How can you tell when it’s okay to pick up a cat that is not your cat?

2021.11.27 01:45 illLieonceaday How can you tell when it’s okay to pick up a cat that is not your cat?

Sorry if this isn’t allowed and sorry for formatting, I’m on mobile.
I’ve been taking care of a stray for months now. He was a skinny-butt when he started showing up, had spotted ears and nose from allergies, and was very persistent. With me he’s gained weight and cleared up. He stays in the den now, spoiled and with his own heater. I have two indoor-only girls and maybe he sensed them and came here, or maybe he liked all of the birds that my feeders would attract, idk. I started feeding him when I realized he would keep popping up and wasn’t just a one-time visitor like we sometimes get.
He’s always been very polite, but did swat at me a few times as we got to know each other. Never attacked me just a serious swat like “I am not that comfortable with you, back off.” He felt bad when I said “ow” though, because he would immediately take off running. (Or maybe he was running from being uncomfortable or overstimulated, idk). I do not like being scratched, and he is nearing the end of his late teens so it’s not something I’d be able to endure like I did with mine when they were kittens, lol.
So… how do you know when it’s okay to pick them up? How do you prepare yourself? I see people pick up cats they literally just met. What signs do you look for? Is it just chancing that they might hate it and attack? I do want to keep my face.
He rubs on my legs and sits with me (near me but still like an inch away). He will walk across my lap but hasn’t settled onto it. He runs across the lawn when I come outside and we have played many games together. He sleeps here every day and rubs his head into my pets. He is sweet but every once in a while he will try to “catch”me with his paws (like when I pet him and take my hand away)—something both of my kitties did but since I raised them I knew they wouldn’t actually hurt me. He still makes me nervous though I love on him and give him head scritches—I never chance trying for the belly or legs and keep my petting short.
I want to hold him cause I’m selfish, lol, but also I want him to be familiar with it just in case he meets others… any advice welcome.
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