A Confession

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I have a confession to make. I’ve never really been a cat person. Don’t get me wrong–there’s not an animal on the planet that I couldn’t find something about to enjoy–but, on my own, I would not choose to have a cat.

So, of course, Finnegan wants to be wherever I am, and preferably on me or my possessions — my laptop being one of his favorite spots. It’s not that I don’t love Finnegan, our Maine Coon mix — I do. He’s a really cool cat. But I find that I don’t have the natural patience for him that I do for my dogs. I’ve thought about this a lot and I believe I’ve figured out why.

I understand dogs. By that I mean I understand dog behavior deep down in my bones. I know why they do what they do. And I know how to train away from some of the more annoying dog-like behaviors, like jumping, to more acceptable human behaviors, like not jumping and just wagging madly. This is stuff that comes naturally to me. And on top of finding my dogs easy to understand, I find them endlessly amusing. They make me laugh out loud several times a day.

I’m not finding Finn endlessly amusing. I’m not finding him clawing my furniture to shreds amusing (even though he has lots of scratching posts he never uses). I’m not finding him feeling free to walk on the counters amusing (even though I’ve set up high places for him to prowl). I’m not finding him climbing up the screens in my bedroom at two in the morning amusing (even though he has a tall cat condo to climb).

Is Finn the problem? I don’t believe so. The problem, as I’ve realized it, is that even though I intellectually understand Finn’s behavior as natural cat behavior and have provided the environment he needs, I haven’t bothered to learn how to redirect that behavior to something I find acceptable when he doesn’t automatically redirect himself. I haven’t taken the time to think creatively. I haven’t taken the time to delve into the cat’s mind the way I have with dogs. Mea culpa.

So my birthday present to Finn, who is one year old today, is that I will educate myself more fully on the needs of cats. I will find a way to embrace Finn as deeply as I have my dogs. I will find a way to get him to stop shredding my furniture so that I don’t constantly feel mildly annoyed at him (declawing is not an option). I will find books and friends who know more than I, and learn from them. I will figure out a way to turn myself into a cat lover. Finn deserves that.

No time like the present to get started! Any cat lovers out there feel free to give some pointers. I’m all ears.

18 thoughts on “A Confession”

  1. I am a cat person. I have five, only one of which I actually went out and got myself. The others came the usual way cats come, as strays, from a friend who “found” a kitten and now doesn’t want it anymore and two from my daughter when she came home from college. At number two, there was a serious discussion as to whether she (my daughter) would be allowd to come home ever again. Each cat came with enough emotional baggage to fill a freight car. They all have distinct personalities, have their likes and dislikes, but most of all, are true companions to me. They require very litte beyond food, water and a pat. Yes, they have annoying habits and I am thinking about going into the business of sewing “scarves” that fit over the arms of sofa’s, thereby concealing the cat scratches…my friends admire my “originality and creativity” in decorating, So, unwittingly, my cats may have created a new source of income for me. Aren’t they thoughtful? For all their shortcomings, I love them. All of them, Flaca, Jackson, Abbie, Missy and Peluche (also a part maine coon). The best way to look at cats is that they always, and this is an undisputed statement, pick the humans they want to live with….always. Feel honored and it will take away some of the sting. I also have a rescued American Brittany who has a hundred more problems than any of my cats!

    Yes, I believe all our animals choose us — some more loosely wrapped and some more tightly wrapped presents. :) 

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  2. I’ve recently become the “proud mom” of a kitten, the first pet I’ve ever had. Reading your comments, I realize how lucky I am that she adores the scratching posts. It is true that I don’t have flowers anymore (because she loved them to death), and she gives her best vocal concertos at 6 o’clock in the morning :) .
    Yet, I find life with pets very amusing and rewarding.

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  3. I’ve been a Cat person for the past 20 years. I recently lost my 19 year old long-haired black cat to old age. He was actually more like a dog though. He would be affectionate just about whenever I wanted. He came when called, sat up for treats… Hmm, maybe I wasn’t really a cat person, and maybe that’s why I have a dog now? ;o)

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  4. Finn could be Malcolm’s twin. I wonder if this a Maine Coon thing because Malcolm crashes on my craft desk on papers, supplies, stickers ect. He has to be in on the action. He follows me upstairs to my craft room every time I go there! My action. I wasn’t a cat lover until Malcolm was thrust upon me ayear ago by my eldest daughter as a stray kitten. Now I wonder what I’d do with out him. These are really cool cats. But he does annoy, and my Italian leather chair will never be the same. I feel your pain. :)

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  5. Thanks everyone for the tips. Maya’s Granny, thanks for the quick course in cat psychology. I’ve got both those books on order at the library.

    I’ve also just ordered some of the Feliway spray.

    My furniture thanks you all!

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  6. I am not a cat person, but I just spent a weekend with a cat lover and she has double-sided sticky tape on the parts of the couch her cats like to scratch most. According to her, it helps. Cats… blah.

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  7. I’m a cat person. The thing with cats is that they are not, by nature, pack animals. Since dogs are, they readily accept people as alpha dog and have a file in their brains for “the rules”. Since cats aren’t, they bond to people by retaining certain kitten psychology and have no idea that there are rules. Kittens know that if Mama cat doesn’t like it, she only doesn’t like it when she is around. She doesn’t care what you do if it doesn’t annoy her. So, it really is hard to train them to not do things when you aren’t there. For which reason, it works better to make the activity unpleasant for them. This works best if you do it from the first, although I have never managed to do that.
    Surfaces you don’t want them on — put two sided tape all over the surface and when they jump up they will have sticky feet and they hate that. Things you don’t want them to claw, teetotaled has covered. Things you don’t want them to get into, you have to figure out how to keep cat proof. I have a small kitchen and only a few of my cupboards have doors, and as a result there are things my cats would get into any chance they had that I routinely keep in the oven or the microwave (Raisin Bran). I get mine out of the kitchen so I can cook by throwing a few corn chips on the porch and then closing them out there.

    Desmond Morris has written two wonderful books on cats, “Catwatching” and “Cat Lore”.

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  8. Well Happy B-day to Finn. I’m with you – not really a cat person even though I enjoy all animals. Finn is a super cutie though! It’s hard to tell but I think we have the same laptop.

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  9. My daughter wants a dog but would be happy to have any animal, even a cat, if I’d let her. They make me sneeze so we stick with a parakeet. Not quite what she’d like but there it is, life is unfair sometimes :)

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  10. Martina, Pesto sounds like a very lucky kitty! So far Finn has not discovered electrical cords.
    Thanks for the tips, Teetotaled. I’ve tried sticky tape but Finn just pulls them off. I’ll give the tin foil a try.

    Another friend also suggested clipping his front nails.

    Wondering if anyone has tried the Soft Paws? They’re vinyl nail caps that you glue on to the nails.

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  11. Pesto is now 10, she still chews electrical cords and especially loves the answering machine adapter cord…she chews metal doorstops to get attention..she bites when she is happy and getting attention… She will sit with me for hours while I garden, when I am stressed she knows it and will not leave me alone, she has learned how to get dog treats out of the jar and teases the standard poodles. You can’t figure out how a cat will act like you can a dog. A friend refers to a cat having a “nut brain”. Such a challenge, but so much love. I’m also more of a dog person but don’t tell Pesto.

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  12. As an owner of four dogs and a reluctant owner of a cat (whom I do love dearly) I think cats simply enjoy being a source of annoyance.

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  13. As someone who grew up with dogs, getting my first cat was a huge step. Cats do not give the unconditional love that dogs do, rather they choose very carefully who and when to express their affection to. Making it all the more sweeter if they choose you! My cat has her claws and sometimes uses them simpply to irk us. You can try using either tin foil or saran wrap over pieces of your furniture the cat likes to scratch. Once they get the message you can usually remove it and they will leave it alone. Also a spray bottle can be useful if your cat simply will not stop scratching. One squirt and they are outta there! In general I find lots of repetition combined with praise helps.

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