Different Cat Behaviors
Cat temperament depends on each cat and will vary widely across different felines. It is thought that male cats are more easy going and affectionate, while female cats like to be left alone. But this is not always the case and different for each cat. They each have their own unique personality and if you listen closely enough, you will be able to tell what your cat wants by different behaviors he/she has.
In my experience (I have had several cats over the years and currently have six!), girls tend to be al little more finicky; a little more independent. That does not mean that they do not like attention. In fact, my female cats really LOVE to be petted. But they also let you know when they are done with you as well! My female cats have very sweet personalities and will let you know when they want you to give them attention. But after a little while, they also like their space. A nice little grunt or swat will let me know when they've had enough! Sometimes they just walk away if they feel as though I am giving them too much attention! I have also noticed that my female cats like to be held less. I can hold them for a short while but then eventually they want to get free.
My male cats want attention all of the time. Again, this of course depends on the type of personality your cat has. But a majority of the male cats I have had never say no to a little head rub! In fact, my youngest cat is such a spoiled brat that as SOON as I sit down (whether it be at my desk, in my chair, or on my bed), he jumps onto my lap, snuggles up, and purrs. They, by majority, like to be held more, but some of my male cats that I have had over the years although liked attention, did not like to be held.
Signs a Cat Want Your Attention
When they rub against you they want your attention. They want to be petted and loved. They want you to pay attention to only them. They may walk up to you and just stare into your eyes when they want attention, or even come up to you and meow. Many times, mine just climb onto my lap! They will usually be pretty obvious about both wanting attention and when they have had enough! Cats usually love to give you their attention when they are hungry, so right before you feed them (when they see the treats or hear the cat food can/bag) may be a good bonding opportunity for both of you. If they know their reward is food, they will usually be a little more generous with their love! But be aware, once they start eating they usually like to be left alone (and who can blame them!).
How to Approach a Cat
Before a cat scratches you to warn you to leave him/her alone, there are signs he/she may not want to be petted and you should pay attention to these signs to avoid stress for both you and the kitty. If you approach a cat too quickly or aggressively, you are risking getting a scratch. I always put my hand sideways in a gentle and slow manner toward a new cat. I do this to feel how they react--whether they feel threatened or are ready to embrace me. This way they do not feel threatened (like you are trying to grab them or hurt them). Once they start to sniff my hand a little and their temperament seems to be okay, I will give them a little pet on their head between their ears. I will wait for signs of acknowledgement, such as them turning their head to be petted more, or purring. Only then will I continue to pet them.
Signs a Cat Wants to be Left Alone
If a cat backs away from you, tries to run away, starts to growl or meows as you approach, hides, puts his ears back, flinches, sticks his tail straight out or raises his paw, back away. He/she is feeling threatened and needs some time to get used to you. This does not mean that you will never be able to be friends. It just means the cat may need more socialization or it may take some time for him/her to trust you.
Some cats are just high maintenance by nature. They are independent, seldom like too much attention, and are fine spending most of the time on their own. In many cases, these cats have had some type of stress in their life--maybe they do not get along with a dog in the house, or do not like other cats, or maybe when they were smaller their owner neglected them. But other times, and seen more in female cats, they just like their alone time. They may want attention but it is usually on their own terms and will make it clear when they have had enough. They may be picky about their food and they may be stubborn. In my experience, cats who fit in the finicky category often prosper best when they are in an environment with no other animals, and some times no small children because it stresses them out. They usually like attention in small doses. Cats who have this personality are generally easier to care for because they do not require much attention and are more independent. These finicky felines are perfect for houses with a low stress environment and people who like their alone time as well!
Signs a Cat Needs More Socialization
As a volunteer at a shelter, I notice many cats on a daily basis who are secluded and withdrawn. They are sometimes depressed, sometimes shy, sometimes petrified because they have no idea what is going on. People mistake these traits as bad behavior, when in actuality they may just be confused, scared, or lonely. These cats are the first to be overlooked and the last to get adopted. I make it my priority to socialize them, by giving them lots of attention and proving that I can gain their trust--little by little. So if you notice that a kitty seems depressed, shy, or even has an angry temperament they usually just need time, love, and attention.
If you visit a cat at a friend's house, they may run away because they are unfamiliar with you and are a little slow to trust you. This does not necessarily mean that they need more socialization. When you rescue a kitty from outside, adopt one from a shelter, or bring a new cat home, you may notice he/she is shy and scared. This is completely normal as well while they adjust. But if they do not make progress on their own within a week or so, it is really time to get involved by putting in some effort to gain the cat's trust.
*Please remember that sometimes cats have a difficult time adjusting to new situations, and may take a little while to warm up. But that NEVER means that they will not come around. Any cats that I have rescued or have been strays have needed time to adjust to their new surroundings. You have to be willing to work with them to gain their trust. But if you give them time to adjust on their own terms (let them have a safe place to hide so they do not feel threatened and do not approach them in an aggressive or fast paced manner), they can grow to be your best friends!