Getting invited to a house party means the pressure is on.
Not to make sure the dish you’re bringing is perfect. Or dressing to impress. No, you’re probably anxious about making a new friend — specifically, the cat of the house.
Parties can be stressful (for both of you), but they can be a great chance to become friends. There’s less pressure on you to interact constantly with the hosts, and you can make yourself a safe space for the cat amid the noise and chaos.
At Purina’s recent Better With Pets summit, we caught up with Christina Ha, co-owner of NYC’s first cat cafe, Meow Parlour, and an expert in making new feline friends. “In the past two years, I’ve had over 100 cats in my life!,” she tells us. Ha shared her tricks to winning over the one guest who can’t be easily impressed.
Skip the perfume. The cat is already going to be on edge from all the encroachment on its territory, the strange noises and having all of its favorite spots taken. Wearing perfume or cologne is just another bit of newness, but it could also bother the cat’s nose. Try to smell as neutral as possible by sticking to deodorant and clean clothes.
Don’t make eye contact. The cat will perceive it as aggression if it doesn’t know you. Basically, you want to act more like a cat by avoiding any direct acknowledgement of it, and the cat will take notice of your appropriate aloofness in time.
Don’t bring a new toy. It may seem like a nice hostess gift that benefits you, too. But the cat won’t know how it works, and maybe it’s too noisy and scary or not noisy enough and uninteresting. If the cat is feeling good about walking around in the same space with everyone, ask the host to lend you a toy the pet is familiar with — if the cat knows how the toy will behave and how to respond to it, that’s a ton of anxiety taken out of the situation.
Let them make the first move. Don’t try to touch or pick up a cat just because it’s sitting there or, worse, walking by. As its cliched but accurate reputation for curiosity overwhelms fear, the cat will likely take an interest in your stuff first, so make sure there’s nothing in your purse that you don’t want it to get into. Don’t take that interest as a sign to pet though — it’s familiarizing itself with you, not making overtures (yet).
Hooray, you’ve managed to stay cool enough to earn the cat’s attention! Now what? Allow it to sniff you but don’t start petting, even if it’s smelling your hand. The moment you know you’re in is when the cat starts rubbing the side of is head against you to scent mark you as one of its tribe.
Encourage this by petting the areas they’re rubbing against you: Scratching lightly behind the ears is a big winner, as well as stroking under the chin and petting the top of the head. Don’t venture below the neck unless the cat invites it, but if it does, make sure you scratch lightly between its shoulders and at the base of its tail. Congrats, you've made a friend for life — or at least until the end of the party.