Any two beings who interact so closely together will develop their own personal communication system.
As seen above, Tristan and I shared a moment of pure communication on a recent evening. Tristan claimed the bookcase top we have reserved for the cats in our bedroom, and our eyes met as he settled into this pose. He reached out with his paw, and I got up and got this picture.
Then I kissed his head and told him he was my own special darling bean-cat. He put his paw on my nose. Our little ritual completed, he settled in for a nap and I went back to my Kindle reading.
Over our six years together, we have worked out a number of signals and responses that are just between us. Every cat develops their own set of routines and communications.
overt to subtle
We and our cats share many such moments, and each one is another brick which builds our relationship.
At the one end of the continuum of Cat Types we have the Alphas, who will bring toys if they want to play, wake us up when they are lonely, and never go without affection if they can help it. We always know where we stand with them.
On the other end, we have varying degrees of Gammas, who need to be checked in with. They hate to be a bother, and will not ask until things become an emergency. We always need to sped time with them coaxing them to ask for what they need.
With Betas, it’s all about the communication; they have ways of opening a dialogue with us that will lead to them getting what they need. Noticing the different ways they try to get our attention is the vital first step.
If Tristan wants something, he strolls in and asks; using different words for different things. While Mithrandir, on the Gamma side because of his ferality status, sort of hangs around when the other cats are asking for things, eager to join in. If I see him in the vicinity, I will give him an opportunity to accept cuddling or show an interest, so he knows his humans are the source for his needs.
Or, he will ask Tristan, who will use his excellent communication skills to let me know Mithy wants something. As described in Mithrandir, the magic cat, I describe an incident which triggered Mithy’s caution. I did reach out to Tristan and asked him to convey my message of this being an accident. And it worked.
This is why every Cat Civilization is different, too.
Some people, and cats, are very tactile. They want lap-sitting, hugs, and petting. Tristan is like a cell phone; he needs lots of recharging. RJ has always been more of a storage fellow; twice a day, big cuddle session, and he’s good for another twelve hours.
I like cats who park themselves on me, but then I do a lot of reading and writing, so I’m in a position to offer that to a cat who wants it. Some people’s time at home is filled with different kinds of interests, like cooking or leaping up to yell at referees, which don’t offer the same kind of interaction opportunities. For them, a cat who sits in “their spot” and exchanges Cat Kisses and occasional petting is perfect for both parties.
My first Maine Coon mix, Bubby, wanted a box near my keyboard. At the time, I was coding and letting dogs in and out and answering the door, so this let him hang out undisturbed, and we would exchange hand/paw shakes at a way of keeping in touch. The box kept his tail off my workspace.
Crafting our emotional interactions is a mutual agreement that utterly depends on the preferences of the two beings involved.
The better we and our cat handles talking to each other, the more nuanced our interactions become.
“Cat asking for food” and “cat getting fed” is only the beginning. Cats have more needs than that. Our lives together are more complicated than that.
Tristan is a talker, and he and I have mastered “I would like to go out and play on the stairs,” “Get Mithy to come play on the stairs,” “Come throw things at me while I am at the top of the cat tree,” “Is this my favorite flavor?” and “Are your legs free for lying on?”
Reverend Jim likes to catch my attention, lead me to something, and mill around until I see an important bowl is empty or the Litter Robot is flashing its distress light. If he wants to get on my lap, he stares at me until I notice him, and then stares at my lap. Easy and direct, just like him.
Olwyn is always my challenge. She is used to poking Mr WayofCats with her paw, and since he knows everything he is supposed to be doing for her, that is enough. When she pokes me, I sometimes have no idea what is going on, and I have to play Hot and Cold with her. Which is a fun game. The part I don’t like is how she has a clear “what a doofus” look on her face the whole time.
the entire point
I like to say Training is communication. Because it is. Fully half of the cat relationship is doing them favors, and the other half is the “training,” when they return these favors. Without clear avenues of letting each other know what we want, we get only frustration.
We get a pet for the affection.
We don’t want to stand in our own way.
Keep our cat communication sharp with How to subtitle ourselves.
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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.