‘Meow Magic’ tugging the heart strings!

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Vanessa Pereira
Here’s a scenario that I am sure as a cat parent you have encountered time and again. You hold your cat close for a warm cuddle only to have her paws land on your face pushing you away or have your cat almost immediately wanting to leap off and away from your embrace! Sounds familiar?
 
All along, you have showered your kitty with ample love and affection. Never missing an opportunity to cuddle or kiss her or to hold her tenderly in your arms and yet your kitty seems to be saying “I don’t want it!” as though completely alien to the concept of affection! Evidently what works for us needs not necessarily work for our feline buddies. Cats are different than us, and yet in some ways we share common ground.
 
Love them in their own way
Domestication has sure turned them from a solitary to somewhat social beings, but individual traits always exist! Some of our kitties are friendly, enjoy the company of other cats, bask in the presence of humans, enjoy that cuddle, and are total lap babies. Others are less friendly, they do not enjoy the company of other cats and while they are comfortable in the presence of their human caregivers, they may not take easily to new human arrivals in the house and make it quite apparent of their disdain for human cuddles and touch. Undoubtedly, cats have their own unique and individual temperament, what we humans would refer to as personalities.
 
Strong temperament thanks to a cocktail of factors
When a cat has been the recipient to immense affection from kitten hood, what could cause them to develop a temperament resulting in dislike for human gestures of affection? Well, a cat’s temperament is a result of a cocktail of factors – her own genetics, the environment she was birthed into and then raised in (both of which may be quite different & contrasting), their life experiences especially during their early kitten days (the period from 2 to 7 weeks are crucial called especially as the ‘socialisation period’), the life experiences and temperament of their parents, etc.
My Joey and Ollie are classic examples here. Ollie, by nature, is very friendly. He enjoys being cuddled and carried around like a baby in arms. Ollie takes quite easily to people and other cats as well. However, Joey, who is Ollie’s sibling, is quite the opposite! Though brothers they couldn’t be more different temperamentally! Joey enjoys Ollie’s company but is quite indifferent to the other cats in the same house and does not shy away from hissing at the slightest provocation from them. He does not enjoy being cuddled or hugged either. He does have his adorable moments. Moments where he does demonstrate that special bond he shares with me, when he choosesto curl himself right next to me whilst I am working on the laptop or jump onto my shoulder to be carried around the house or come and lie next to me whilst sleeping…but it has to be as per his need… not mine!
 
Cats choose us, we don’t own them
That’s cats for you… as social as they have become since their untamed and wild ancestors, they have continued to retain several traits that defined their solitary existence of the past. As intrinsic solitary animals there is no one to watch their backs, so they have learnt to be cautious, always on the alert and to watch out for themselves! Thus, cats like to be in control of their environment and the ones to call the shots.
 
So what do you do when you have a cat you adore respond to your caressing touches squeamishly? Does the immense showering of love and attention make you the annoying and overbearing parent to your cat? Quite possibly yes! One important rule to remember with cats is ‘Less is more’. For the temperamentally unfriendly cat, the more the hugs and cuddles, the lesser the cat wants to be around you. Instead play it cool…let them demand your attention! Let your cat choose to come and sit by your side as you enjoy that book you are reading, or gently rub across your leg as you prepare their meal or come and nudge you with her head as you find yourself engrossed in that movie. Let your cat choose to come over to you…and when she does…reach out…stroke her affectionately on the head or utter a couple of words of tenderness or give her that caressing rub under her chin…and stop right there…let’s not overdo it…leave your kitty wanting for more!
 
That ‘Meow’ tugging the strings of your heart
And there’s where the magic begins…an aloof cat strikes a bond with a human she comes to be loved when she needs that touch, reassuring when she needs that space and above all realising that a cat’s world is different from ours. It is amazing to see how cats despite their solitary past and inept inborn social skills have beautifully warmed to us and indeed have come to share a one-of-its-kind bond with us.
 
But it’s for us to understand their needs and how each cat is shaped by factors beyond control. It has taken me a while to realise, but as a cat mommy it is vital to prioritise not just their physical needs but equally their emotional needs.
(Vanessa Pareira is pet parent for close to 25 years and she is currently a pet mommy to cats. With a passion for the four-legged furies, six years ago she happily made the switch in healthcare marketing from the human to the veterinary side… the better side as she calls it!)

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