I had a friend who claimed she did not like cats. I don’t know what criteria she used to form this idea, other than what she learned from her father, an avowed cat hater. But one day she came over to my house, and we sat on the landing of my stairs and chatted for a while. Binga, being the social butterfly she is, came over and sat by us. She was interested in everything we said, although she didn’t join in the conversation (which she also does on occasion). Finally, Cindy looked over at her.
“I usually don’t like cats,” she told Binga, “but I like you.”
The truth is that Cindy had never been around cats enough to form an honest opinion of them. She grew up with an idea of what cats were – aloof, unfriendly, ill-tempered and basically the opposite of the dogs in her life. Every time she encountered cats, which was very rarely, they always surprised her a little because they almost never fit her assumptions of them. In fact, she was convinced that her dog hated cats too until she fell in love with a man who had a cat – and her dog and his cat managed to coexist peacefully. Sadly, Cindy died of breast cancer several years ago. It’s too bad she never got a chance to meet Summer – I think she would have liked my sunny, outgoing little kitty.
I think that cat-haters fall into two camps: those who don’t understand them and sociopaths. The sociopaths – those who are cruel to cats or hate animals in general – I avoid. The people who don’t get cats are the ones I work on. They just haven’t met the right cats – or maybe they haven’t met many cats at all.
Cats aren’t born aloof, standoffish or nasty – and in fact, most of them aren’t any of those things. Look at kittens – as long as they grow up around people and are not raised to fear humans by a feral mother, they are open, curious and lots of fun to be around. Even feral kittens can learn to be human friendly. With patience and lots of love, they get past the fearful, hissy stage and are as loving as any other cat. And if an adult cat is not affectionate or lies around all day doing nothing, that is more about the way she was raised and how much (or little) interaction she has with family members than about actual feline temperament.
Life with cats is quieter and subtler than life with dogs, and the signals are different. A cat that gives you a slow blink is showing it loves you, the same way a dog does when it licks your hand or face (and it’s a lot neater too!). Non-cat people who are willing to take time with cats and learn what they are really about discover a whole new feline world that is fascinating and deep. It’s easy for people to love cats if they give them a chance … it’s getting them to open up to that chance that’s the challenge.
Do you know anyone who is a cat-loving convert?