Cat people: Please provide tips for non-cat owners

Hello to all of the folks who know cats. Those of us mere mortals who are dog owners don’t always know all of the antics that cats test on unwitting pet sitters.

I would love to learn from cat owners and cat sitters.

When I visit folks/neighbors who own cats, some cats may hide. So I don’t learn about their behavior.

Cat owners can visit a home with a dog and learn almost everything about him and his personality quirks (and everything the owners have tried & rules that are in place) within the 1st 15 minutes. And most dogs will love them immediately (not all).

With cats, they make you work for it :wink:

I’ve enjoyed playing with our neighbors’ 3 cats for the last 6 years. But I’ve never stayed overnight with a cat.

So far I have sat for dogs. But I’d like to be better prepared when I sit for a home with cats.

So, clue us in …

  • General tips

  • Best hiding places

  • Feeding tips

  • Getting them to come inside

  • What if the cat is aggressive

  • Ways to gain a cat’s trust

  • Never do this…

  • Medical: What warrants a call to the owner or vet?

  • Anything you’ve ever noticed that dog people just don’t Get about cats.

  • Any stories from dog people who sat for cats

I am happy to learn from you all!


Meow @CR38
#1 thing you absolutely have to understand is that cats rule. Male or female, they are all Queens.
They can be aloof and appear indifferent but that is only because they are very aware of who they are, Queens. They will only come to you if they feel that you are worthy of their presence and that is established when you make it known that you understand your place is to serve them. :heart_eyes_cat: :grin:

They are super easy and super fun. What I do when I meet a new cat is I bow down, literally come down and put the back of my hand out and let the cat come to me. They have to sniff you out. Then if allowed, I stroke the top of their head and just see how they respond.
Definitely some cats are shyer than others and may need some greater coaxing and reassurance. Sometimes nothing works. I sat 3 weeks with a cat I only saw 4 times and it was about two days before leaving that she finally came and sat beside me.
They can hide anywhere. Underbeds, couches, closets, bathrooms, basements, pantries…I find it best to let them be and they will come as long as they are not locked in somewhere. Trying to get a cat to come out only makes it retreat more.
Tree and roof climbers will find their way back down. Same as cats that roam outdoors, usually will come home in time to eat or when they are done prowling and hunting. They like to bring home trophies for you. You can rattle some treats or offer food to encourage them to come in.
Sometimes cats will bite or scratch in play. They will let you know for certain when they dislike something and with time you will clue in to this. In my experience they are only aggressive if they feel threatened.
Cats are finicky about their food and schedule. Kitty parents also have their own preferences and methods that work for them so follow their recommendations.
The owners know them best and are your best resource for what and when to feed them, what they enjoy for play, their preferences and habits as well as their dislikes, must nots or any special needs they require.
A real good conversation and a good detailed welcome guide is your best bet.

Be patient with yourself.
Ask lots of questions and be honest about your experience.
Don’t take a sit with an animal that has special needs that you are not ready for. It is a disservice to the family and the animal.
Enjoy yourself and soon you will have lots of tips and ideas to share with someone else.


People who become cat “owners” later in life are always surprised that cats really like routine. They’re not “quirky” free spirits portrayed by popular culture. Many such people are also really surprised how attached they become to the cat and vice versa.

Please do not wait for them to remind you it’s meal time or time to fill the water bowl or scoop the pan/litter tray. Many cats will meow or “come get you” when hungry but not all.

I never find cats to be “aloof” – an “unfriendly” cat is likely a scared, nervous, or depressed cat. Some had early trauma and cannot be safely handled.

Most are receptive to petting around the head and face. Not all. Some cats do like butt area/tail pets. Some do not.

A swishing tail is a warning.


Thank you, @Amparo , for such great information!

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I never knew this, @Katie. Thanks!


Great post @CR38 I will follow this will great interest, from the aspect of member interaction., thank you. We may all learn something new about our feline friends …

“Even the smallest feline is a masterpiece” :heart_eyes_cat:

There are also great feline articles on the website blog


All the cats we’ve had have been creatures of habit. If their routine is not disturbed they will do mostly the same thing at the same time of day and they even have routines depending on the season even if they only go out on a balcony or deck. We had a cat that went out on the deck (because his previous humans let him do that) but he only started going to the door in April and stopped in October. Our current cat sleeps in a spot in the morning, another in the afternoon and yet another at night; same spots at same time of day. Once in a while she slowly transitions to different spots and then uses them for a while. She comes to bed for a few minutes when we close the light every night. She always climbs in bed from the nightstand on my side of the bed and gets down from the nightstand on my girlfriend’s side of the bed. Around 8 or 9 at night she expects her treats. When she goes to eat or drink she usually goes the same way around the kitchen table even when it’s a detour.

The most important thing about cats is that THEY decide when they want something or allow someone to approach and pet them. You have to learn to read the body language. When a dog wags it’s tail it’s usually because he’s happy and excited. When a cat sort of does the whip with it’s tail it’s because they are in a playful mood and they might bite if you try to pet them or they are on the defensive. Approaching your hand slowly is recommended; they will tell you what’s likely to happen next.

They are basically king or queen of the castle. I’ve tried different techniques to get them to change a behaviour and even when I think I’ve succeeded my Wi-Fi cameras tell me a different story when we go out (ex. going on the range or countertop).

You have to love their independence and individuality, and we do.


Yes, I did know this much. They are in charge.

My husband’s coworker says dogs are easy. They offer unconditional love. Always happy to see you when you get home.

But cats make you work for it. That’s why she has a cat. In good days, you know you’ve earned it :slight_smile:

Thanks for all of your insight. Much appreciated. I am learning lots.

I’m seeing this routine thing is a common thread. And I had never heard of that before.


And the litter box must cleaned daily or they will “go” elsewhere and make sure you know about it!
The kingdom must run to their expectations.


Yes, the most important thing is that they can keep their routines! I am always astonished that this isn’t widely known. Even many cat owners don’t realize that taking the cats to a facility when they are away for holidays can be very disturbing for the animals.

The first years, we used to ask our neighbors to feed the cats twice a day, but when we came back, we noticed that their fur wasn’t as shiny as normal and that they were out of their mind when we arrived back home. Especially our tom ran around the house for hours jumping for joy! I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. I even was anxious that he might have a heart attack.
I also found out that the neighbors must have forgotten to feed them several times, because there was too much food left in the freezer.
Since then we always find someone to sit the house with the cats. We actually had the best experience with a sitter from THS just recently. She kept the routines and when we arrived back home we felt like the cats hadn’t even noticed that we were gone for a week!

It’s exactly like @gchampagne writes, they have their habits, which only change slightly and slowly.

So it’s really important to ask the owners about them and about their personalities. You can only lose if you don’t heed them :rofl:, because the cats are the kings in the house.


Pay attention to a cat’s body language. If you are petting them and the tail starts twitching - stop. They don’t like what you are doing. Dog people think that cats are psycho, but they actually signal when they don’t like something. It’s just that the signals are subtle and you need to watch for them. You can tell a lot from the way their ears are positioned, for example (Google for more details).

In my experience, dog people use dog training techniques with cats, which usually don’t work. Berating a cat for bad behavior, shouting, otherwise punishing it - usually have the opposite to the desired effect. Cats need positive reinforcement, not negative.

Cats can be very picky eaters, and will refuse to eat something they don’t like. As soon as you find a food they like and buy it in bulk, they will decide it is no longer acceptable! They may also behave as though they are brink of starvation because the bottom of the food bowl is visible.

Keeping a clean litterbox has been mentioned. They can be fussy about the type of litter also. Cat Attract is a great litter to use if they are avoiding the litterbox.

Cats meow to get human attention. If you respond to the meowing, it encourages it. If you open the door every time a cat meows beside the door, the cat will continue to meow at the door. If you wait just a few seconds until the meowing stops, and then open the door, they don’t associate the meowing with door-opening.

I’ve had cats for 15 years, including many foster litters. I’m still learning!


I think it’s really good to give cats space & respect that they are beings in their own right!!

:cat: :cat: :cat:

:cat2: :cat2: :cat2:

Sometimes they like to observe you for a bit & then we tend to become best friends!!

:giraffe: :giraffe: :giraffe:


Or the cat is riled up and needs to go think about what he/she has done.
My brother-in-law used to rough play with their kitten, and it developed the habit of attacking hands and arms.

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yes they each have unique personalities and you have to feel them out to get to know them. I am with two cats that are total opposites. One loves back (butt) rubs, happy on her own in her own spaces, doesn’t like to be picked up at all. She will come when she wants.
The other only likes head rubs. If you try to pet her body she will roll over and grab you with claws. She has to be in everything, everywhere you are. She is super sweet and happy when she is allowed to be all over you and whatever you are doing until she loses interest. And like everyone has said, all of this behaviour is on schedule, very predictable.

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I have no particular advice to offer, only this:

All the things mentioned above may or may not apply to the cat that you are just sitting across from.

Don’t ask me about routine, cleaning litter boxes, daily, not moving furniture, unconditional love only from dogs etc… my cats aren’t that way, but I know some that are… so - what I believe I can say with certainty: Every cat is an individuum, and you need to get to know them first.

Elmar, NOT the cat whisperer (that would be Elaine I guess)


This sounds like you’re sitting my cats….however, I couldn’t find you in the house :rofl::rofl::rofl:


I love cats!!!


:cat: :cat: :cat:

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Amazing advice given here so not much for me to add.
Just that dogs tend to love and appreciate you where as a cat owns you!
I love cats but they do all have their own personality.
Where as i would likely go yo a dog and make a fuss, i respect the cats space and let them come to me.


If you are going to be away from their normal home environment for some time, you can now get these special feeding trays that only open up at programmed times set by yourself so your cat always get the food at the designated times. This is working well for one of my cat people and she has it placed on her patio with a wooden frame around it to stop big animals like badgers gaining entry and eating the food. You can get ones that will just feed fir 24 hours or a whole week. Perfect for indoor cats only

I lived all my life with cats. I’ve had several cats as pets and we tend to take care of a lot of stray cats. I always keep cat treats as we walk around since there is always seems to be some cat that approaches us, no matter where we are walking :rofl:

Here are some insights that maybe not known to everyone:

In my opinion there are no shy cats, rather these are anxious cats which are overcoming some emotional (usually childhood) experience which makes them uncertain of humans, especially strangers. Gaining their trust takes time, but give them space. Don’t approach them right away, give them space and let them come to you on their own terms. Reward their positive behavior with treats everyday until they get used to you.

When approaching a cat make sure you are not wearing glasses. Make eye contact with the cat, blink slow and talk in a low, soothing voice.
To learn more about slow blinking see here

Consult with your vet how much food is appropriate for your cat’s age and activity level. We’ve taken care of a lot of overweight cats, which is sad because it really shortens their lives. Use puzzle feeders to prevent overeating and fast eating, which causes vomiting and stomach issues. They also encourage the cat to hunt for their food, rather than gobbling it up.

You can also make your own puzzle feeder by using an old cardboard egg carton, just enlarge the openings on top.
Use a time release feeder if your cat is an early riser. Set the feeder to release food between 5-6 am, that way your cat won’t be waking you up.
Provide enough scratching posts, so your cat is not destroying your furniture. It may take a few tries until you find a post that your cat really enjoys.
If your cat is bored with her toys, go to and find some cat video games for your cat. Cats love watching birds and Youtube has a lot of cat friendly videos.

Ross (a.k.a The Cat Whisperer)