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ID Your Relationship With Your Cat

By Elizabeth Wasserman

ID Your Relationship With Your Cat

Cats are thought of as family members by 89 percent of feline owners, according to a Harris Poll from December 2007. Gone are the days when kitty had to sleep in the barn and is expected to earn a daily ration by chasing mice. When you're a feline family member, such status affords you the right to sleep in the master bed (78 percent), receive gifts during the holidays (63 percent), and even for some, get a mini vacation at the owner’s place of work (10 percent).

"Cats are quietly becoming our allies and pals," says Arden Moore, author of Happy Cat, Happy You (Storey 2008) and editor of Catnip magazine. "They're no longer being regarded as furry pieces of furniture. We don't need them to be mousers anymore. Quietly and with dignity, cats have won us over. We know they can give us real affection."

The type of relationship you have with your feline can vary, however, between parenting your cat as if it was a coddled babe-in-arms to cherishing your purebred as if it were the Queen of Siam to confiding in your mixed breed as you would a best friend. How you see your relationship with your cat can be a function of several factors, including your cat's temperament, your expectations in the relationship and your understanding of cat behavior.

See if any of these relationship types matches the bond you have with your furry friend:

Pampering Parent 
You regard your cat as the child you never had, as a replacement for the child that flew the coop or simply as yet another babe to care for. The sure signs include talking baby talk to kitty, co-sleeping, throwing birthday parties to mark each of your pet's new years and scheduling your cat for all different types of enrichment -- from grooming to training to feline dance classes.

Benefits The relationship can be rewarding and comforting to both cat and pet owner. The unconditional love that a parent has for a human child -- and vice versa -- can be brought to this parent-cat relationship. All pets need to be nurtured. Every pet owner wants to be needed.

Pitfalls There is the potential for the “soccer mom syndrome” -- over-scheduling your little one. Sometimes, for example, a parent's exuberance can get out of hand, according to Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant in Northern California. Krieger recalls hearing about a cat owner who bathed her pet every few days and then applied perfume. "This was not healthy for the cat," Krieger says. "The cat developed over-grooming problems as a result."

Feline's Best Friend
Move over, Rover. Let Fluffy take over. You see your cat as man's (or woman's) best friend. Your cat is your true companion that you can tell all your troubles to -- and it'll still purr and rub around your legs as long as you treat it kindly. Some cat owners swear that their pet, like a true buddy, is the perfect barometers for whether a new boyfriend or girlfriend is a keeper -- or whether he or she is "hisss-tory." Your cat doesn’t care if you gained weight or if you made a mistake at work.

Benefits Feline friendship may bring health benefits. University of Minnesota researchers recently found that over a 20-year-period, people who never owned a cat were 40 percent more likely to die of heart attacks than people who owned cats or who did so in the past. "A lot of people are lonely out there," Krieger says. "Instead of coming home to an empty house, they come home to a pet. Cats are affectionate. They talk and listen and respond."

Pitfalls Unrealistic expectations may lead to friendship fallouts. You may want your cat to be like your long-lost human friend -- or maybe more like your last cat -- but the truth is that you have to accept them for what they are.

Proud Collector
You are a cat lover because the species is so regal, so mysterious, and so exotic. You may have a beautiful cat -- maybe an expensive purebred -- that you treat like a trophy pet. You put that cat on a pedestal. You make sure it’s brushed, well fed and has all the right toys. You may not ask for anything in return -- except that your meower looks good.

Benefits You make sure your cat is brushed, well fed, and owns all the right toys. Your cat just has to look good and proudly revel in the admiration.

Pitfalls "We still see people adopt a cat strictly on looks, and they don't necessarily pay attention to personality," Moore points out. Some of the exotic breeds may match your sofa, but they're cats -- and they're going to exhibit very cat-like behaviors such as scratching up that sofa if you don't provide them with a better scratching post.

Pet Savior
You are the antithesis of the pet owner who views his or her cat as a piece of property. You're looking for a companion -- or two or three or more -- to save. You can't turn down a stray. You may start by putting some cat food out on your doorstep. The next thing you know, another cat is sharing the litter box.

Benefits You try to tame even feral cats with your heart of gold because you love feline companionship. You're doing a good deed by rescuing cats from the streets or the shelter and making sure they're neutered after you adopt them. They'll shower you with affection -- each cat in its own way.

Pitfalls Picking up strays can pose some problems. If you have more than one cat in a house, you need to set up -- and continuously clean -- more than one litter box, more than one food bowl, and so on. Cats also need vertical territory to establish the hierarchy, Krieger says, so make sure you have enough places to climb. Trying to be a cat savior can cost you in terms of human relationships. You may have to choose between your feline companions and a spouse.

When developing your relationship with your cat, it's important to realize that each cat likes to socialize in different ways. Some may give you head butts and purrs. Other cats need to have all four feet on the floor and are uncomfortable sitting on anyone's lap. "You have to read the cat's cues," Moore says. "It can be like the difference between the relative that gives you the bear hug and another that will freeze if you touch them."

Photo: Corbis Images

Elizabeth Wassermana Washington, D.C., area-based freelancer, has been writing about pets, among other topics, for more than 15 years. Her love of dogs, in particular, was handed down through the generations from her great-grandfather, Eric Knight, who wrote the book Lassie Come Home in the 1930s.

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Posted on August 3, 2009

Renee says: I get head buts and love bites from my male adult cat! I guess he's telling me he's my boss! He gazes into my eyes every chance he gets; I guess he just wants to pick up on my emotions. Almost like he's trying to "read" me. I try to do the same back to him and try to read him by responding with a mimic meow back at him. I think he understands; I do my best to understand him too! I meow back at him more than I talk to him; I like to be silly with him! He must think "Ditto" that's why I always hear the same meows over and over. Ditto, Ditto, Ditto, Ditto!

Posted on June 15, 2009

donna says: I am definitely the pampering type of cat owner. My cat is my baby and I talk baby-talk to him and he just loves it and starts rolling around on the floor when I do. I make up songs to sing to him, I massage him, and cradle him in my arms like a baby. He is four now. I do celebrate his birthdays with fresh salmon from the supermarket. He was born on April 4, 2005. I tell him he's my baby all the time and I guess being a childless woman in her late twenties, I do treat him like the baby I don't yet have.

Posted on April 23, 2009

Marie says: I guess I had hoped for some gray areas in this article. Things like what if you cat is a cherished member of your family, fitting in right under the kids and above your strange relatives. Our cats get gifts, and one of the three does eat breakfast at the table with me, but I didn't really find myself in any of these descriptions. For me cats are the loving companions who provide hours of comedy, compassion and love to our family, now that the kids are too old to snuggle and cuddle with.

Posted on April 11, 2009

radie jemerson says: I got Canna on april 03,2009. and since she's been with me.she hasn't been a problem.She's actually gotten used 2 me already n 2 days.and now since she's used 2 the living room. Every evening I come home from work, She joins me n the living room and sits at my feet, seemingly glad 2 see me.She even goes 2 sleep at my feet if I fall asleep also.

Posted on March 11, 2009

jennifer says: My cat is a big white fluffy persian with copper/green eyes. He sleeps next to my head every night and gets so excited when I come home. He loves to play peek-a-boo with me and chase/tag. He is just the sweetest kitty-person and I don't know what I'd do without him. He can tell when im sick and snuggles me and worries over me. I deff. have a pampering/bestfriend relationship with him. I respect his boundries and he respects mine. He only gets the best of the best and I will always be a persian person forever!:)

Posted on February 19, 2009

Lils says: I definitely have a Feline's Best Friend relationship with my kitty. She is always purring at me.

Posted on February 25, 2009

Bailey says: I deff have a a felines best friend relationship with my boys, every night when i go upstairs there always already on the bed sleeping

Posted on December 15, 2008

Tracy says: Both of my kitties have been added companions when my other cats had passed away. One was a shelter cat so he has some things hes scared of so he comes to me for protection. The other just loves to sleep on the end of your bed and to know your there. They both love to picked up and hugged. My cats to me are a member of our family and my best friends. You can tell them anything you want and they keep it confidential. :D Just being with my cats make my day bright. They love to be apart of everything you do and especially when breakfast is being made. They sit on the stoles waiting for a treat and try to attack the paper towel when we dry the table. Theyre both very amazing cats and so were all my old ones. There is a bond between people and there animals but I mine and my cats is something amazing.

Posted on December 9, 2008

Angela P. says: I am a mix - the Best Friend & the Savior. I always wind up with at least one stray a year "finidng" my home. I get them shots and fix them if they aren't, though i do keep them as indoor/outdoor cats. I have 3 new babies I adopted from a non-profit cat organization and keep them indoors. I LOVE them, they are the best! I go to college now and don't have to work (thanks to hubby) and I am home with them a lot. They are like dog people say their dogs are like - they just follow me around all day long. Cats are the best, by far!!

Posted on December 3, 2008

Christina says: For me my girl "Sasha" is my baby and my best friend. She is strictly an indoor cat, and "Yes" she still has all her claws...wouldn't even think of de-clawing her how cruel can anyone be. She is independent but also very affectionate toward myself, she is not too fond of others nor men. She is always there to comfort me when I am down, she responds to me when I talk to her, she follows me from room to room, she is there at the door when I arrive home from work, she cuddles with me at night etc. I have the most perfect friend I could ask for :)

Posted on September 17, 2008

elena98 says: That's very interesting.

Posted on November 10, 2008

Ruby says: for me my kitty will always be my baby.i remmeber when i first got Kagomay befor i brought her home i had a nice worm fluffy bed for her and a few baby blankets and a basket of toys. know she falows me were ever i go weather im walking or jump in the car. shes more loyal then a dog. yet i never really treat her like an animal. shes my baby and i will always love her

Posted on September 8, 2008

KAT says: I just want you guys to know that I love my Cat as my husband ... his name is pimpjuice and he is everything I could want in a man. He is very loving, he walks me to the bus stop everymorning @ 5:30am and comes home faithfully until I get home. He never complains about anything ( except if the food bowl is low) and he loves all of my family. He protects us and is very intelligent. I take him for my Husband for 6yrs now.

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