When I was a toddler, we had an outdoor cat named Meesh who had a litter of kittens. After the kittens had found homes, Meesh disappeared. I then spent the next eight years begging my mother to get me another cat. On the Valentine’s Day after my 14th birthday, my mom took me to the North Shore Animal League. We came home with a four-month old black girl kitten. I named her Valentina, but her name quickly became Meesh. Although I did not take her with me when I went to college, I went back to an animal shelter just two months after I moved into my first solo apartment. I have been encatted ever since. That was 23 years ago.
About four years, I began volunteering with a friend at the MSPCA Angell Animal Adoption Center. For two years, we pet kitties of all shapes, sizes, and ages, fed them, cleaned their litter boxes, and gave them medication. We received training in cat behavior and worked closely with the animal technicians in order to learn as much as we could about cats in order to make their transition from intake to adoptee as easy as possible. The only way that happens is if you are paying attention to cats, their body language, personalities, and preferences.
The number one misconception about cats, as a whole, is that cats are aloof, antisocial creatures. Nothing could be further from the truth! If you were with me when I was volunteering, you would have seen cats meowing for attention who would then rub your hand furiously to get some pets in, rub against the cage to get to you, roll around, and generally put on a show. Yes, they wanted out of the cage, but they were also dying for attention and affection (and, yes, food, too).
Kittens and cats are social creatures, especially when raised by loving caretakers and appropriately handled. Remember that , just like human beings, any particular cat may be more or less independent than another. For example, kittens who are taken from their mothers too young can actually be needier than normal cats.
I suspect that this is the case wtih my cat Norman. He loves to bit a blanket, lay down, and then knead, like a kitten trying to knead the momma cat’s belly to start the flow of milk. Norman follows me around the house like a dog and sits in front of my computer screen when I don’t pay him the attention he wants. If he’s not with me, then he visits with my mother who lives downstairs from me. When either of us goes out for the day, he acts as if he hasn’t seen a human being for a week.
My husband and I recently went on a short trip to visit his family. While Norman spent all his time with my mother, Gwenny hid under the bed. Unlike Norman, she did not get affection for three and a half days. When we got home Sunday evening, Gwenny kept coming over to me to get pet for the rest of the night. Today, she came over to me for pets a lot more than normal. She let me pet her a lot, rolling over and putting her paws into the air so that I could scratch her belly. She loves affection, but especially those belly rubs! Since she was two months old, I have been petting her belly and she loves it. I do not suggest you try and belly rub a cat you do not know or else you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.
Over the years, I have noticed that, the more I give affection, attention, and play to my cats, the more social, friendly, and sweet they become. Is every cat like that? No, and I do not recommend that you assume anything when you meet a cat. However, if you don’t like cats because you think they are antisocial as a rule, then I would like to suggest that maybe it’s because you haven’t met the right cat.