Friday, January 7, 2011

Let's be clear: Cats both need and love their people

Cats like Eamon can't do without their people
The scene at my desk as I type.

I am always amazed when people tell me that cats are independent and don't need any human contact. I've seen many websites claiming that cats are, by very definition, stand-offish and selfish, preferring to be alone rather than with people.

This has not been my experience.

My cats were thrilled when I began writing from home, as they thought it meant that I could spend all day petting them. While I do lavish attention on them during breaks, the majority of time that I am home, I am staring at the computer and working. This doesn't please them.

Eamon, in particular, becomes upset if I do not spend enough time petting him, and will rest his chin on my right hand (my dominant hand, by the way) and exert just enough pressure that it makes typing difficult.

While it can be difficult to live with demanding cats, I wouldn't trade them. But it does make me a little sad.

My outdoor feral cat, Franklin, will likely never achieve this kind of openness and we will likely never have a lengthy cuddle session with him.  I'm not certain if that is his choice, as much as it was a choice made for him by his previous owners. When they dumped him in downtown Portland all those years ago, they likely told themselves that he was independent, selfish and able to care for himself without human contact. And, sadly, they made that myth a reality.

So the next time someone tells you that cats are independent creatures that don't need people, do try to stop them and correct them. It's that myth that allows cats to get dumped, and which allows some cats to turn feral. The more we cat people can speak out about the emotional needs of our animals, the better off we all will be.