We’ve all been there. One day your cat is your best friend, the next day they act like you don’t exist, or even worse, like you betrayed them! There have been a small number of occasions when the normally placid Charlie has ignored me, taken a swipe at me or even gone in for a bite. While I’d then normally go off and have an emotional episode, Charlie would calmly continue indifferently as if nothing ever happened. These cycles from friendliness to indifference inspired me to learn more about the behaviour of our mysterious companions. The results were rather reassuring.
Thinking Like A Cat
My studies gave me an intriguing insight into cats and how the genes they have evolved with cause certain characteristics. I now think of cats as mistrustful poker players who sometimes think even their humans might be out to get them – unless they have food! In the wild, cats only tend to live in colonies because being part of a pack provides many benefits to them (e.g. more hunters to catch food, more cats to fight alongside to get the best territory or shelter etc.). This means, as human companions, our role is to be as useful as possible to be good company. Cat behaviourist John Bradshaw even says that cats are so independent that they don’t need us for reassurance.
How Cats Love
For those of us humans who are owned by cats, we owe it to them to remember that cats don’t love in the same way that us humans do. When I’m planting a kiss on Charlie’s forehead, he must find it really rather strange, but will tolerate it for a biscuit. An important fact I found out was that cats must feel secure before they will show affection, which means the cat’s environment plays a really big part in this. The main ways Charlie shows love is by slow blinking at us, rubbing his mouth against our legs (scenting us!) and sitting near us when we settle in a room. Not the most fulfilling ways of displaying affection for a human (my boyfriend would be cast out if this was it) but this attitude actually shows he holds us in high regard. Socks goes one step further by licking our hands, batting us playfully for attention and greeting us with a bolt upright tail – I do think Charlie would do this too but simply cannot be bothered!
If he loves me, why did he lash out at me?
Jackson Galaxy taught me to think of a cat’s temperament as a balloon. The more you fuss a cat, the more the balloon inflates. At some point the balloon needs to release some air otherwise it will pop. This might be when a cat decides it’s time for a ‘leave me alone’ swipe.
The best way to let down the balloon is to get Charlie playing with his toys, simulating the hunting a cat would do in the wild. Often a lack of hunting or playing can cause serious frustration in a cat, leading to cats stalking and randomly attacking their humans. Cats love playing. It releases feel good chemicals in the brain, making them happier. Many humans don’t realise that just 10 mins of playing in the morning and evening can cause big behavioural changes in their moggies.
There can be other reasons though. Charlie bit me when I touched a battle wound he was carrying around from scrapping with a neighbour’s cat that afternoon. Luckily we discovered this soon after my emotional episode about him now hating me and we were then able to monitor it and decide whether to take him to the vet. Charlie certainly has a great poker face when he gets injured, giving nothing away until he has to!
Sometimes us humans simply do something that is scary for a cat. Both Charlie and Socks are naturally jumpy. Walk too quickly towards Socks, open a bottle of fizzy drink near her or even let out an extra loud burp and she will scarper as quickly as a scalded cat.
My cat loves me but doesn’t like other people in my house
You may like to offer your friend or significant other advice on how to boost their relationship with your cat. Cats LOVE people who ignore them as these are the people that display the least aggressive behaviours towards them (e.g. no eye contact and not going towards them). This is why your cat might be naturally attracted to people who don’t like cats! My poor friend Lucy, who is allergic to cats, is a big hit with Socks. Please note here Lucy that I am also slightly allergic but don’t see this as an excuse to hate them!
My main tips for someone who doesn’t naturally attract cats is to:
- Be mindful how quickly you walk towards the cat as this may seem threatening.
- It would be even better if you could make yourself small by crouching to their level while they learn to trust you a little more.
- Don’t rush them and let them come to you rather than fussing them straight away. You need to pass their threat evaluation assessment first.
- Don’t expect too much from them. After all, just their continuing presence in your house is a rather large compliment.
- Start off by playing with the cat with a wand toy. This can help diffuse tension in the cat and help them learn that you are fun and not a threat.
All my research into cat behaviour made me realise that hating me is simply beneath Charlie. He is far too busy surveying all his surroundings and evaluating his vital signs to spend time thinking of me at all, let alone in a bad light. I was simply not of use to him in that moment. What an intriguing fellow that we have let into our house and that we love very dearly in spite of his apparent indifference most of the time! Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below.
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