"One small cat changes coming home to an empty house to coming home"
For those of us who consider cats as our family members, it is almost inconceivable that some people dislike them or actually hate them. "Hate" is a strong word to use against any living creature, especially a sentient being, a category which embraces humans, cats, and many animals.
Certainly cats are self-aware and are able and willing to communicate both their likes and dislikes. They often communicate quite vocally, and sometimes even physically, with a swift swat with outstretched claws when too much petting overstimulates them. Animal communicators use those traits to communicate with animals telepathically, an astounding ability to those of us who watch or read about famous animal communicators such as Jackson Galaxy, star of the popular Animal Planet "My Cat From Hell" T.V. series.
Still, even though we may understand why some people may dislike some traits most cats share, for other traits there are logical reasons, reasons not always the fault of the cats.
"Do not meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer"
As a dedicated cat lover, I can understand why others may dislike cats' various use of subterfuge in order to gain those things they want, need, or think they need. I can even empathize, having just spent 10 minutes trying to nicely ask - "order" - beg - cajole a recalcitrant calico cat out of my desk chair so I can continue this article. I'm quite annoyed with her at the moment - she hasn't yet learned not to scratch the hand that feeds her. However, she has become the mistress of manipulation, and I fall for it every time. So it isn't hard to understand why someone with little experience or knowledge of cats might distrust their motives.
Given the chance, cats will poop in rich garden earth. And yes, sometimes that poop stinks to high heaven. It has always amazed me that with their superior sense of smell, cats could produce such odiferous poop. Actually, there are reasons for it - outside, cats will leave their poop uncovered as a territorial marking for other cats' information. They also will prolifically spray urine against doors to mark their territory, even though there may be other cats living inside. I've faced the latter problem before, and it causes two separate problems when those indoor cats either observe the cat outside through a window or smell the acrid odor of the urine spray:
- Redirected Aggression
When a house cat sees a stranger in his yard, out of frustration, he will attack the closest cat, one of his innocent housemates.
- Territorial Spraying
By the same token, if a strange cat has the audacity to spray the outside of a door, the cat who lives there will instinctively mark the inside of the same door.
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It is completely understandable why people with allergies to cats can't stand being anywhere near them. They may not "hate" cats, but they hate the way cats' dander triggers their allergy symptoms, from mild hayfever to full-blown asthmatic attacks. I can fully understand, and I empathize with those folks, as I have lived with asthma (and cats) for my entire adult life. I do so because I so choose, and for the past 15+ years because writing about cats is my livelihood. I would certainly never even remotely suggest that anyone else follow my example.
I do suggest that people with cats keep their allergic friends and visitors in mind when you open your homes to them. I did so when holding "open house" during the time my former home was on the market. I closed all the cats in one room and hung a sign on the door warning those with allergies that there were cats in that room. I also did my best to make my house as allergen-proof as possible and to keep it so at all times.
Cats Are Bird Killers
It is a given fact that cats, being obligate carnivores, are predators. Also widelly acknowledged is the fact that, whether indoor-only, free-roaming owned cats, or feral and stray, birds are one of cats' favorite prey, along with mice. The widespread popularity of the da Bird cat wand toy attests to that fact.
This Needn't be a Win-Lose SituationGroups like Alley Cats Allies and Alley Cat Rescue have established protocols for feral cat colonies for managed care. The cats are TNRd, and released back into their colonies. a vital part of the managed care is feeding the chats, which will go a long way in quenching their desire to kill wild birds for food. Alley Cat Rescue goes a step further by setting aside those kittens and less wild young adults for their adoption center. They find loving forever homes for about 250 cats and kittens a year.
Cat Owners Can Also Do Our PartI've seen my own cats catch and kill birds in past years, and it is not a pleasant sight. I love all the living creatures on this planet and believe they have a right to live. Songbirds and brightly colored birds bring both audible and visual joy to my life, and I'll go to any lengths to protect them from my cats.
Since my new home has space for a garden area, I am keeping that part of our yard as a cat-safe outdoor area for the cats, and will intentionally not plant vegetation attractive to birds. The driveway area and front of the house will be set aside as the "birds' area," and I have hanging bird feeders, and a large cement bird bath for the birds to drink from and bathe in. Eventually, I'll add bird houses and bird nesting material to round out the birds' pleasure, while at the same time providing more activities for the cats to watch. The cats really enjoy watching the birds through the window, even more than they enjoy the birds on Kitty T.V.
It may be that these particular people had a cat at one time, but gave it up because of scratching or biting behavior. Or perhaps they were attacked while visiting a friend or neighbor. Aggressive scratching and biting behavior is learned very early in a cat's life - probably during kittenhood.
The illustration here is a perfect example. The man in the photo, my (now deceased) husband, was inadvertantly "teaching" our young kitten Jaspurr that hands are playthings. Cats lying on their backs may appear to be vulnerable and trusting, but often that posture is an invitation to join in one the receiving end of some scratching and biting play.
It may be too late to teach our imaginary previous cat owner, but if we teach our cats that scratching and biting behavior is not allowed, it may just serve as an example to our visitors that cats can be taught not to scratch and bite.
"I got cat class and I got cat style"
It is difficult to make a blanket statement on this aspect of the feline personality. Certainly, I have known cats that were stand-offish, cats who intensely desired and needed cuddling and attention, and cats who alternated between these moods from time to time.
My readers seemed to be of a like mind when asked if cats are solitary animals. Two responses:
I grew up on a farm, with plenty of cats. I have seen cats hunt like a pride of lions for rabbit. I have seen cats sleep in a pile for warmth. I have seen mother cats share duties in raising litters. And I have loved and been loved by cats more than 50 years of my life. Cats are not solitary, only an unobservant person that allows others, like "experts", do the thinking for them would believe so (In my opinion). So cats are not (generally) subservient to humans, does that necessarily make them solitary? I think not. Individualists, maybe, but certainly not solitary!
-Guest Mother McCridhe
No, they're not.
Cats have lots of mirror neurons. The function of mirror neurons is to help the brain learn and navigate psychosocial environments. The percentage of brain area devoted to mirror neurons in cats is comparable to the percentage in humans. That's why cats are such useful test subjects in neuroscientific research. Their brains are very much like ours in composition and layout. Humans aren't solitary animals, and given that the feline brain is put together almost the same way, I would imagine it's more likely than not that cats aren't solitary animals either. You'll get your occasional loner or nutcase that breaks the rule, but nothing I've experienced with cats would lead me to believe that they're solitary animals, and the science appears to support that.
Ailurophobia is the irrational, intense fear of cats, a condition that is difficult for cat lovers to understand unless they have seen it. One of the most famous ailurophobes was Napoleon Bonaparte.
I first witnessed ailurophobia many years ago when I was working shift work as a police dispatcher. The shift I was on was 3:30 p.m. to midnight, then I had to "double back" and return to work at 7:30 the next morning. Because I had an hour commute time each way, a friend, also a fellow worker at the P.D., let me spend the night at her home, located in the city where we worked. I drove to her house after work, and went to sleep in the guest bedroom. Around three in the morning, I was awakened by loud thumping noises, a voice screaming, "Get out - get out!", and a cat yowling. In the living room I saw a large tomcat trapped in a corner of the room, and my friend on her knees, beating at him with a straw broom. It was apparent that the cat had come in through a partially open window on that warm summer night, perhaps enticed by the odor of the fried chicken dinner my friend had cooked that night.
Seeing how terrified my friend was, I gently took the broom from her and asked her to wait in her bedroom. I then quietly coaxed the poor terrified tom out of the corner and through the window.
According to Lisa Fritscher, About.com Guide to Phobias, "In order for a phobia to be diagnosed, it must significantly interfere with the sufferer's daily life. For example, a strong fear of snakes may not be a phobia in a city-dweller who has no reason to come in contact with a snake." Therefore, diagnosis and treatment would likely be on a case-by-case basis. With that set of criteria, my friend might live for many years without a similar event happening, and it is unlikely that particular cat would ever come through her window again.