Friday, March 30, 2012

Accepting the Pet You Get


By Julia Williams

Very often, people adopt a pet with a preconceived notion of what that pet will be like, or they might have an idea in their head of what they want their pet to be like. Some people adopt a new pet expecting it to be like a previous pet they loved. They may even think, “He’s the same breed, so he should have the same traits my Rover did, right?” Some people even adopt a cat expecting it to behave like their dog, and vice versa. Problems arise when they bring the pet home and find out that the vision in their head doesn’t mesh with reality. The pet doesn’t act the way they wanted it to or expected it to. What can you do?

There’s really only one thing you can do – and that is accept the pet you get. All pets are unique individuals, and they have certain likes and dislikes. You get what you get, and you can’t change their individuality any more than you can change the personality of your friend, spouse or co-worker. Think of their personality like the color of their fur – you can’t turn a black cat into a white one no matter how much you might long to have a white cat.

Now, sometimes you can change how they interact with you if it’s based on their past; for example, you can help a fearful abused pet become more confident and trusting. But I’m talking more about things that are part of the personality your pet was born with as opposed to traits that were shaped by experience. It can be really difficult for pet owners to give up on that mental picture they had of the “perfect pet.” We may really want our pet to be a certain way, and it’s disappointing when they aren’t, but it is what it is. Sometimes you get what you want, and sometimes you don’t.

I have three cats, and my girl Annabelle is the sweetest, most affectionate cat I’ve ever known. She loves to cuddle, she gives head bonks and Eskimo kisses, and she lets me love on her till the cows come home. For Belle, there is no such thing as too many kisses or cuddles. On the other end of the spectrum is Mickey. He likes to sit on my lap and loves being petted and brushed, but he does NOT like to be kissed or cuddled. I sneak kisses on the sly, and he tolerates that, but I know he’d really prefer I don’t do it. Rocky is in the middle, he likes kisses and cuddles but only some of the time, when he’s in the mood.

I had a hard time with this, because I wanted Mickey and Rocky to be like Belle. Well, who wouldn’t? I tried to mold Mickey and Rocky into being more like Belle, and guess how that turned out? Not very well. One day I was holding Mickey and forcing my affection on him even though I could tell by his body language that he didn’t want it. I persisted. He bit my face, hard. Shocked, I let go of him and he flew out of the room. I sat there feeling the sting of rejection along with the shock of his aggression and the pain of his bite. It was absolutely not his fault; I was 100% to blame. I knew he didn’t like being kissed and cuddled, and I did it anyway because instead of accepting the pet I got, I was trying to make him into something he wasn’t. I learned my lesson the hard way, but I did learn. I have accepted Mickey for who he is, and when I feel the urge to dote on a cat, I find Belle, who is only too happy to receive my kisses and cuddles.

We all want certain things from our pets and yes, it’s disappointing if we don’t get them. It can be very hard to accept the pet you get instead of the vision you have in your head. Difficulty notwithstanding, I learned that the only way to have a relationship with your individual, unique pet is to accept who they are. My black cat will always be black, and he will never love kisses and cuddles. Sure, I still wish he was more like Belle, but he isn’t so that’s that. I’ve come to accept Mickey and appreciate him for all the other wonderful qualities he has.

Read more articles by Julia Williams


  1. Good post, Julia.

    I know with Chumley, my first adoptee, I wanted him to be a bit LESS needy in terms of affection, but he was who he was, with his issues and quirks. I'm not sure I fully appreciated him at the time, going through my own personal crises, but he was ever-forgiving and always there for me, as was Annie.

    With my boys now, it's Nicki who seems to be the more insecure and needy in some ways, which surprises me as he's the bold, outgoing one. Derry is the cuddle-bug and will take far more holding and smooching than Nicki, but I just do my best to give them what they need, in the ways that work for them. :-)

  2. Well said, Julia! All pets certainly do have their own personalities. We love our Sammy and Moosey, but they are definitely their own cats -- and we wouldn't have it any other way. :)

  3. Well, it's like having siblings -- They are ALL different and have their own quirks -- and they think the same thing of you, their sibling, as well. And well, frankly, I'm alot happier with my choice of cats (well THEY chose me) than my sibling(s) - sorry!!!

  4. This is SO true! Our little wild Scouty refuses all human contact, but he does enjoy our company, and even does some stealthy sleeping with us at night. We love him for the feral guy he is--and dread the day we have to "net" him for a vet visit. It ain't easy...

  5. EXCELLENT article on accepting the pet you get!!

    We love Canidae!

  6. What a beautiful post, Julia! I experienced this when I first adopted Allegra. After being used to the quiet energy of a senior cat who loved to snuggle, I now had a rambunctions kitten who did not want to be held or sit on my lap. Two years later, Allegra is still not a lap cat (although she occasionally gives me some lap time for a little while), but I couldn't love her more.

  7. It is so true. I got an email once about a foster momma cat named Chiclet. The woman wrote that she looked EXACTLY like the cat they had just lost. I emailed her back, expressed my sympathy, and told her about Chiclet's personality - in depth! (don't get me wrong, Chiclet was a great foster and has since been adopted). She wrote back and said that her personality sounded just too different. I was relieved - it was along the lines of "please don't take my foster expecting something you aren't going to get....and then end up returning her".

  8. I adopted a kitten when I was at the shelter JUST to walk the dogs...already had 3 dogs. The director told me to cuddle with the kittens...I had not had a cat for over 10 years, and it was an unpleasant experience. However, I picked one 2 month old, and he's never left my side!!!! Best I've ever had! Thinks he's one of the dogs, loves to sleep with them, and is a perfect, affectionate, love kitten! I feared the worst, and got the best. The cat we had years ago, inspite or our problems, lived with us to be 20...on her terms of course.

  9. completely true and super good advice. I think what is sad is what you have mentioned so eloquently is probably one of the main reasons that cats/dogs end up in shelters. People put their OWN expectations on a pet and when they don't meet those expectations they are viewed as inferior when in fact they are just being who God intended them to be.

  10. OMC that is so true!! Mom says I am 360 degrees different from their first cat. Well first of all he was a he I'm a she.
    In his 14.5 years mom says he meowed about 100 times. In the first week I was here I meowed 1000 times. AND I'm proud to say I'm still going strong. I jumped on the top of the grandfather clock the first month. He NEVER did. All I can say is life must have been B O R I N G with him!! Yep they accepted the kitty they got and have not quit laughing
    Hugs Madi

  11. Yes, everyone is unique and we cherish all of the different purrsonalities here!!!

  12. Very good post that can hold true for many. I think maybe because I have had so many animals, for so many years, that I came to the conclusion a long time ago that they all really are very unique, with unique needs, personalities, and requirements. I find it most fascinating that Zee and Zoey's kittens that live with us - same parents, same upbringing, are so COMPLETELY different!! They really are like raising children and we have to respect that about our pets.

  13. Well, as much as I complain about my Human, I will give her props for keeping me when some other people might not have. I was the most whacked out crazy growling angry feral kitten the world has ever known and I stayed that way for months and months and months and MONTHS before I would EVER play with her or purr or let her pet me.

    I will neffur be a lovey-dovey lap sitting boy, but we have forged a decent relationship now and if there are brushies involved, I MIGHT even allow a few minutes of lap time, MOL.

  14. I particularly like this blog as I mentioned in an email to you because it touches on something very important. Too many times in my life I have heard from various acquaintances or work mates complaints about their or cat. It is what it is. I came to the floor again yesterday and while propped up on my arms, tried to kiss Katie the way I always used to kiss Admiral. No deal. She takes those kisses when I'm holding her, but not when she is on the floor or me. Just the way she is and while I someties wish I could get in all those kisses I used to get in, I can't. I already treasure her for who she is anyway. Maybe kisses will come by and by.

  15. This is so true. Excellent post! My last cat Harry, was an all over licker and cuddler. He used to sit on my shoulders. Austin, well he’s another character altogether. Very loving but only snuggles on his own terms. I loved and love them both :)

  16. Hey, don't you know we're irreplaceable? With most of us, they broke the mold..

    But, yes, all pets are lovable in their own way and need to be accepted as such. After all, they may have had a preconceived idea of what the human might be like, too..:)


  17. Very true and wonderful post. I SO wanted Katie to be a cuddler. Isn't that after all, what cats are supposed to do? Well she's told me otherwise. She's turned it into a game that just the two of us play. I love her for making me laugh about it.
    : ) Glogirly

  18. Great post Julia. Very true words indeed. (I had wanted a ragdoll for their cuddly, carry-in-your-arms, easy-going nature but because Neytiri wasn't raised in the home of the breeder but a separate building, she didn't have the same socialization other ragdolls do, so she is very independent and doesn't even sleep on the bed with me. But of course she is sweet and so special and unique in other ways. But you never can assume a cat will be a certain way.)


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