Some people, regardless of how they feel about cats, are cat magnets. Most likely you’ve witnessed the phenomenon at get-togethers. The resident cat zeros in on one guest while ignoring everyone else. Often those who have been favored don’t appreciate the privilege — they might be indifferent or allergic to cats or they might not be overly fond of them.
It’s ironic. Some cats are instantly attracted to people who seem nonchalant about them. At the same time, they leave their adoring fans in the dust. Although jilted cat lovers go to great lengths to solicit cats’ affections, the felines focus on the people who appear to care less. Many cat magnets don’t try to be cat magnets — cats just gravitate to them.
The wrong approach
It’s not personal. Cats have good reasons for choosing to fraternize with people who seem indifferent while giving the cold shoulder to those who actively crave their company. Once you understand the dynamics of the phenomenon, the chances for becoming a cat magnet, if you’re not one already, are greatly increased.
It boils down to the approach. Often admirers, eager for a cat fix, attempt to connect in ways that stress the kitties and cause them to feel insecure. After all, humans are so much larger than little felines. We tower over them.
Many cats feel threatened when approached by strangers who hover over them. Kitties are so small and vulnerable in comparison to people. It’s easy to understand their reactions, especially when people, attempting to connect, extend their hands above the feline’s heads. Understandably, sensitive kitties retreat from their admirers when they aren’t sure if the gestures are threatening or friendly.
Compared to the quiet grace of felines, humans are loud, heavy walkers with large feet. Some walk louder than others. No matter how much they adore cats, some heavy-footed people frighten sensitive felines when they approach.
Some cat lovers in their exuberance will inadvertently box cats into areas from which they can’t escape or retreat. As a general rule, cats don’t like to feel cornered, especially by someone they don’t know. Most will do whatever is necessary to avoid the situation.
Many cats become stressed when people they don’t know insist on cuddling, holding and petting them. They have no choice and when forced to comply will object, extricating themselves and retreating out of reach.
The right approach
It’s all about choice. Check out the cat magnets’ style. They usually appear to be either ignoring cats or giving them the choice to socialize. They don’t go out of their way to actively engage the cats, and they don’t approach or insist. You find them nonchalantly sitting on sofas or crouching on the floor.
In addition to taking a nonchalant, non-active approach, you can encourage kitties to socialize with you by setting up non-threatening situations where they are free to ignore or to engage with you. It’s their choice. The invitation to fraternize is universally understood by all cats — doesn’t matter whether they are in Italy, Japan, the United States or any other area in the world.
Start by sitting a distance from the cat. Depending on the circumstances, you might find sitting a few feet away or across the room is ideal. Wherever you sit, make sure the cat has the choice of advancing or retreating. She should never feel cornered or trapped.
Now encourage the kitty to come to you by extending your index finger in her direction at about her nose level. Your extended finger is an invitation to connect. The cat has a choice of accepting or ignoring your overture. When she’s ready to say hello, she’ll approach your extended finger and touch it with her nose. If she wants to continue hobnobbing, she’ll move her head until your finger is on her cheek. This might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!
There’s no mystery behind why cats are attracted to some people and ignore others. Because feeling secure and safe is a priority for cats, they will gravitate toward people who seem non-threatening, disinterested, and aren’t actively trying to engage with them. Sometimes a minimum of effort yields the best results.
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Do you have a cat behavior question for Marilyn? Ask our behaviorist in the comments below and you might be featured in an upcoming column. If you suspect a behavioral problem, always rule out any possible medical issues that might be causing the behavior by first having your cat examined by a veterinarian.
Marilyn, a certified cat behavior consultant, owner of The Cat Coach, LLC, solves cat behavior problems nationally and internationally through on site and Skype consultations. She uses positive reinforcement, including environmental changes, clicker training and other behavior modification techniques.
She is also an award winning author. Her book Naughty No More! focuses on solving cat behavior problems through clicker training and other positive reinforcement methods. Marilyn is big on education — she feels it is important for cat parents to know the reasons behind their cat’s behaviors.
She is a frequent guest on television and radio, answering cat behavior questions and helping people understand their catss
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