People talk about “cat whispering” as though befriending cats is some mystical in-born talent, but really, the secret to cat whispering is to stop whispering and start listening to the cat.
If you want to expand a cat’s boundaries, you have to push them slowly and watch the cat for any sign of discomfort, e.g. wide eyes, unblinking eye contact, tense body. (That’s also a list of things you need to not do lest the cat think you are uncomfortable and therefore unpredictable.) If the cat starts looking uncomfy, stop what you’re doing. Don’t backpedal– this can be alarming if it’s sudden, and you still want to be making progress – just don’t push any further. So if you’re petting the cat and it tenses up when you get near its face, don’t retract your hand; keep petting the cat, but don’t try to pet its head again.
Recognizing discomfort in cats takes some practice, so if you overstep your bounds and the cat lashes out, back off calmly and let it have whatever space it needs. Chances are it will come back after it’s had a few minutes to chill, or will settle at a distance that feels safer. Don’t push any more that day.
This approach teaches the cat that you’re going to respect its boundaries – that you’ll listen when it tells you “no” – and that you’re not going to react badly when it asserts those boundaries. That establishes trust. Once the cat knows it can trust you, it will be a lot more open to unfamiliar things because it knows you won’t abruptly push it way out of its comfort zone.
And then congrats, you have “whispered” a cat! You are now a cat whisperer. Please use these powers only for good and share pictures of all the cool cats you meet.