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Building trust: Asking your cat for consent

Published on July 21st 2021

The natural human reaction to a cute cat? We want to hug it and give it lots of kisses! However, not all cats enjoy these acts of affection. We do not speak the same language and it's important to learn to recognize the signs of discomfort in cats and respect them. Here's how to do a consent test.

 Some important points to remember

Cats are both prey and predators in nature. As such, they are constantly alert and sensitive to their environment. They often give subtle signs of discomfort, which is why they may scratch or bite quickly, taking us by surprise. Pay attention to body language, as all cats are different and have different preferences when it comes to petting.

Golden rules for petting a cat

  • Avoid petting a cat when it is eating, drinking, sleeping, grooming, relieving itself, or when it is too excited.

  • Never pick up or restrain a cat to pet it: ask permission.

  • Do not pet a cat that’s lying on its back; its reflex will be to grab the hand and bite.

  • Do not provoke or tease a cat. Even if the cat is participating in the "game," it may be because it is feeling defensive.

  • Never reprimand a cat for grabbing a hand, biting, or scratching. He won't understand the reprimand, and this could affect your relationship.

How to ask for a cat's consent

  1. Calmly approach the cat by speaking in a soft voice.

  2. Avoid direct eye contact and reach out with a relaxed hand toward its nose. If the cat rubs or makes contact with your hand, it is signaling that it would like to be petted.

  3. Stroke the cat around the head, neck, and shoulders in the direction of the hair.

  4. Pet the cat briefly and pay attention to its body language. If the cat seems to be over-stimulated or decides to stop the interaction, do not push further. A relaxed and comfortable cat will be the key to success.

  5. Validate consent regularly.

That's it! If you, and everyone else in the family, practice asking for consent with your cat, it will quickly gain confidence in you. You'll see your relationship blossom and you'll all be able to enjoy your time together more!