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Cat Kisses = Human Smile

One of the challenges of inter-culture communication is how a well-meaning outreach can look… wrong.

And send the wrong message.

All I did was smile at the new puppy, like this, real friendly, and he hid behind the couch.

With cats, people make wrong moves all the time; reaching for a shy cat and making them think they are being grabbed at, thinking a negative reaction to something the cat does will teach them not to do that thing, or not realizing a cat doesn’t know what our human smile means.

That is why the first thing any cat-curious person should learn is Cat Kisses: the long, slow, blink of cat friendship.

I use this tool all the time.

delightful greeting

I was away from home overnight on a business trip, and this always upsets Tristan, who takes it the hardest. When I got home that evening, Tristan was on the bed with Mr WayofCats, Mithy, and Olwyn; and they all looked up as I came in.

Tristan beamed happiness and sent me a cat kiss, which I returned. This was like the big grin I was getting from Mr WayofCats; only, a cat version. It gave me a happy thrill to know how glad we both were to be together again.

It’s a great way to say, in Cat, “I’m so pleased to catch sight of you.”

instant reassurance

I’ve been using it for a specific purpose with Reverend Jim lately, since his illness issue. When he’s crouched on the vet’s exam table, apprehensive and trembling, I can send him a cat kiss even if I am not able to pet him at the moment.

The other morning he showed some extra appetite, and asked for another serving. As I opened his favorite flavor, he stared at me; Was I going to give him that medicine? A quick cat kiss reassured him, and he was able to enjoy his snack.

When we have disturbing noises outside, or other puzzling disruptions, some cat kisses will help a cat who wants to know if this is something they should panic over, or not. Any kind of soothing feedback is welcome to a cat who doesn’t know what to make of snow sliding off a roof, fireworks, or snowplows going by; to mention a few of the things I have to teach my cats to ignore.

signal received

Olwyn and I have long had communication problems. She is so close to Mr WayofCats, and relied so much on James Bond’s translation skills, that when she comes to me and stares into my eyes; all I know is she wants something.

I’ve been using Show Me with her, and then Hot and Cold. She thinks I’m a bit dim. I think she’s a bit demanding. But we make it work.

She appreciates it. At first, she would come back from whatever I had done for her, perch on the bookcase, catch my eye, and give me a cat kiss. Now, she climbs up beside me for a cuddle.

Olwyn’s intense focus, since babyhood, on her best human & cat friend took a tumble when James Bond passed away. Her deep need for dignity keeps her from being overt about her needs. She and her favorite human have an intricate routine I still don’t completely understand. So in times of need, I duplicate it imperfectly.

Getting a cat kiss from her is a great sign she is happy with my work.

gauging intentions

I have often seen a cat, baffled and unsure, send a quick cat kiss to someone, or something, which has startled them or is leaving them uncertain. Much like we smile tentatively at someone who just said something outrageous, trying to gauge if they are joking or deranged.

In online videos, I see cats confused and blinking at printers, telephones, and other objects they do not understand. They are trying to connect in the only way they know, telegraphing their benign intentions since they are not sure if this object is animate, or not.

If we see our cat doing this, we should attempt to shape the response by helping them out with verbal soothing, and cat kisses of our own. If this is indeed something they should stay away from, act worried and apprehensive ourself, and “ward off” the cat, speaking in worried tones.

If it is just something which can be safely ignored, model this reaction for our cat. Then they can stop worrying.

overture of friendship

I did this a lot when semi-feral Mithrandir arrived in our home. Any time he looked at me, I would “cat smile” back at him. He would give me a quick blink back, then look away while he processed this new information.

Over a couple of days, these reassurances had him climbing into my lap for a cuddle. That is the power of “cat smiling.”

Any time we have a new cat, a shy cat, a cat in need of distressing and rehabilitation, we can let them know we are friends without physically approaching them or triggering their fear. We use their own language.

The language of love.

    Speak the cat’s language of love. Explore all my cat affection moves.

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    There’s more ways to get our cat to be affectionate in The Way of Cats than the article you are reading now. See all of my CAT AFFECTION posts.

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