How to Approach a Stray Cat for Its Safety

If you see a cat which might be a stray, you'll need to get close enough to either make friends with it so you can contact a rescue agency or check its identification collar. However, cats will run away if they become anxious, or could even become violent if they feel provoked. Here's how to approach a strange cat without either problem occurring.

Don't Startle It

Even the most affectionate cats will tend to bolt if they're alarmed, especially if they're caught outside of the home environment. If this happens, the cat will probably jump over a fence, run through bushes, hide under a car, and generally attempt to escape you, so avoid startling it as much as possible. Try softly clicking your tongue to get the cat's attention, and avoid making any sudden movements.

Understand Body Language

Cats have a complex set of motions to indicate their current state. Obviously a cat which is spitting, hissing, and making itself look larger is acting aggressively, but there are a number of other body language hints which you can use to gauge their mood.

A tail with a slight curl is a greeting, and means they'll be okay with you approaching, while a lowered tail typically indicates submissiveness. However, a tail held straight up means the cat is not comfortable, and a sweeping motion indicates that the cat is not in a good mood. Take these behaviours into account when approaching an unknown cat.

Avoid Eye Contact

Maintaining eye contact is a way in which humans communicate trust, but to felines it signals aggression and dominance. Avoid looking directly into the cat's eyes, and break any eye contract which does occur by softly closing your eyes and moving your gaze away. This will indicate that you mean no harm.

Move Slow and Low

To cats, humans look enormous, and that can be threatening enough to make them run. Instead of moving forwards at full height, crouch down into a squatting position, and then move forward slowly. Try to avoid getting on your hands and knees – there's always a chance a frightened cat could lash out, and you'll find it harder to move backwards or protect yourself.

Move forward with your arm extended, keeping the back of your hand facing forward. This is less threatening. Remain still, and see if the cat will come towards you to sniff your hand. If friendly, it will usually rub up against it afterwards. Once the cat is comfortable around you, you will be able to gently check its name tag, or contact the appropriate authority. A clinic like Baw Baw Paws Vet Clinic would be able to help the cat further.