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Cat Interaction Acronym: Three Tips From Experts

Interacting with your cat is not easy — and with the paucity of information on how to teach a cat how to talk, it's never been a better time to share the best tips. A team at a leading animal welfare charity, Battersea, in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University and Dr Lauren Finka have shared the best advice on how to interact with your cat.

Cat Interaction Acronym: Three Tips From An Expert
Understanding exactly what your cat is thinking is a real headache for millions of owners — but why is interaction such a difficult task?

The main reason is that scientists are yet to work out a way to teach cats how to talk. Besides, cats do give signals as to how they’re feeling, as well as what they’d like and what they don’t, but it might not be obvious to the untrained eye.

So if you’re looking for the best ways to interact with your cat, ensuring that they’re happy and comfortable, then you’ll want to follow the aptly-named C.A.T. acronym – which stands for Choice, Attention, Touch.

According to Bridie Williams, rehoming and welfare manager at Battersea, “Each cat is an individual, and it’s important to take the time to work out what contact they prefer, when, and how long for to ensure they are comfortable and happy.”

“There are a variety of ways to interact with your cat, including simply spending time near them, stroking them, playing with them or carrying out some basic training – as well as knowing the signs to look out for that show your cat would prefer to be left to their own devices.”

Three Cat Interaction Tips

You can interact with your cat in no time by following this interaction guidance:

1. Choice

Cats like to give consent to be touched – they’re a lot like humans that way.

The Battersea team say that the animals should always be the ones to initiate contact.

You can check if they want a fuss by extending your hand towards them – if they rub against it, then they’re down for pats. If not, then they might not want to be touched.

The cat should also be able to easily move away from you when you’re interacting with it. They shouldn’t be picked up or restrained because this can stress them out if they aren’t feeling it. They might also get aggressive to free themselves from your grip.

If your cats are busy doing their own thing, like sleeping, eating or playing, then it’s probably best to leave them to it. And if they’re chilling out in one of their hiding/quiet places, take that as a sign that they’d prefer to be alone.

2. Attention

Just because your cat has consented to pats doesn’t mean they can’t change their mind or decide they’ve had enough – again, just like humans.

It’s important to pay attention to any signs they might give that say they’re not happy, frustrated or overstimulated, such as tension, physically moving away from you, shaking their head, licking their nose, rotating their ears or suddenly grooming themselves.

Meanwhile, a happy cat will seem relaxed, not tense, and will actively seek out more pats and scratches. If you stop or try to move away, they’ll follow you.

3. Touch

How to pet a cat
There are a few places where cats don’t like to be touched.

While every cat is different, Battersea has a traffic light system that explains where most friendly felines generally like and dislike your attention on their bodies.

Green areas include the cheeks, head and chin.

Amber areas, where some cats may like being stroked and others may not, include upper body, front of chest and tail.

Red areas are particularly sensitive, so most cats will likely not want attention here. They include the stomach and the base of the tail.

As a test to see if your cat is still happy with the attention you’re giving, you can pause the pats after three seconds of stroking them, then wait to see if they try to keep the fussing going.

If they don’t, the cat has probably had enough for now and would prefer the fussing to stop. So to avoid a swipe or scratch, it’s best to play by your pet’s rules.