Be Grateful, Not Angry, at Some Off-Putting Cat Behavior
Much of it is meant with love
Cats have a few ways of expressing their love that are hard for us to bear from our human perspective. Encouraging these behaviors is next to impossible, since they’re relatively unpleasant to us. But discouraging them can confuse and affect their trust and bond with their human buddies. I’m not sure I’ve come up with any solutions (I don’t think we’ll ever get in their minds to know), but I’ve come up with what level I can tolerate and my cats seem to have accepted the way in which I deal with them.
When one of my cats turns away from me and asks to be pet with their rear in my view rather than their face, I’m disappointed. But this is actually the highest level of trust they can show. Cats allow each other this same view (you’ve seen all the sniffing they do) only when they have established a level of confidence in one another. It’s unfortunate: they may think of it as a generous gesture, but it has the opposite effect on us. Right when my cats do this, I give them a few pets to show how much I appreciate them back. Then I try to make my way to their side (or adjust them so they’re facing more left or right) and I figure we’ve made a compromise. This doesn’t always do the trick as they’ll often keep coming back to rear end towards me! But I’ll give them more pets and eventually slow the pace if they keep at it and don’t like the middle ground. I just do it all with a lot of love and high hopes that repetition will reinforce new behavior, as it so often does in life.
The other gift given to me frequently by my outdoor kitty is a small, freshly caught animal. I’m so against this, but I know this is their nature and that he is bringing it as a gift to me. This is another case where scolding does more harm than good. It truly is meant as a gift and to berate for behavior your cat thinks is good is very tough to understand. My tactic is to pet him right away and distract him (and often petting makes him drop what’s in his mouth). I talk lovingly and even thank him, but I also then pick him up and take him to a place he can’t get back to his catch and I give him cat treats with love and pets. Often if I do all this quickly enough, the prey has had a chance to get away if he is unharmed! I figure if I keep trying this consistently and quickly, maybe my cat will try more and more to keep the critter alive. Maybe he even thinks I play with the catch and finish him off. Whatever he thinks, I’m at least not being ungrateful for his gift to me.
It’s truly an amazing thing to have earned the love and trust of a cat! It is a challenge to show appreciation for some of their gestures expressing that love and trust. But it is important not to break that trust and to show them a level of gratitude back, along with trying to shape the behavior as best we can.