You can skip this page if you have spent ~10+ hours interacting directly with a cat. Tobi is unique and very friendly, but here are some principles to keep in mind that apply to him as well.
Cats are not dogs
They are not excited about any person by default, the default is to treat them as a threat.
They usually don’t recognize or remember people as well as dogs do.
They don’t like being pet in the same spots or in the same ways as dogs do.
They don’t snarl, growl or bark as a form of warning before attacking. Cats may attack without warning. Cats yowl when showing hostile towards other cats, but almost never with humans.
Cats’ tails are especially not like dogs’ tails
Typically a dog is excited in a good way when it wags its tail. If a cat is “wagging” (swaying) their tail, that means they are annoyed proportional to the intensity of swaying, and will not hesitate to use claws or teeth after a certain point. Give them space once you see the tail-swishing!
Cats are territorial
They default to treating the home as their turf, and you as someone to take care of their needs, because they allow it. If they find you annoying or worse a threat, they will consider marking their territory or hissing at you for entering their space.
This means they also value their space. If they are not coming up to you, keep your distance from the cat. You can advance very slowly if you are trying to befriend a cat, but if they move further away or start swishing their tail, give them space
Some cats are tolerant
Cats tend to prefer to have control over their personal space — if they want to be cuddled or accompanied, they will come to you and enter your space. If you instead choose to enter their space, they may tolerate it for a bit, but that doesn’t mean they appreciate it. Repeatedly “invading” their space when they have not initiated it can stress them out, visibly or invisibly.
Follow 80-20 rule for contact for days 1-5
You can go up to 80% of the way towards a cat, but don’t touch them unless they close the gap and engage in a pet or cuddle. Generally stick to the region of their body they put in contact with your hand (cheek, nose, head, back). Watch for tail swishing to tell if they are getting overstimulated.
Respect the nips
When they are mildly annoyed, they will “nip” at you (gentle biting) and occasionally lay their claws on you. This is a strong signal to stop doing whatever you are doing in their space, but they mean no harm. I recommend respecting the nips and giving some space if you don’t want to get punctured!
Signs of stressed cats
If a cat exhibits any of these after 1-2 days of being taken care of by someone new, they may be stressed at the moment, or by that person in general.
Trying to “be small” when people approach or move about nearby, by crouch-walking or sitting in a corner/behind/underneath surfaces pulling themselves in
Trying to be extremely still when people approach or move about nearby, while watching closely
Peeing (usually in small amounts) in places other than their litter
Hyperventilating: sitting down with their tongue hanging out like a dog (cats don’t normally do this even after exercise)
Hissing: cats have a terrifying “hiss” when they really feel threatened to try to scare you away. Keep completely clear for a good while if you get hissed at.
Tobi in particular is pretty friendly and cuddly, but only became so very recently. He came from a very stressed rescue situation so we appreciate you still respecting his boundaries!