We adopted Patronus in August of 2011 (hey, I’m a Harry Potter nerd!). My boyfriend and I had just moved in together and we really wanted to solidify our commitment to each other and our living situation by getting a pet. We didn’t have a yard and I don’t do small dogs, so a cat it was.
Little did I know that I was making a decision that would send me down a path of blissful cat-induced crazy. I have seen my behavior around this little furry nugget change so drastically and so positively, that I hardly recognize myself anymore. I’ve also determined that our relationship with Patronus – oh, who am I kidding, his name is Kitty – is the most awesome cat-to-people relationship ever. There are a few techniques we’ve developed that I am confident others would find helpful in rearing and loving their cat, and I’ve decided to share them with you today.
1. Sing to your cat
I cannot stress this one enough. A common refrain Patronus might hear on any ol’ day could sound like this: “His name is Kitty/He’s not fat or skinny/But he’s oh so pretty/I like to sing him this ditty…” Usually my boyfriend will join in until we’ve completely exhausted the -itty rhymes.
I will also occasionally rap to him about his paws because he is a polydactyl, which means he has seven toes on each of his front paws. This is a short one: “Kitty, kitty, kitty, can’t you see?/Sometimes your paws just hypnotize me…”
This has increased the rapport in our home between cat and human astronomically. Human or cat, I think we all recognize having a song written in your honor and then sang to you is up there with achieving nirvana.
2. Speak their language
Our cat is extremely chatty. He’ll mew, howl, groan, peep, click, or make any other sound to express his wide range of emotions. Very often, we’ll respond back to Kitty in a replicated version of the noise he has made at us. His ears perk up, his eyes get wide, and he makes this face like, “Are you talking to me?” He’s instantly engaged.
Also, nothing pleases a cat more than when you engage them in conversation. I recommend talking about their favorite subjects. Kitty enjoys when I respond to a meow with something like, “You don’t say? I never would have imagined canned tuna could taste THAT good!” It makes him feel important. Cats like to feel important.
3. Recognize cat dominance
Early on, I had to realize we orbit around Kitty. If he wants to play, I better play with him or he’ll chew my iPhone charger cable. Better just to use the laser pointer for a while. If he wants to sit on your spot on the couch, just let him. The joy you will get from taking pictures (and posting them on Instagram) as he cutely slumbers on the couch will eclipse any resentment you feel about missing your spot on the sofa. When you go to bed, just let him sleep on your feet. You may be uncomfortable, but it will feel better than the feeling of kicking your cat off the bed. The guilt is terrible.
4. Play with your cat
If you pay attention closely, your cat will invent games to play with you. Patronus has been rather resourceful entertaining himself over the last year. His favorite solo games involve hiding things under the doormat and then stalking them until he digs them back out again, stealing straws out of cups and batting them around until they’ve been chewed to pieces, and also smacking a wadded up ball of paper around until it gets stuck under the couch.
Once your cat is bored with solo activities, he/she will draw you into a game. Pay close attention, because playing with a cat is one of the most enjoyable ventures of the day. Kitty commonly stalks us when we’re in the another room, sitting on the couch with just his ears and eyes peering over the arm. Once we emerge, he ducks, waiting for us to stalk him back.
Stalk your cat back. Figure out your cat’s games. I’ve giggled more hiding behind the door jam trying to trick my cat into stalking me than for any other reason in my life this last year.
5. Last one? Accept that your sofa will be ruined. Just get over it. You’ll be a lot happier.
Those are my five tips for proper co-habitation with your cat. There are other things like buying cat nip, being generous with treats, and using just the right amount of nails when scratching behind the ears, but I wanted to share the nitty-gritty details. Now, go play with your cat.
Jennifer Bingaman is a mental health therapist and freelance writer based in Seattle. She writes about all things mind-related on her blog, The Pursuit of Sassiness.