It's as Easy as C.A.T: This International Cat Day Battersea Shares Tips on How to Interact With Your Cat

04 AUGUST 2022

All cats are different, with varying personalities and levels of comfort around human interaction. That’s why, to mark International Cat Day on 8 August, leading animal welfare charity, Battersea, is issuing tips and advice about the best ways to interact with your cat.

Some cats love nothing more than spending hours on your lap being stroked, whilst others may prefer only the briefest of attention. Lots of cats enjoy interacting with people, but can often become overstimulated during petting, which can lead to the cat merely tolerating rather than enjoying interactions, or in some cases behaving aggressively such as hissing or swiping.

To help pet owners understand different cats and their levels of comfort, Battersea advises using the handy ‘C.A.T’ (Choice, Attention, Touch) acronym to ensure you are interacting with your cat in a way that is comfortable for them, as well as reducing the chances of being bitten or scratched during the process. By following these handy tips, cat owners will ensure they are celebrating International Cat Day just the way their furry companions like

Bridie Williams, Rehoming and Welfare Manager at Battersea, said: “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. Here at Battersea, we hope that cats and their owners will enjoy celebrating International Cat Day and that our handy advice will help new and seasoned owners alike.”

CHOICE: Did I give the cat a choice to tell me if they wanted to be touched or not?

  • Ideally, cats should always be the ones who initiate contact. Gently offering your hand to the cat to see if they choose to rub against it will always let the cat make the first move. If the cat doesn’t rub against you, they might not want to be touched.
  • A cat should also be able to easily move away from you during interactions and should not be restrained or picked up, as this can be stressful for them and may cause them to resort to aggression to free themselves.
  • You should leave your cat alone if they are busy doing something else, such as eating, sleeping or playing. Similarly, if they are hiding or in one of their quiet places, they are unlikely to appreciate being touched.

Am I paying ATTENTION? Am I looking for subtle signs to tell me if the cat is comfortable or uncomfortable?

  • It is important to keep an eye out for signs that your cat is continuing to enjoy you stroking them. It’s also important to know what to look out for if a cat is getting frustrated, overstimulated or is feeling happy and comfortable.
  • A happy cat will seem relaxed, with no tension in their body. A happy cat will also actively seek out strokes, and if you move away or stop, they will follow
  • An uncomfortable or unhappy cat will be more tense, may physically move away or display various behaviours such as suddenly grooming themselves, shake their head, rotate their ears or lick their nose.

TOUCH: Where am I touching the cat? Does the cat want me to continue touching them?

Battersea adopts a traffic light system of where cats generally like and dislike being petted.

  • Green areas are where most friendly cats enjoy being stroked, including the cheeks, head and chin.
  • Amber areas, including the upper body, front of chest and tail, are where some cats may like being stroked and others may not, depending on their individual preferences.
  • Red areas are particularly sensitive, and so the majority of cats will not like being stroked here. These areas are the stomach, and the base of the tail.

You can test if you are giving the cat an opportunity to tell you if they still want to be stroked by pausing after 3 seconds of stroking them to see if they try to reinitiate contact. If not, the cat has probably had enough for now and would appreciate a little break.

Cat owners can watch this useful video guide, featuring Battersea’s feline experts, on ways to interact with your cat, available to view on the charity’s Youtube channel.

For more advice on caring for your cat, visit the Battersea website.

Battersea worked in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University and Dr Lauren Finka to develop this interaction guidance for owners to address the fact that many people struggle to recognise when cats may not enjoy being petted.

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For further information, images or interviews please contact press@battersea.org.uk.

Notes to editors
  • At Battersea we offer our love and expert care to dogs and cats who need us by rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals at our centres, and by sharing our knowledge and resources with rescue organisations around the world. We do this because we want to help every dog and cat, everywhere.
  • In 2021 Battersea directly cared for 1,601 dogs and 1,743 cats at our three centres. We also helped thousands more through our Communities programme, campaigning work, supporting other rescue centres and animal welfare advocates, and sharing knowledge and advice with pet owners.
  • We’re reliant on the generosity of the public to continue to fund our vital work helping dogs and cats and the people who care for them. To donate to Battersea, visit Battersea's website.
  • In addition to the site in South West London, Battersea also has two other centres based at Old Windsor, Berkshire and Brands Hatch, Kent.
  • To find out more visit Battersea's website or follow Battersea on Twitter @battersea_, Instagram @battersea or facebook.com/Battersea