I began doing cat behavior consulting in 1982. At the time, no one in their right mind was brave (or foolish) enough to attempt to go into cat parents’ homes and work one on one with them to try to resolve behavior issues. Back then, it was very common to hear people referring to one myth or the other about cats. Many people were resigned to living with a cat who had behavior problems. Many didn’t feel it was worth putting much time and effort into it because everyone knew cats were aloof, independent, not affectionate and certainly untrainable. While I never agreed with those myths, I did understand why people believed them because there wasn’t much accurate information out there about cats. What surprises me these days is that there’s so much information available and all you have to do is watch a YouTube video featuring cats to see that they are social, trainable and most definitely not aloof. People routinely mislabel cats are solitary as well so they never make an attempt to provide companionship for the cat no matter how lonely that the cat may be. The problem with our perception is that we keep comparing cats and dogs and trying to show one species is better than the other. The truth is that they’re just different.
No Aloofness Here
Cats are very tuned into their environment because they’re hardwired as predators. Their keen senses are on high alert for the sight, sound or smell of potential prey. So what you may interpret as a cat being aloof is actually your exquisitely designed companion being ready for anything. Just because your cat may not jump to immediate attention when you call her name, doesn’t mean she’s aloof – she’s focused.
Cats show affection in so many ways and you might even not notice some of the more subtle ones. Your cat doesn’t have to be a lap cat to be affectionate. She may enjoy sitting next to you or maybe even a several inches away but that doesn’t mean she’s not affectionate. Think about how many times your cat has rubbed her head against you (head bunting), given you one of those slow-blink cat kisses, rubbed alongside of you, purred or given you some scratchy-tongue kisses. Those are all signs of affection. Most cats enjoy being petted as well but not necessarily in the same way you pet your dog. No belly rubs for the cat, please, or else you’ll trigger a defensive response. Some cats may also have preferences when it comes to where on the body they like being petted or for how long. Some cats will enjoy a massage for extended periods and some prefer a drive-by stroke or two. Your cat spends a great deal of effort getting to know you as a companion — what you like, what you don’t, etc. – so if you do the same you increase your chances of having the relationship you’ve always wanted with her.