The Cat Friendly Home: Predictable and Positive Interactions Between Cats and Humans

What is the predictable and positive way to greet a cat?

What makes cat-human interactions predictable and positive?

Greet your cat in his language…

When there is sufficient food in an area, free-roaming cats will often live in colonies. Cat colonies are groups of related cats. The core of the colony is the mother cat, her kittens, her sisters and their kittens.

Each cat colony has a scent…

Cats live in a landscape of odors – their sense of smell is 1000 x more sensitive than ours and they communicate by scent. The cat colony has its own scent – each member has this scent.


Scent identifies members…

 Colony members often greet each other by touching noses, confirming the “colony” scent.

They also groom each other (allo-grooming) mostly on the head and rub against each other (allo-rubbing). All of these actions exchange scent, confirming the “colony odor” and membership in the colony.

You are part of your cat’s “colony” and share the “colony” scent, marking you as a colony member. You also have your “signature scent”, that identifies you as an individual to your cat. Greet your cat by letting her smell you and confirm that you belong to the colony.

Your cat may be a highly skilled hunter but he is also a small animal who is prey for larger carnivores such as dogs and coyotes. We are much larger than he is and don’t want to scare him and make him feel like prey. If you get on your cat’s level, you will seem smaller and not as threatening.

Meet and Greet – A Predictable and Positive Hello




Athena accepts a greeting by rubbing her face against my hand

Get on your cat’s level by bending down or by interacting with her on a higher surface. Extend a hand or a finger and allow her to smell you.

  •  If she wishes to continue the interaction, she will rub against your hand (allo-rub).
  • Handle your cat on her head at first. This mimics the “allo-grooming” of friendly cats, where they groom each others’ heads.
  • A friendly or bonded kitty may allow her back to be stroked after accepting a head rub – like the “allo-rubbing” of colony cats.
  • Your colony membership is up to date!

If you cat does not lean into your hand or rub your hand on greeting, save the petting session for later – like us, there are times your cat does not want to be touched.

Other Predictable and Positive Interactions between cats and humans…

  • grooming, treat time or play time – Make this POSITIVE – choose something your cat enjoys
  • have a session the same time each day, say, after dinner or before bedtime
  • cats are in tune to the household rituals that mark the passing of the day more than the time on the clock.
  • this “schedule” allows you to communicate with your cat. He will be looking for the clues that tell him that treat time is around the corner – he may show up and solicit the interaction with a chirrup or meow.
Athena sniffs her comb prior to being groomed.














Have more than one cat?  Make sure each kitty gets some premium time!

These activities will strengthen the owner-pet bond. This time can also be used to train behaviors that are beneficial to both owner and cat – for example, conditioning your cat to accept kibble in treats to reduce stress when she needs oral medication.

Do you ever wonder why cats like us?

People are the ultimate resource – we provide food, shelter, play and safety.
To our cats , we may seem to be large, clumsy and somewhat unpredictable cats.
Let’s eliminate the unpredictability by greeting our cats in their language and providing positive interactions that they can predict.

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4 thoughts on “The Cat Friendly Home: Predictable and Positive Interactions Between Cats and Humans

  1. karen gifford says:

    Zelda is amazing looking and Athena looks super sweet.
    I have a neighbors cat that comes to visit me, likes the food I have better. I call him Smoke (found out is name is Gray Cat) he is friendly but on his own terms for sure. He will let me pet him and he rubs against me but at any moment I know he can hiss at me, a few times he hit me with a claw. It is almost like he has two conflicting personalities. I do not know for sure what his home life, have never met the owner, but he seems to be pretty free roaming most of the time. He is also accepting of my senior dog and does show any aggression or stress when she is around. Our relationship has been going on for about three years, what should I make of his demeanor and changing personality?

    • Sounds like Gray Cat is pretty independent. When cats rub against each other (allo-rub), they are acknowledging each other as members of the group (colony). It is very casual. Grooming is a little more intimate, usually with “preferred associates” – a cat will approach another cat and “offer” her neck and head to the other cat to be groomed.
      Sometimes one cat has had enough, the paws and claws can come out and the encounter can end with a swat.
      Gray Cat seems comfortable with your presence, he allorubs and recognizes you as part of the group. He most likely is not asking for petting. You may want to offer the hand greeting for him to smell and see if he may accept some head rubs. If Gray Cat does accept petting (maybe stick with just petting the head and neck), watch for the signs that indicate that the petting session is coming to an end – tail flicking, flattened ears, rippling skin along the back. He may like just a LITTLE bit of petting at a time.

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