by Barbara George ~ Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
Having gained a certain amount of trust in us, it is now time to move forward to being able to touch the cat. At first this is just a touch, until he is comfortable and trusts that we will not hurt him. Being able to touch, and later hold, groom and pick him up, is essential to being able to care for him in the best possible way.
Continue to keep a low profile when in his area, face an an angle away from him so as not to intimidate him by constantly making eye contact. Try to be as consistent as possible, sitting in the same place and doing the same things on each visit. Always leave an open pathway to a hiding hole.
Be patient, rushing or forcing him will set the process back a few steps. Keep talking to him as before, about any subject, and add some praise and loving words that relate to him.
Start by offering treats outside but close to where he is hiding to encourage him to move out of his safe space in your presence. Gradually move the treats further away from his hiding place and closer to yoursel
As he comes closer, slowly stretch out your hand and allow him to sniff. If he seems fearful of your hand, make a fist with thumb and 3 fingers, leaving just one finger for him to sniff. It can be useful to dip your finger in something tasty, a dab of cat food, yoghurt or something that is soft and smells nice.
When he approaches it is important not to initiate contact unless he asks for it by rubbing against you, head-butting or climbing onto your lap. A safe and usually acceptable touch is to stroke his cheek with one finger. This will also transfer his scent to you, making you more acceptable, at least for this visit.
Be very mindful of the amount of touch he is comfortable with, and stop before he becomes concerned. Offer a treat then allow him to return to his place of safety.
If he is reluctant to approach you still, play with him. Toys on a wand are good for this as he can play at a distance. Ribbons, shoelaces, balls and laser pointers are good ways of interacting without touch.
If he comes to a distance too far for physical touch, it may be possible to touch him with the end of a wand, artists paintbrush, long-handled brush or back-scratcher. This will give him the sensation of touch without the physical contact. When he understand this, and comes closer, use a toy or grooming brush for touching until he feels confident enough to be touched by hand.
As before, these sessions are typically short, as many as possible during the day. The time from hiding to allowing touch is totally governed by the cat, any attempt to force the issue will result in him retreating into hiding, reluctant to try again.