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Several people have remarked that I am a dog or cat whisperer. I’m not so sure. I have heard of animal communicators being able to easily “hear” or feel what an animal is feeling, needing, thinking. For me it is different. I don’t think I am one of those “special” types of animal communicators… but maybe. 🙂
Now don’t get me wrong. I love animals and I always have. When I was in middle school, having a cat on my lap was one of the things that helped me get through that stressful time. And when I can (when I live in a pet-friendly location), I have had a cat living with me as an adult. And if I am unable to have my cat with me, then he lives at my parents’ home, along with a dog and several other felines.
So what do I do? What do I notice about animals? First, I have noticed that most (rescue) animals have some form of abuse they are recovering from – whether neglect or some other traumatizing experience. And therefore these animals are similar to humans in that they require time to develop trust. You can’t just feed a dog once and expect it to open its heart to you. You have to spend time with the dog – my parents’ dog Max- practically thinks I am his primary owner because of how much attention I give to him when I am around. He will always lie down at my feet when I am sitting on the couch or at the computer. That is because I “listen” to his non-verbal cues – when he wants to play, if it is light outside and decent weather, then I go play ball with him. He loves to fetch, he loves to be chased and he loves to play keep away from / with me. He is awesome if you can get into that energy with him. But this relationship with him has taken months or years of development. He now knows that I am his buddy and that if he makes a strong request, I will probably honor it. And as a result, he plays with me in ways that make my little brother jealous. My brother asks, “Why won’t he do that with me?” And my answer is, “Because he does not trust you yet. Your behavior is inconsistent and unpredictable.”
Then there is Rocky, my parents’ previously feral kitty. Rocky was a stray cat some years ago. But he could be seen from time to time eating the other cats’ food on the porch. Then they noticed that he had some kind of abscess or other disease causing his side to appear caved in – there was something wrong with him for sure. So I took it upon myself to wean him onto human contact. It took two weeks, but I slowly left trails of food leading to me as I sat motionless on the porch. At first, he ate the food far away from me and then scampered off. Then he slowly crept closer to me, eating the food and watching me suspiciously. And finally, toward the end of the two weeks, he ate the food leading up to and near me. So I touched him and he skipped off. The next day he got close again, but this time he allowed me to pet him a little before bolting. And on the last day, I was able to pet him more and more.
Then he was on the porch more often. So another day, I put a little trail leading to me again and he ate it, coming up to me. So I plopped him in my lap. He promptly jumped away. But then he ate more food from my hand. I put him in my lap again. He jumped off immediately! This continued for about half an hour. In fact, to this day, he is still rarely happy if you put him in your lap. Sometimes, if he is the one initiating it, he will lie in your lap for a short time. But now he will come when he is called. He will happily sit next to you if you are nice to him. He is a very unusual cat to be sure – wagging his tail when he is happy, coming when he is called, being the smallest cat and yet acting like the alpha male. But my parents attribute his being in their home because of me. I’m not too sure 🙂
And the last cat story is about Pumpkin, my parents’ anti-social kitty. He hates being picked up. He will only lie close to you if it involves a comfortable bed. These and other anti-social behaviors make him a pariah in their house. But he is actually misunderstood. I took it upon myself to spend time with him to discover what he needs or how he could fit into their home easier. And I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.
Pumpkin is a sweet kitty. He is the rolly-polly type of cat. When he is outside, he rolls in the grass or the gravel when you are walking near him. But once he gets inside the house to eat, he starts acting anti-social (unless you are about to feed him). Anyway… I spent about a month out there and I had some time to work with this sweet cat. I found that he was actually comfortable being pet if you touched him very lightly. Any firm pressure and he would bolt. But a light touch or a light stroke and he would eventually start doing the head rubbing on the couch or the covers of the bed. Plus he will eventually start purring. I would spend time petting him and just wishing him well and eventually he started to come around (but only with me). He would let me sit next to him without running away and he would let me walk right up to him outside. In fact, one day I picked him up and put him in my lap which would never last long in the past. He wanted to leave, but I reassured him – petting him and restraining him. Eventually I lay down and put him on my chest – again he tried to leave and I “reassured” him. He fell asleep on my chest. It was a first for this previously anti-social cat! My mother was shocked – “Is that really Pumpkin?!”
Unfortunately, he is a skittish cat and my 16-year old brother ran into the house, scaring Pumpkin. And the cat left claw marks where he dug into my chest to zip away. Youch!!! So I learned my lesson too!
There was a time when I was running after the dog outside and we scared Pumpkin into the woods. Eventually the dog got away from me and I was walking back. Pumpkin was still in the tangled roots of a large fallen tree. He was obviously seeking its shelter and protection. But I called him, squatting down and making myself low. Soon he came to me which was a huge surprise. These days, if you call to him and sit on the ground (this is only outside), he will come slowly, then roll around a bit. Then he will approach a little more, and then roll around some more. It is a frustrating process but he will eventually get into petting range 🙂
Once you do establish trust with an animal which can take months, they will let you know if you blow it! There was one day I was staining the deck when Rocky approached – obviously to come close to me and make contact with me. But he would have gotten stain on his precious little paws! So I stomped and hissed and shouted at him to run away, and he got the message, but he meowed at me in a tiny whiny voice (which was actually very strange – he is the one cat which rarely, if ever vocalizes his needs). It took a day or two to regain his trust, but I tried to tell him I did that for his protection.
So basically the moral of this story is to take it slowly with animals. Be clear with them – if you can’t commit much time every day to petting them or spending time with them, you should tell them you are busy. They want to make contact with you. They want to share their hearts with you. But only if you show them you are worthy of such an honor.
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