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.
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