Cats are complicated creatures. This is why they fascinate me so much. Don’t get me wrong, I love love love dogs and plan on owning one some day, but there’s something about cats that make them so relatable.
Dogs will love their owners unconditionally as long as they receive food, shelter, and love. I’m not insulting their intelligence (although some make me wonder), but dogs don’t really need much interest from their owners before they reciprocate with undying, unquestioning love. Dogs will eagerly and obediently trot up to your person, panting with flopping tongue and flapping ears, after you simply say their name aloud. They’ll also perform a trick on command when tempted with a bite-sized, slightly meat-flavored treat, or be absolutely ecstatic when you return home after a twenty second trip out to the mailbox. Dogs treat you like canine royalty; a bone-shaped sun revolves around you and your belly-scratching hands. I admit this is what makes dogs so lovable and such great companions, especially for lonely and/or old people, but sometimes I want to feel like I worked hard for the love I receive. It makes me feel like I actually accomplished something because the last thing I need is overkill on the self-esteem boost.
Cats are more like actual humans. If you provide them with food, a place to hide, and a sandy container in which they can defecate in privacy, you won’t see much gratitude. They treat you with the usual aloofness because they know that when you provide these basic things, you are just being a minimally attentive owner.
Cats make you earn their trust first, and then, possibly, sometimes maybe never, they will offer you their sometimes, but not always, non-transferrable, non-refundable, non-un-dying something that resembles, but isn’t completely, love.
I lucked out with my particular cats because they are the perfect cross between a “I worship the ground you walk on because you feed me” dog, and a “work for my love and I’ll make it worth your while” cat. They are Ragdolls, which you can read about here and look at kittens here if you’re interested (of course you are). They love cuddling and having their bellies rubbed, they are usually waiting at the door for me when I come home, and they like just being in the same room as me. Sometimes all I have to do is walk into a room in which they slumber in a tightly formed snail-like figure and they roll over and start purring immediately.
Yet at the same time I still have to earn their love and affection by giving them space when I sense they want it, not holding them more than necessary, putting aside time to play with and talk to them (yes, it’s loving, not crazy, to talk to your pets) and not making any sudden or loud noises. When I get a cuddle session with these guys, or one of them crawls into my lap, Handel’s Messiah Hallelujah Chorus plays in my head and I hold my breath. If I need to get up to pee or attend to whatever is cooking on the stove, those take a backseat because I milk this attention for all it’s worth and wait until they get up and leave. You see, with a dog, this would be expected and normal and I would get no hallelujah chorus. Sometimes, guys, it’s the little things that make you feel accomplished in your life.
Currently, my big project is acclimating these guys into a house that already has two younger cats. Mine are eight years old, so are set in their ways and this makes it harder to introduce them to other cats. For now they are just in my bedroom (with all the essentials of course) and I make sure they still get all the attention they need. For their first two weeks here they were just working on getting settled in my room so it can be designated a “safe place.” I even bought one of those plug in things that emit pheromones, which makes them feel relaxed and safe. Occasionally the other two cats in the house would sniff at the door and they would interact with my cats that way. Unfortunately there was come paw batting through the crack at the floor and some hissing, but it died down after awhile.
A few weeks later I started letting my cats out to roam the house. This is when I had to be the evil-step-cat-mother and shut my sister’s cats up in her room while I let my cats have their “outside session” for an hour.
This was surprisingly stressful for Bailey and Kai since they smell other cats, which causes anxiety for fear of being pounced upon by a strange animal hiding in every corner. Kai spends most of his time meowing pitifully and rubbing his cheeks on every corner (this spreads pheromones that tells them that they checked this place for danger and it’s familiar/safe), and Bailey rubs his paws like a DJ on every surface available (their previous owners de-clawed them so this is just spreading his scent everywhere). It keeps getting less stressful and more familiar for them so they now spend most of the time and concentration rolling around on all the rugs like a dog does in the grass.
Another thing we’re doing is, while my cats are in my bedroom, cracking the door so they can interact a bit with my sister’s cats. There is some paw swiping (could you resist swiping at some strange furry paws peeking through the crack of a door?) and meowing, but we hope this helps them get used to each other. Before these sessions, I actually had no idea cats could also growl like dogs.
You’re probably thinking, “This is crazy! All this work for a couple of animals?!” but it’s so so worth it. If we want to live in a house where cats don’t fight and yowl and spray it is necessary to do this part very very carefully. It’s not like you can just spray fighting cats with a hose and be done with it. Just like people, cats hold grudges against other animals at the most minute things so this has to continue to be done slowly and carefully to get the result we want: happy cats. We hope to start “supervised visits” soon, which makes it sound like some sort of child custody situation. I love these guys and they love me so I would pretty much jump through any sort of hoop for them if it will make them happy. Call me a cat lady, I don’t freakin’ care. I work hard for their love and it makes me feel great when I get it. Plus, they are the only living creatures that, at the end of the day, will still never judge me for what I say, how I look, and my sketchy showering habits. Boo-ya. Score.