How To Make Your Partner Like Cats If They Don’t Already

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Just as it's a truth universally acknowledged that a single man of good fortune must be in want of a wife, it's also globally known that many relationships involve one cat person and one person who really, really, really doesn't like cats. My own relationship was one such example. My husband had grown up with two cats (called, imaginatively, Left and Right) who lived to their early twenties. I, meanwhile, lived in Australia with gigantic, beloved dogs and a feral cat problem, and the only domestic cat I ever encountered was a flat-faced Siamese with a bad attitude. I had to be coaxed and re-educated into liking cats over the course of about five years. If you're wondering how to make your partner like cats, I'm proof that you can, indeed, turn someone into a cat person (but not, like, that kind of cat person).

If your partner has allergies or a past bad experience with a cat, getting them onto the side of felines might be trickier than usual or not worth pursuing. But if they simply don't like them, think they're aloof and high-maintenance and pointless, there are good ways to persuade them otherwise. And with their cooperation, you might be bringing several balls of fluff into your home in no time. Here are seven steps to turning your partner into a cat person in no time.

1Show Them How To Interact With Cats

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Often cat antipathy comes from a misunderstanding about how you should interact with felines. If you're used to dogs, the proper treatment of cats can come as a surprise and needs a complete re-evaluation. Dogs can be approached with palms out to smell, and patted on the head and the tummy if they're friendly. And puppies are often quite happy to be picked up.

Cats, however, require a different approach. Teach your partner that the proper way is to let the cat come to them: crouch, in its sight line, offering a hand or a treat. The reaction you want is for the cat to come close and smell or investigate you; if they rub their chin along your hand, it's a mark of interest and affection, as they're marking you with scent. Instruct them on proper petting etiquette: stroking whiskers backwards is often nice for cats, as is rubbing under the chin and scratching gently along the skull and behind the ears.

Backs and the root of the tail may make a cat nervous if it doesn't know you, and tummies are, for most cats, a no-go zone. Even if they're rolling on their backs showing them; a tummy scratch can often lead to biting, even for owners. Some cats are a lot more touch-oriented than others and just want a cuddle. But it's never wise to pick up a cat you don't know.

2Explore The Variations In Cat Breeds

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Fallacy: all cats are the same. Truth: there's a hell of a lot of variation in temperament and attitude. If your partner isn't into cats on the grounds that they don't show love, show them Bengals and other cats who are strongly bonded to their owners and demonstrate it regularly. If they hate shedding, explore non-shedding cat breeds, including Burmese and Siamese animals; you don't have to go hairless to avoid clumps of hair on everything. If their worry about destructive tendencies stands in the way of getting a feline friend, focus on adult cats at shelters; often their behavior is far more chilled out, and shelter staff will be able to tell you whether their favorite pastime is shredding socks or not.

3Spend Some Time With Affectionate Cats

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If possible, once they're primed on how to interact properly with cats, introduce your partner to different kinds of felines, including those that like being picked up, ones that just want to sit on your lap and purr, and others that don't necessarily want any interaction but like sitting in the same room and "supervising." Cat cafes run by ethical organizations are often a fun way to try this out. It's a good way to show them the good side of cats without necessarily committing to getting one themselves.

4Deal With Environmental Concerns Head-On

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If they're opposed to cats on the grounds that they're not great for the environment, they have a point: cats with hunting behavior can wreak havoc on local wildlife populations. However, there are ways to subvert that. Cats with feline HIV need to be kept indoors for their own safety, making them excellent pets for people with environmental issues, and often cats in shelters come in from indoor existences and aren't fit to survive roaming in the outdoors.

It's also possible to seriously minimize a cat's hunting behavior by keeping them in a garden using fencing and other cat-proofing. And roaming cats can also show minimal hunting behavior; our 12-year-old cat has brought us 10 live slugs, one spider, one rat and a chocolate biscuit in the entirety of her time with us, and the rat was perfectly fine, if rather annoyed, when we rescued it. Shelter cats are a good bet for assessing this.

5Help Them Bond With The Cat In Your Life

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If there's a cat around and you'd like your partner to get along with it, make them commit to trying to bond. Food is a great way to foster a relationship; make your partner the source of treats and regular food to foster a bond. Train them on how to play with a cat, too; fetch is not a "thing" for many cats, but every cat has a play style, and being the person who provides fun and entertainment (and snuggles, when demanded) will endear them to your cat.

The cat's own behavior issues may be causing a problem, in which case you need to sort those out: if they're acting territorially around your partner, destroying stuff, or becoming aggressive, you need to go all Cat Whisperer on them and help them relax and feel safe.

6Explain The Signals That A Cat's Not Into It

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Sometimes a person who's not familiar with cats will misinterpret signalling about whether the cat is having fun in their presence, and that can end poorly. Teach your partner the body signs of a cat who's not happy: arching back, puffing fur, pushing ears back, lashing their tail, or actively moving away from your hand. Conversely, they should also be taught the body language that means a cat's cheerful and relaxing, including kneading behavior, purrs and slow-blinking. And no, they are not allowed to chase the cat around demanding affection.

7Show Them They're Not That High-Maintenance

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Some cats are far higher maintenance than others, but cat-averse people are often under the impression that all felines are pedigree show cats who need to be brushed daily and hand-fed wild caught tuna. For people with busy lifestyles, cats and their independent streaks are actually better; unlike dogs, who crave company, many cats are often OK on their own throughout the day (or with another feline bonded companion), provided they're safe and have lots of fun things to do. Cats also don't require walking and can be litter-trained indoors. As with any domestic animal, they involve commitment (and health insurance), but it's a serious mistake for cat-haters to believe they're demanding your attention 24/7. Most cats would loathe that intensely.