are so cute! But take it slow, and let the cat come to you in its own time.
3 Making eye contact with a cat
Ever wonder why cats always seem most attracted to the people in the house who give them the slightest attention? The reason for this is that direct eye contact can intimidate a cat if it feels nervous. As such, try not to look directly at the cat if they don’t know you well yet.
As the cat gets more comfortable with you, break up direct eye contact with frequent slow blinks. Doing this shows the cat that you’re relaxed and happy. Some people even call this technique ‘blink kissing’ as a relaxed cat will often blink back!
4 - Be aware of your body language
To gain a cat’s trust when cat sitting, stay low or close to their level to avoid towering over them. Extend your open hand or finger so that the cat can sniff it and get to know your scent.
If the cat seems comfortable, you can then stroke the cat's forehead, chin or cheeks. A cat’s cheeks contain scent glands that release calming pheromones when rubbed against another object. This is why cats love to rub their cheeks against things!
These pheromones are also the basis of calming, anti-spray or anti-scratch products such as Feliway. You can spray or diffuse this product at stressful times for your cat, such as when meeting a new cat sitter.
Try not to pat along the entire length of the cat (from its head to its tail) when first meeting it. The reason for this is that this can make the cat over-excited when you want it calm.
5 - Learn cat body language
Between their posture, tail position, ear position and eyes, a cat can say a lot without speaking! And this is really important for professional cat sitters to be aware of meeting a new cat.
Here are some common body language behaviours of cats and what each behaviour means:
- Ears back or flattened: Threatened or scared - don’t go near a cat with its ears back unless absolutely necessary.
- Ears moving a lot between up, down, and sideways: Uncertain and wary.
- Tail straight up or casually back: Friendly and at ease.
- Tail straight up and fluffed out: Scared and angry.
- Tail curled like a question mark: Friendly and inquisitive.
- Tail tucked under the body: Submissive and frightened.
- Tail waving: Angry, defensive or in hunting mode.
- Rolling over and exposing tummy: Making themselves vulnerable which means they trust you. Although don't forget that many cats dislike belly pats or rubs.
Knowing and practising these tips can help you to become a better cat sitter. And happy cats mean happy owners and more bookings for you.
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