It is very easy to get a dog to love you.
It is woven deeply into their DNA that they need and want a leader. And humans provide that for them readily.
Humans feed them, water them, train them.
And with dogs, tragically, you could even treat them terribly, and they would still love you.
Such is their need for approval and to please their alpha leader.
But with cats it is an entirely different story.
Treat a cat terribly – or worse – punish a cat – and you will never hear the end of it.
Never be forgiven for it.
For it would never be forgotten.
To earn the love of a cat, one must develop and cultivate a trust from that cat.
And for a cat to learn to trust a human is the ultimate feat.
And the reward is well worth it.
Because not only will you have that cat’s undying devotion, but its attention, respect and good will.
All the things you want from a cat.
And all that cat will ask for in return is to have food, clean water, a clean litter box, and a safe place to sleep.
So little, really, for so much humans receive in return.
A cat may even deem you worthy of its trust so much so that it will fall asleep in your lap!
No small feat for a creature that by its very nature is so untrusting, that it is almost a prey animal, not the predator that it truly is.
To encourage the trust of a cat, one must actively seek it.
To merely expect it when one has not gone out of one’s way to attain it is an exercise in futility.
To simply feed and provide for a cat is not enough.
One must proactively let that cat know that you mean it no harm, that you want to spend time with it, and that you will not break its trust.
Of course, every cat has a different personality, and may react differently to every situation.
However, for the most part, if a cat feels it is safe, you have its heart.
There are some cat that are more like dogs, for lack of a better comparison, in that they are bold, people seeking and attention loving.
And there are some which, because of lack of socialization perhaps when kittens, will never be able to trust a human enough to give it their love.
Take Ivan for example.
The first born of Princess, Ivan was not off to a good start when Princess didn’t quite know what to do with him. I kept him warm in my hand, and she finally understood to clean him, and then tried to hide him. I carefully placed mother and new baby in a safe place, after which she diligently had four more kittens.
Perhaps he was oxygen deprived, having remained in his amniotic sac for a tad too long, or not socialized sufficiently, but Ivan remains a mystery.
A one cat person, he only allows me to pet him, only comes to me, and only plays with me.
Anyone else and he is outta there! Dashing to safety before anyone has a chance to even look at him.
Peanut is a bit more outgoing, but only in very specific places. Namely, the bedroom. On the bed, anyone can pet him and he will even roll over and allow you to scratch his belly.
Anywhere else, and he will let you come only so close, and then he too is outta there!
Chester is a very trusting and social cat perhaps largely because he was exposed to many people at just a few days old.
Although skittish, he will willingly be picked up and carried and will most definitely fall asleep in a nice warm lap!
Princess is the most outgoing of them all, and at the ripe ol’ age of 16, still more spry and more fleet of foot than any of the others.
She is petit, and although her frame is hefty as a result of her love of food, she can outrun me up the stairs on her tiny feet on any day.
Born in a hay loft at a horse barn, she was exposed to all sorts of people and horses and situations that have made her super brave.
I witnessed as she walked along a wooden fence in the pole barn, a horse named Buddy decided to pick her up with his teeth! She screamed and I shrieked and he dropped her. She has never forgotten that and neither have I.
She seemed to choose me as the one who would best suit her needs. She often tried to follow me home, once with the gift of a yellow feather in her mouth.
Always following me around when I did my chores, she was up for a rough and tumble with other people at the barn, her eyes widening to black caverns when she was feeling a little wild!
After a few months, it was going to be a very cold -27 degree night. I decided it was time to bring her home with me. She did not protest.
Keeping her at first in the ensuite bathroom to make sure she used the litter box, she was the perfect guest.
One night as she was sleeping on the bed I reached out to pet her in the middle of the night. I still bear the scar. She clearly thought she was still at the barn where any measure of creatures would consider her dinner! She has not done any such thing since.
Over the years she has evolved into my talisman, my muse, and my protector, guardian angel even, if you will.
If I am happy, or sad, or angry, she knows it. I think she can even see my aura, as silly as that sounds. And she is right there, always, to make sure I am alright.
She is constantly bringing small toys as gifts to all the humans in our house, a token of her hunting skills and our decrepit ability to fend for ourselves, methinks.
She talks whenever she is spoken to, using her “words”, and expressing her deepest emotions and feelings.
In summary, the love of a good cat is the most rewarding thing there is, in my view.
To gain the trust of a creature that is so unwilling to trust is not only a reward, but a great gift.
It is well worth the patience that is required to gain such trust, and patience is the key.
You can’t rush trust.
You have to earn it. Slowly. Bit by bit. One day at a time.
And then, when you have it, it is worth more than gold.