Right now, I’m petsitting at a four cat household. Two cats are young, friendly and playful. They have all of their supplies in one bedroom. Meanwhile, the elder cats are stationed in another bedroom. The elder of the group, Oskar, is not the friendliest guy. A big orange tabby, he hisses and gives his war cry each time I walk by him. I acknowledge him, but continue with my chores, not stopping to attempt to pet him or look at him directly. Once Oskar figures out I’m not going to bother or acknowledge him, he goes about his business.
If you encounter a cat that is giving the war cry and/or hissing, do not look directly at him. Cats perceive a direct look as a challenge, and this could work to further antagonize him. The war cry and hissing are cautions a cat gives before attacking, best to heed the warning rather than reaching down to try to pet or even worse, pick up the cat. Failure to heed the warning can and probably will result in painful scratches.
When asked to care for a cat that’s not very familiar with you, it’s best to take your cues from him. Let him approach you and get to know you. Cats sometimes take a while to figure out whether or not they’ll be friends with you. Not rushing them into making a decision gives them the opportunity to warm up to you.