Written by Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi
Cats are surrendered to animal shelters every day because of behavior changes that humans interpret as spiteful, annoying and downright personal. Giving up on their companions completely, well-intentioned but desperately frustrated cat guardians throw down the white flag and assume that behaviors like petting/ play or territorial aggression, attention-seeking, excessive meowing and litterbox avoidance / spraying and marking are personal attacks against them. Perhaps if people knew that having a cat came with some personal sacrifice, the true surrender would be happening from within. It’s not always about you, but right now it is.
Congratulations! You live with cats. Notice I didn’t say you “have” or “own” them. That’s because when you agree to add a cat or cats to your home, you just made the ultimate sacrifice. You pretty much just agreed to surrender every possession you have, including YOURSELF to the enigmatic whims of a species put on this earth to make you work for them. In return, you will get conditional love. Yes… I just said that…because truthfully the conditions or compromises that you make just to live among these creatures are what confuses most people. Humans feel the need to control. You have a cat. You are now in control of absolutely nothing.
Your cat does not think like you do. In fact, “thinking” is what is getting you in trouble to begin with. Just for a few moments… zero out your intentions, your ego and your past experiences. Think of nothing but breathing and follow that breathe, in and out. Pay attention to only the breathe. When you start to think about the past, you future plans, your resentments, your insecurities, the smelly guy on the bus that ruined your morning… go back to the breath and pay attention to ONLY what is happening in the NOW. You have just become a cat. Time to surrender to living in the here and meow. This may be the hidden secret to understanding cats.
Relinquish control, because trying to make cats do anything based on your own intentions is futile. Are your cats misbehaving or are you just not allowing them to make freewill decisions? Ever tried to get your cat in a carrier just 1/2 an hour before a vet appointment. Chances are, your intentions (based on time constraints, fear of being late, the clerk at the desk rolling their eyes at you, etc) will impede on your cat’s freewill decision to enter the carrier on their own, thus resulting in personal blood loss and heightened stress for your cat. It’s like trying to defuse a bomb with a timer. Cut the wrong wire and that clock ticks faster and faster ….until BOOM! You have now pushed your cat way beyond their personal freewill comfort level and it’s on. Oh, it’s so on right now. Your lack of patience just got you served.
That same frightening experience can be changed by allowing your cat access to the carrier 24/7. Take the door off and make it a bed, heck, throw treats in there and your cat’s toys for crying out loud! Cats need time to adjust to things and they make negative impressions last if things are predictably disappointing. Surrender to the fact that your cat needs EVERY experience to go down by their own choice and with self-serving rewards. YOU can’t expect your cat to live by your rules. Mostly because your rules kinda suck. It’s not personal. It is defiance to your intentions. Breathe. Ok, welcome back.
Your cat is not doing things to piss you off. Instead, you are just upset because they are not doing what you want them to do. Guess what? Cats don’t care about what you want. Once that’s understood, you quickly realize that their actions and your intentions will never line up. You want the cat to stay off the counter tops. Ok… fair enough. Just realize that cats have an innate need to get up off the ground, particularly in places where the resources are highly valued or shared.
YOU are a resource for food and social bonding. YOU typically prepare the cat’s meals and your own in the kitchen. Trying to prevent your cat from being where the action is and where the “gettin’s good” is pointless, unless you have vertical climbing alternatives nearby that are more appealing and a positive experience. In order to stop the cat from going on the counter… that area better be humanely booby-trapped 24/7 and or a total pain in the ass to stand on, both when you are home and when you are not. Trust me, surrender is easier. You live with cats now. Just give them what they want.
Chances are…what you want and what your cat wants will never line up completely. Well, not until you give up and set yourself free of this burden. Stop expecting a cat to do what you want, stay where you put them, sleep in the beds you buy, eat the food you heard was good, play with the toys you fail to keep interesting and pee in the world’s crappiest litterbox that you purchased for it’s convenience. You have a cat. Now you also have a job. Right now, you are so close to getting your ass fired. The solutions to making the cat bosses happy are in allowing them to make yes-no decisions and reading between the lines of their requests. Your review is coming up and so far “sometimes meets expectations” is your overall rating. You can’t quit. Just pay closer attention.