So you’ve Decided to Adopt a Human
Congratulations! I know this cannot have been an easy decision. A human is for life, not just for Christmas, so you’ll be in it for the long haul. But rest assured you’re doing the right thing: humans need all the help and guidance they can get, and who better to provide it than us?
Humans as a species are sadly disadvantaged by nature. Consider what life must be like without a good sense of smell, clear night vision, rotatable ears or, worse, without whiskers or even a tail? And how would you keep your balance when, for baffling reasons, you’re forced to walk upright, on your hind legs? How would you regulate your body temperature if you were bereft of fur, as they are? Really, taking into account all their impediments, they cope very well indeed. Give them credit for that and try not to get impatient when they keep tripping over you or take ages to get ready in the mornings. If you treat your human well, you will be rewarded in many ways. They are, as a rule, a kind and loyal species, and eager to please – in particular the British breed, which is recommended for beginners.
Effective training is the key to a harmonious relationship with your human and will ensure that, in time, he or she becomes an asset to your home, because humans, for all their shortcomings, have many talents. Their front paws, for instance, are wonderfully useful for opening closed doors and packets or tins of food. Their long fingers can reach parts of your body that you yourself can’t, and they may be trained to give you a good scratch there. Their ability to operate noisy transportation devices and return to you laden with wonderful treats is another bonus. The list goes on; it’s up to you to unlock their full potential.
Be gentle, but firm: rules are rules, and they must learn to respect you. Do not let them get away with late dinners, slap-dash meals, long absences or with looking through you at one of the screens they so dote on. Always demand punctuality, high standards and their full attention, and all will be well.
In order to reinforce the behaviours you expect, reward your human every time he or she has been good. This is best done by purring and rubbing against their hind legs, which they seem to understand easily and universally. Settling down on their laps for a snooze is another good way to show you’re pleased with them. Don’t worry: humans are surprisingly comfortable when they fold up their hind legs and sit down on their haunches in that cute upright way they have.
Finally, do not be discouraged by your human’s inability to understand you. He or she will learn in time; be patient. Grasping the full register of our complex language is hard for a species whose communication is limited to sounds made through their mouths. Once properly trained, they should be able to respond to a good range of commands. Some exceptionally bright humans have been known to understand as many as ten different ones. As a rule, females learn faster than males, so you may choose to concentrate your efforts on them in the first place.
Good luck with your new human. With dedication and patience, you too can have a faithful companion to enrich your life!
Susanne Haywood is the author of Tigger: Memoirs of a Cosmopolitan Cat, which was reviewed by Katzenworld in January 2015 and won the 2017 Stephen Memorial Award for books about cats of distinctive character. The article above first appeared in The Daily Mews in April 2018.