It’s no secret that I’m one of those crazy cat ladies who posts multiple pictures of her cats on Facebook. My cats are my kids, and I am inordinately and probably very stupidly proud of them at times. I’ve got two beautiful middle-aged female kitties, and it’s also no secret that one of them is slightly aggressive towards strangers. I’ve had people reach out to pet my pretty cream-orange-black-and-white tortoiseshell tabby only to have me going “Nooooo . . . .” and the cat striking out to scratch them. Ugh. It’s happened more than once and once, it happened to a friend’s child. I felt horrible.
But I also wonder what it is about animals that makes we humans think that we can touch them, pet them, and basically do anything we want with them. We’re surprised when animals don’t act exactly in the way that they’re “supposed to”, and we really shouldn’t be. I love it when people come to visit me in my home, but I also expect them to respect the fact that my two cats are not only not used to children, they’re not used to strangers, either. So, I got to thinking, and here’s a list of things I wish that people knew when trying to interact with my cats:
- They’re shy. And by shy, I mean, they hate everyone except me. My tabby’s been known to try to scratch stranger’s ankles if the stranger attempts to interact with her, especially if she’s in her “safe place”, which is behind the chair in my bedroom. Very awkward for times that I have people staying at my house overnight. My Russian Blue is slightly nicer, but she’s skittish and she’ll hold her ground if someone pokes her too many times.
- Here’s how I try to help you: I’m going to warn you to please not touch my cats. It’s actually better if you just ignore them until they come to you (which they sometimes do, if they like you and you’re quiet). I’ll warn you the minute you step in the door and you see two tails flying towards my bedroom that my cats don’t like people. Please respect that, and please warn your children to respect it, too.
- They’ll eat things they’re not supposed to. This includes plastic, people food items, and hair elastics. My Russian Blue is especially bad for the last item.
- Here’s how I try to help you: I know that it’s funny to watch a cat bat around a hair elastic or string, but I’m the one that needs to pay the vet bills when you or your child shoves something at them that they might think is good to eat. I mean, I do my best, here, but cats can sometimes be extremely stupid animals. If you want to give them a treat or play with them, please ask me what’s appropriate for them to have.
- They hate kids. I mean, they see your children as huge, loud, running, screaming monsters that are going to hurt them at best and eat them at worst. They will hiss, spit, and otherwise try to warn your child that they’re not like their kittycats at home. At worst, they’ll bite or scratch your child if your child doesn’t know enough to heed their warning signs.
- Here’s how I try to help you: I’m going to warn you that my cats don’t like children. Please don’t take this personally. They’re not “bitches”, as one of my coworkers told me when I mentioned my cats are fairly staunchly childfree. They’re just not used to kids and as mentioned before, they don’t like strangers. And they’re animals that react instinctively to what they perceive is dangerous. Your child is not a horrible person because he or she wants to pet the kitty. But my cats aren’t horrible animals because they’re frightened of toddlers. Let’s just take the personal feelings out of it and keep your kids and my animals safe. I’ll shut my kitties in the bedroom and you keep your kid out of there.
- They do shed, poop, pee, and make messes. I’m sorry that you think the litterbox is gross, but that’s where they need to do their business. I’m going to move it into the bedroom for my cats when you’re over, because I understand that it can be gross to have a box of sand that a cat has peed in in front of your face in a small apartment. But I can’t help that there’s cat hair on my couch despite me vacuuming twenty times or that your allergies might act up.
- Here’s how I try to help you: If you or your child has pet allergies or sensitivities to animal hair, I’m going to suggest we don’t meet at my house. I cannot clean and sanitize enough that you’re not going to need allergy medicine when you come over. And this is my cats’ home – they deserve to remain comfortable in it without a huge uproar to clean and sanitize everything they own. Let me know about any medical conditions before you come over, because there’s not a lot that I can do when you’re already here.
I don’t want to come across as sanctimonious or not understanding of you or your children when you’re in my home. You’re my guests and I’m going to try to do my best to keep you comfortable. But my cats live here. They’re not “just animals”, they’re loved members of my family. When you work with me to understand that fact, I’m going to work with you to make sure that they don’t react in a less-than-savoury way to you or your child. Basically, if you respect their personal space, they’re going to respect yours.
And I understand if you don’t want to come over because you don’t like cats or you are afraid your child won’t be able to control his or her behaviour around them. We can meet in another place. Just please don’t treat my cats as disgusting individuals that are the only thing standing between a wonderful friendship and us. They’re in my life, they’re important to me, and they’re going to matter when it comes to getting together inside my home.
Help me to help you – and I’ll do my best to ensure that my tabby cat leaves your skin unscathed.