Are you not a "cat person," but your boyfriend or girlfriend is? Not to worry. With a little time and patience, you and the kitty can become close friends -- which will bring you and your partner even closer.
"Listen, I get that you're a cat…I'm actually OK with all of that…I like not having to take you on 5 a.m. walks or pry a slobbery, grass-caked tennis ball out of your mouth…you're above all that…but still, gimme a break…"
What's got this poster (let's call him "Joe")-whose "Open Letter to My Girlfriend's Cat" made it to the Best of Craigslist-so riled up? You don't have to get too far into his singled-spaced two-page diatribe to realize that he's not exactly a cat person.
His issues? The way the animal sleeps, gargles, claws at closed doors, and spits out chewed food, not to mention the odoriferous nature of its dirty litter box. He writes, "If I could bottle that scent, it could easily be used as biological warfare…"
Harsh words for a creature that is, most likely, most precious to its owner-probably a woman, according to the results of a Jdate.com survey. They show that 41 percent of women rank cats as their favorite animals-over dogs, birds, horses, hamsters, and, not surprisingly, reptiles.
So what does that mean for the men who date them? "There's no greater or more creative way to show a woman that you love her than to make friends with her cat," said Susan Krebsbach, DVM, a veterinary animal behavior consultant in Oregon, Wis.
Identify the source of the problem
To start, Krebsbach recommends first turning inward to try to identify why you're not into them. Is it because you've had a bad experience with cats in the past, have never been exposed to them, or like kitties but are allergic?
"It's seeing if there's some sort of a pathology happening," Krebsbach said, adding that once you know the answer, you can begin to address the problem.
Most, she said, are easy to solve. A prior bad experience with cats, for example, is rectified by creating new and positive associations to replace it. And cat allergies can be treated by keeping the space you share clean, bathing the cat in shampoos that eliminate allergens, and taking medications as appropriate.
Sometimes the cat's not the problem
The only time the problem is truly difficult is when the issue isn't really about the cat but the relationship itself, Krebsbach said.
Take, for example, the case of "Non-Cat Lover" who wrote to Slate.com's "Dear Prudence" column for advice about his girlfriend of two years-a widow who got her cat Pumpkin with her husband while he was still alive. Now, she's refusing to commit to marriage with Non-Cat until Pumpkin passes.
Prudence's advice? To force the issue or move on. "Either she is truly stuck and needs some counseling or doesn't really want to marry you…"
It's OK to play games
Once you've identified what you need to do to improve the relationship with your partner's cat, it's time to take action. If you're staying in the relationship, there are lots of ways to, uh, skin a cat.
For example, experts suggest:
- Engaging the cat with games, such as tickling it with a feather wand or tossing a small ball for it to chase.
- Watching for good signs. "If a cat rubs its face on you, it's very comfortable," Krebsbach said, adding how its facial pheromones contribute to that good feeling.
- Brushing the cat's hair, an activity that both reduces shedding and inspires bonding.
- Not always taking the cat's behavior personally. If it hisses, for example, it may be less about who you are and more about your approach, Krebsbach said. She recommends moving slowly and gently-petting the cat under the chin versus on top of the head to appear less intimidating.
Finally, she and others agree the best thing to do is to show the cat-and your girlfriend-that even though you weren't a cat person when you met, you're inching ever closer to being one now.
Besides, you may just surprise yourself. Even "Joe" writes: "I don't hate you buddy. You're cute and occasionally heartwarming. But don't drink disgusting flowerpot water. Or the other things I've mentioned here. Seriously."
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