How To Become a Cat Person
It’s not easy but it’s possible. I’m proof. Prepare for pain.
Are you a dog person? Do cats freak you out? Do you see the tiny face and giant eyes of a feline and feel a shudder run through you, as though you’ve gazed directly into the soul of the devil himself?
I used to be like you. A bite from a cat — a cat that had been purring beneath the gentle touch of my fingertips only seconds before it turned on me — put me securely in the ‘I Love Dogs’ camp when I was just eight years old. But now, twenty years on, I can say with hand on heart that I am both a dog and a cat person. Here’s how I did it.
Step 1: Accidentally date someone who has a cat
I met my boyfriend — now husband — through a dating website. We talked for weeks, maybe months, before we met. Somehow, the fact he had a cat never came up during all those days of non-stop texting. He didn’t mention his baggage.
So you can imagine my surprise when he invited me to his place for the first time and I spied the tell-tale presence of a cat — fur clumped to the carpet, a bag of cat litter stashed in a corner, the sense of evil hanging in the air.
“You didn’t say you had a cat,” I said, wondering if I should turn around, run back to my car and speed into the distance before I came anything close to falling in love with a man who owns a cat.
“Oh, didn’t I mention it?” he said, like it was no big deal. “Her name’s Simba. She’s probably hiding.”
I perched on the edge of the sofa, coffee in hand, waiting for a vicious miniature lion to pounce on me and rip out my throat. What actually happened was worse. She came slinking into the room — cool, calm, calculated — and proceeded to stare at me like I was a turd in her litterbox. Was she weighing me up? Figuring out how to befriend me? Strategizing on the slowest, most painful way to kill me?
I didn’t have the answers. What I did know was that if I was to have a relationship with this guy, I was going to have a relationship with his cat, too. I was going to have to force myself to become a cat person. And so it began.
Step 2: Deny your allergy
I’m allergic to dogs and cats. I spent years of my childhood experimenting with an array of nasal sprays and antihistamines until I could hang out with my beloved family dogs without sneezing my brains out all over them. I thought I had my allergy under control by the time Simba came into my life. I was wrong.
My reaction to Simba’s fur was like nothing I’d ever experienced before — far worse than with the trusty hounds of my childhood. My eyes swelled, my throat tickled, my skin itched, my chest wheezed, and I sneezed with the force of a thousand hurricanes.
“Don’t do it,” my body was warning me. “Don’t let the demon get close to you.”
But I didn’t listen. I continued to share space with Simba. I breathed the dander-filled air. I even tried my hand at stroking her whenever she deigned to come within reaching distance. Every “achoo” sent the cat skittering out of the room, leaving a burst of airborne hair behind her that would float towards me and cling to my skin. I was trapped in a vicious cycle of poisoning by cat.
How did I cope? I sucked it up. I popped antihistamines like M&Ms. I tolerated the itchiness and the wheeziness and the sneeziness in desperate hope that my body would adjust. And you know what? It did. Eventually my reaction just… disappeared.
I had successfully denied my allergy. I felt like I had been blessed by Bastet herself. Sneeze-free cat cuddles could commence. I was one step closer to becoming Simba’s new mother.
Step 3: Become a human punchbag and resign yourself to living in perpetual fear
Cats are unpredictable. That’s the key to their power. They can sit on your chest one moment, gently kneading at your woolly jumper with their precious little kitty toes, and half a second later they might slap you across the face claws first, sink their teeth into your arm until you squeal, and then sprint out of the room using the power of your life’s blood to propel them up the stairs at the speed of light.
Why do they do this? Well, to put it simply, they’re dicks. But there’s fear at play, too. We’re bigger than them, after all. Sure, we don’t have tiny razors attached to our fingertips and miniature knives in our mouths, but we are a fair few feet taller. How is a cat supposed to know that some gentle tickling of their chin won’t lead to an attempt on their life?
In order to gain the trust of a cat, you cannot retaliate. You have to forgive them for their violent outbursts, let them know that you don’t hold a grudge about the scarlet scars that plague your face or the yellowing, swollen bite marks on your wrist.
Make it clear that you’ll continue to scratch them behind the ear even if it does leave you sweating with fear, because one day they will love you. You will make them love you. Because by this point you’ve already fallen in love with their sweet meows and their freaky alien faces and you are determined for that love to be reciprocated.
Step 4: Learn where not to touch
When being assaulted at random by your feline companion is as ordinary to you as breathing, you can begin the process of figuring out which parts of your cat are out of bounds.
When I first met Simba, my husband warned me to touch NOWHERE but the top of her head. It was sound advice in the beginning; Simba truly didn’t care for the full-body fondles of a stranger (and who does?). But as I began to gain her trust, she let me branch out. Chin tickles. Strokes along her back. Gentle scritches up and down her pretty little nose, which I’ve since learned is a guaranteed route to squinty eyes and machine-gun purrs.
Through trial and error I figured out that her flank is absolutely, 100% off-limits. Her chest is questionable. Her tummy — as enticing as it is looking like a plush, tiger-striped carpet — is risky. If she’s cradled like a baby in your arms and completely relaxed, she might just let you have at it. But if you catch her sprawled on her back in the garden, tail flicking, belly bared to the world, don’t bother trying to touch the tum — she’ll have your arm off for interfering with her daily sun worship.
If you can get to know a cat’s no-no zones, you’re well on your way to being a cat person. You can look forward to curling up on the sofa for hours on end with a happy, squidgy kitty on your lap. And it will be hours, because once that cat settles down you will not, under any circumstances, be able to get up again until the feline allows it. Which takes us to the last, most important step.
Step 5: Accept Cat as your new lord and saviour
You know you’re a cat person when you accept the truth about life — cats rule us.
When they scream at us repeatedly in their loudest voice, we feed them. When they climb on our faces in the middle of the night, we surrender our pillows to them. When they walk back and forth across our desks while we’re typing, we stop work and pet them. When they stretch a paw out towards our faces, their claws threateningly close to our eyeballs, we pick them up and hold them tight until our arms grow numb and our elbows lock.
And we do all this because we appreciate the fact that cats grace us with their presence. Where dogs need us, cats choose to be with us. Where dogs wag their tails at everyone they meet, cats greet only the humans they deem worthy enough to expel energy upon. Where dogs cling to us like limpets, cats perch upon us like we’re mere furniture. Cats play the ultimate game of hard to get. We want their attention because we can’t have it, and we’ll go to any lengths to receive even a glimmer of their affections.
When you’ve reached the point that you will do anything — anything — for the approval of a feline, you know for sure that you are a cat person.
Congratulations on your new status. Welcome to Hell.
Thanks for reading! Fancy another?