In my post, Willing to Be Manipulated, I explain how some studies examined how people react to cats making verbal requests. It was theorized that people respond to cats because they like the sounds the cats make.
Well, yes, but there’s more going on than that.
Law of Reciprocity
I have appropriated this psychological concept for my Way of Cats system because it works. We make friends and do each other favors.
That’s my kind of enjoyable relationship. (Works on Mr WayofCats, too.)
We could look at it as two beings bribing each other for their own advantage, but the advantage is mutual. That is why I think of it as negotiation and cooperation. Force has nothing to do with it.
Force has no place on either side of a cat relationship.
If we are feeling like the cat is imposing on us, it is always worthwhile to pause on that thought and explore it. Why are we feeling like the cat is being clingy and demanding? Do they have unmet needs?
Or maybe it is us; when we are overwhelmed with our own troubles, it can be difficult to grapple with even the most urgent need in someone else. It becomes just another thing on a pile of things we are having trouble coping with.
The answer is not to blame the cat for having needs. The answer is to start eliminating unwanted, and unneeded, demands from our own life.
So we have room for more cat love.
Interaction is the point
If we think of our cat requesting things as “bugging us,” we have the wrong lens aimed at our pet experience. We agreed to provide food and shelter and interesting things to play with. That was the deal.
As I explain in When Cats Annoy, cats don’t do things to annoy us. If we are tired or exasperated, we will be more likely to interpret it that way, but that doesn’t have anything to do with our cat’s motivations.
I am happy to report that we have found a medicine that works for Reverend Jim’s digestive issues. He’s showing up for affection more often, playing along with the other cats, and once again whacking heck out of his Trackball. Another sign of his recovery is the return of his appetite. In a big way.
Every time we turn around (it seems) RJ is asking for food again. But I do not argue with my cats. He’s recovering, he needs to rebuild, and he’s hungry. So we feed him again.
This would be annoying… if he didn’t have a good reason. But, he does.
Fear of Cats
Then there is the misconception that cats only pretend to like us to get food, and don’t care about us at all. In fact, we are delusional to think otherwise. This is what I call the Puppet Master Theory of Cat Affection.
It is the stuff of James Bond films, not reality.
Sure, if cats are that smart, why resent them being successful with making us happy? It’s not like they aren’t exchanging value for that can of food. Unlike many delusions, there is no downside here.
It is not, after all, a delusion. Because cats show up when it is not necessary. When they don’t want anything more than a head rub or a verbal exchange. To continue to assert this is all “part of the con” is only an example of how far Cat Skeptics will go to cling to their own delusions about cats.
We trade service for love. And so do our cats.
Cooperate as Equals
Which led me into “asking nicely” and actually getting a response from my cats. I love things that work. I do them more. Which leads to more success.
The most exasperating and difficult struggles with my cats have turned out to be due to those cats having some deep and unmet need. RJ’s worst ever behavior was because he was sick. He wasn’t misbehaving, or a “bad cat,” or making us upset on purpose. He wasn’t trying to manipulate me.
He was trying to communicate with me. Because I’m a friend, and he hoped I could help him.
Which is all our cats ever want.
I explain the other side of cat persuasion in How to use bribes.
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