Monday, July 20, 2009

Fact or Fallacy: Most Cats Are Aloof

By Julia Williams

The biggest misconception about cats, in my opinion, is that most of them are aloof. The feline is thought to be a haughty creature that doesn’t show any outward signs of love for their owners. Many people also believe that cats abhor human companionship, and only tolerate us because it’s the easiest way to get food. Some even say cats think they’re superior to humans, and that if we don’t cater to their every whim, the cat will promptly pee on something to remind us who is in charge.

My experience with cats, on the other hand, has proven otherwise. In fact, after many decades of living with, loving, and being loved by dozens of cats, I’m convinced that only aloof people have aloof cats. Cats are highly social animals, and many aloof cats were simply taught to be that way. Quite often, the typical “aloof” cat is one who was raised by people who weren’t home very much, and when they were, they paid little attention to the cat. Any pet raised this way – including dogs, bunnies, horses and hamsters – would come to regard humans as largely food providers and not much else.

My cats have never been aloof, and yours don’t need to be either. I’m not some sort of miracle cat whisperer; I just understand cats, and I know how to raise them to be trusting, friendly, happy and affectionate creatures.

The most important thing I’ve learned about cats is that you have to respect their individuality. When you stop buying into the labels and treat cats as the unique creatures they are, a meaningful relationship can unfold. Also, you can’t expect a cat to be as outwardly demonstrative of their feelings as a dog. The cat isn’t being aloof – it’s simply not in a feline’s nature to jump all over you and feverishly lick you to pieces when you come home. But my cats DO meet me at the door, and they meow and purr, and prance around me looking for attention.

The other major aspect of raising a non-aloof cat is that you have to respect its likes and dislikes. For example, my cat Mickey doesn’t really like to be held. If I try to hold him for very long he will squirm and kick to let me know he wants no part of this. He will also turn his face away if I try to kiss him. But Mickey absolutely loves to sit on my lap, and will let me pet him and brush him for hours; he generally only jumps down when I need to get up for something. So if a person’s definition of aloof requires the cat to let them hold him or kiss him, then Mickey would be aloof in their eyes. When you give him affection in a way that he is comfortable with, he can’t get enough of it.

By contrast, Annabelle and Rocky love being hugged and kissed but won’t sit on my lap for more than a few minutes. Are they being aloof? No, they’re simply being animals who have very clearly defined likes and dislikes, and they’re not about to let humans force them into doing something they find objectionable. People are no different, by the way. When you respect them and accept their individual preferences (which might differ from your own), they’re much more likely to want to be around you.

Further, cats that are raised by people who make no attempt to understand their nature and/or show them affection, will take a long time to let their guard down. They will be “aloof” because their survival instincts demand it. Even so, most of these felines can eventually learn to love. The key is patiently demonstrating that you can be trusted and that you respect their individuality.

My cats almost always come when I call them, and they generally want to be in whatever room I am in. I remember one night I wasn’t feeling well and was tossing and turning in bed. The cats were lying next to me, and their warmth and proximity (which I normally love) added to my discomfort. Frustrated, I grabbed my pillow and went to lie down on the couch by myself. It wasn’t more than five minutes before all three cats had come into the living room to lie down beside me on the couch. I just had to laugh. My cats are definitely not aloof – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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