I’m one of the lucky people. I got to grow up in the country on a property surrounded by animals of all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours. My Dad was one of those typical country blokes. He was tall, always wore a hat, and drove a Ford ute.
He also had those gnarly thick fingers that come with working in a physical job, which for our family was running cattle and sheep. To me Dad always had an affinity with animals be it with his sheep dogs, holding tiny new born lambs or scratching the head of 900kg bull. And so it was that Dad was at Cat Habitat HQ the first Christmas after we had adopted Soph. As soon as Dad sat down, Soph was in like Flynn, up and onto his lap making herself completely at home. I still laugh to myself when I recall watching Dad and his giant hands patting Soph. She looked so small by comparison and appeared to be being turned into the shape of a pizza base under the weight of every pat – but purring her head off the whole time!
I always think of this when people come over to visit. Have you noticed that your cat will run in the opposite direction away from those who want only to smother them with cuddles and love? Conversely they will make a bee-line to sit on the person who feels the experience is the equivalent of hearing fingernails being dragged down a blackboard? If you think that your cat’s got their wires crossed, then I’m afraid you’re the one who’s wrong.
Just as humans make assessments about people they meet in a matter of seconds, your cat does the same thing to determine if someone is a threat to them. Your cat will interpret as dominating behaviour anybody who comes up close, makes direct eye contact and speaks in a loud, high tone. But those who avoid eye contact, or ignore your feline entirely, will be thought of as non-threatening and ripe pickings for making new friends with! A la, Soph and my Dad!
I can’t vouch for the reliability of this part but it’s also said that when you, with an established relationship with your cat, make direct eye contact and then blink slowly, they apparently interpret this as a friendly behaviour. If they blink back at you this is allegedly returning the compliment. Nope, I don’t know how someone has determined this “fact”. Still, it’s nice to think that that’s the case.
Neither Soph nor I have Dad anymore, and I think we both miss our respective pats on the head.