MOMENT by MOMENT

Hosted by: Cynthia Swanson & Andrew Swanson

Bonding with Cats

I have always loved cats. Dogs are okay, and I like them fine, but I have a special affinity for cats.  Since I was a kid, even walking down the street, I would see a cat and naturally call and put my hand down to give them a pet; 80% of the time, even a stranger cat would approach and allow me to pet it.

Growing up, when a new cat came into the house, I was the first to bond.  The cats slept with me, and on top or under my bed was where they left their “presents” of bird beaks, feet, and feathers left over from…I don’t like to think about that part.  I learned to avoid that by having indoor cats.

Suffice it to say, I have always been used to cats gravitating toward me…until April.  We got April as a six-week-old kitten at a family pet store.  We were there because I wanted a cat.  The husband was reaching into the cage to pick up a kitten and she just walked up his arm to his shoulder, then walked down it and onto my arm and up to my shoulder.  She was fearless.  She was ours.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t mine.  There were four people in our household, and April developed her own preferences and routines with each of us.  We weren’t allowed to deviate from them, or she would let us know.  She loved my youngest son, and slept with him every night.  She loved the husband’s lap in the evenings.  During the day, she loved it when my oldest son picked her up and carried her around the house like a baby–belly up–and bring her to me so I could pet her.

With me, she wanted to snuggle on the toilet.  I couldn’t go to the bathroom without her scratching at the door, and she wasn’t satisfied with being in the same room; she had to be in my arms.  And that was the only place and time I was allowed to pick her up and cuddle with her.  I was allowed, however, to feed her, give her water, and clean up her vomit, which she would point out to me when I came home from work by primly sitting behind it.

This went on for years, until both kids moved out.  Then the husband, April and I had to all learn new routines.  Those years were hard on me, though.  I wanted a cat who would love me and sit on my lap and cuddle with me.  That is not what I had, and for years I swore that I wanted to get another kitten who would be mine, by God.

So why am I writing all this?  I have a friend who was a saint and took in a 3 year old cat that needed a new home.  She wants to be able to play and pet and cuddle with the cat, but it was traumatized in its former home, so it won’t allow any human contact.  The cat spent a week under the bed, only coming out to eat and drink and do its business at night when my friend was asleep.  After several weeks, it will now come out from under the bed, but it won’t let my friend anywhere near it.  Its reaction when she tried was severe.

I feel for my friend.  Everyone else is counseling her to give it time, but the reality is the cat may never be more than a begrudging pet. Having lived through having a cat who put severe limits on physical contact, I know I could not do it again.  It may seem cold, but my advice was to think hard about what she wanted, because if she wanted a companion who would love her and snuggle with her, this cat was not it, and she would be better off returning it to its former owner and starting over with a cat or kitten who wasn’t emotionally scarred.

I don’t know.  Maybe I’m off base and it will turn out all right.  But I can’t help believe in my deepest heart, that my friend will never get the relationship and companionship she wants from this cat.  And that’s a very sad thing.

Categories: Random Thoughts

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3 replies

  1. I grew up with dogs. For the last 20+ years we’ve had cats only. What a difference. Dogs love you, period. Cats are like 4-legged people in fur, full of whim. They are still training me.
    I can relate to Cynthia saying that you need to think about what You need/want. I can relate to Lynne not being ready to give up. Our first 2 cats came from the Oregon Humane Society, fixed, declawed, and very mellow. They allowed us to share their home for 16 years before going to that great cat land in the sky. We tried a couple of cats from CAT, and after a week, had to concede failure, and returned them. We got a young cat from cat rescue who stole my heart, got sick and died, within 4 months. We got 2 more cats from cat rescue and these appear to be keepers.
    Each cat has had its own personality, temperment, issues and benefits. Our current male will probably always have moments of terror recall from his early life, but he has taught us the value of calm behavior correction. Our female reminds us daily that there’s always room for fun.
    I guess my thought is that each cat is as different as each person is different. What is trauma today, might possibly be of no consequence tomorrow. Go with your instinct. No choice is ever easy. If it is important, it isn’t supposed to be easy.

  2. Thanks Cynthia. I definitely hear what you’re saying, and I’m considering…but I’m not ready to throw in the towel quite yet. It’s only been a week, and if I did give her up, it would be to her previous owners…I am reluctant to do that, as that was the only home she’d ever known, and I think it’s clear that something OTHER than simply a frisky dog may have happened to her in that environment. Giving her back would almost seem cruel. So…I will give it a few more weeks and see what happens. She may never be a cuddly companion, but if I can get her to the point where she doesn’t flinch every time I move and will at least hang out in the same air space as me, then I’ll count that as a small victory and see where we go from there.

  3. I don’t think that’s cold advice. Cats have their own personalities just like people and there’s not much you can do to change them. One of our cats is a roamer. He was born with wanderlust and it would be cruel to keep him inside. He comes home for a brief visit every couple of weeks or so, and we just appreciate him while we have him. Our second cat is a lovergirl who is always in our faces and never gets enough attention. Our third is kind of like April — you can pet her, but on her terms only.

    P.S. April is an absolutely adorable name for a cat. 🙂

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