I grew up around hardcore dog-people and was perceived as a trifle odd for liking cats. For a long time, I believed that I was totally a dog person too. Our neighbours and friends certainly were. In a dog-people world, everyone always said that dogs are the best. Dogs are the friendliest. Dogs are the most fun. Dogs give you the most joy.
Cats were perceived as unapproachable, unreadable and aloof. Cats don’t want company. Cats don’t want cuddles. Cats don’t want love. You can’t just pet a cat when you feel like it; you pet a cat on their terms — if they ever want to be pet at all. All they want to do is sit in the window and look down on everyone.
The first time we had The Pet Conversation at our house, I asked for a pony but ended up with fish. Major bummer. After a while, I started pining for something with fur, and my mom agreed to catsit for a few weeks as a test-run for owning cats.
Finally, the day arrived when felines Pedro and Mandy graced our doorstep. I was elated. They were ours for two weeks, which back then seemed like an eternity. I loved having the pair around. Mom, however, didn’t enjoy their nightly zoomies.
People with animals know that most pets get the zoomies. Even piglets.
Of course, they always waited until the house was nice and quiet. What’s the point in having the zoomies when people are still up? The best time to zoom is when you catch the humans at that sweet spot between awake and asleep. I never woke up to their zoomies and was surprised when my mom said that she couldn’t sleep because of it.
I thought having cats around was just so fun. They were less eager to socialise than I had hoped, but I was in neeeeed of a pet, so I was a little too keen to interact. They were, however, fun to play with and I thought they were beautiful to look at lounging around the house. I was ready to get a cat the day they left.
My mom had a different experience:
We ended up getting a dog, and then one more for good measure. To me, it was all the same, and I loved them. They were smaller than I’d hoped (I was dreaming of a dog that’d fill the back seat of the car, but then I was obviously still influenced by my dreams of a pony), but I thought they were awesome.
Turns out; I like having a weird roommate that poops in a box.
It wasn’t until years later when the hubby and I got a cat of our own that I realised I’m actually not that into dogs. I like the independence of cats.
I like how they have a life of their own, and you’re just one part of it, rather than the centre of their world as it had been with dogs. They live in a world of their own that can only ever really truly be understood by other cats.
1. Cat’s don’t have time for unimportant things
Cats will only ever engage you in something that scores 90% or higher on the Scale of Important Things To Do (otherwise they’ll just walk away). They don’t dig small-talk; they want a deep and meaningful conversation. That’s why they start out by staring you down like they’re looking into the depths of your soul.
It can be unnerving when you’ve got a pair of unblinking eyes directed at you as if staring intently enough can allow them to gain control over your mind and force you to do their bidding.
That unyielding stare is usually a sign that service is of abysmal quality because the food bowl is empty or does not contain the preferred type of food: they want wet when they have dry and vice versa (or all the jelly has been licked off, and you can’t seriously be suggesting the remaining meaty bits are edible).
2. Cats prefer to observe
Just like introverts, cats can easily tire with a lot of hubbub. Dogs usually love a gathering where they can be the centre of attention. Cats are usually nowhere to be found when there’s a party in the house.
Being the kind of predator that stalks out the usual path of their prey, and wait for it to pass by to pounce, cats much prefer to lie in wait and observe activities from afar. Any window or appropriately covert high-ground is excellent Cat TV.
I, like many other introverts, find that a spell of people-watching is very relaxing. My favourite spot is in a 2nd storey restaurant that has a window-facing counter. There’s a restaurant on the bottom floor as well with the same view, but that’s nowhere near as satisfying as watching the world go by from above.
Cats find watching the world go by fascinating as well. However, staring people down can make them a tad uncomfortable. When your targets can’t see you, they can’t take offence.
3. Cats say a lot by not saying anything
As an introvert, I find that I get clumsy in social situations. Since I spend a lot of time in my own little bubble, busying myself working and thinking, I feel like I end up tripping over my own words in polite society. I can get a bit awkward in trying to express myself, and easily overthink what I want to say.
Mingling at parties where I don’t know anyone is one of my worst nightmares. I can, of course, put on a brave face and do my best, but I will never match the social butterfly madskillz of some extroverts I’ve met. It’s just too tiring to keep up.
I’ve learned that my desire to have meaningful discussions in small groups or one-on-one can be frustrating for extroverts, who more easily chit-chat about this and that. As they flit through topics in conversation, I’m left nursing my drink in silence, feeling disconnected and out of my depth.
For me to leave my bubble is in itself a significant gesture because I avoid superficial social situations at all costs. It means that I trust you and am genuinely interested in your company.
Cats are very good at asking for what they want. By jumping onto your lap, circling your feet, rubbing their cheek on your hand, or meowing at your feet, cats are saying that they think you’re good people and they like you. They’d love your undivided attention, please, and they will have it.
They will dial up their personal gravitational field to make it physically difficult to move them (just in case you thought that whatever you were doing before still requires your full attention).
They are experts at becoming the pivot around which the universe rotates. You can’t just be in the same room as the cat; you must pay attention:
After all, your cat is a benevolent overlord and actually does quite a lot for you. He graces your home by sitting statuesquely looking cute, beautiful and magnificent. He has luxuriously soft fur that you are allowed to admire. He gives meaning to your life by providing daily chores that you may perform in his honour.
He purrs and bewitches anyone within earshot. He brings trophies from his hunting expeditions as proof of his prowess. He will perform feats of athletic grace for your enjoyment. He will sleep and look so cosy all you’ll want to do is lie down and sleep. He will cuddle up to you when you’re feeling poorly. He will entertain you by doing something unexpected.
4. Cats have a small circle of approved persons
Both cats and introverts can be deceptively independent. Cats will unapologetically seek out your company but also do their own thing when they feel like it.
Sometimes the two coincide, and the result is something like this:
That cats don’t come when called and seem to show up only when it suits them was something that dog-people found very frustrating. To an introvert, this just seems reasonable.
Connecting to others is very important for cats and introverts, but they also need time to recover from the energy that socialising requires. Cats will tend to spend time with a small circle of people that they have deemed worthy of their more profound attention.
Introverts also prefer to have smaller circles of people to socialise with. They will have a handful of friends they are very connected with, and professionally, they prefer to work in smaller teams. Keeping up with too many people and all their opinions is just too tiring when you’re looking for meaning in every interaction.
In our house, it’s my husband who is the cat’s preferred person. Whenever he comes home, the cat is hovering somewhere around him. If he sits down on the couch, the cat follows suit in about 3 seconds flat. If he goes into a different room, the tail disappears behind the corner after him. But sooner or later the cat — by some invisible cue — suddenly gets up and finds a corner or a sunny patch in which to curl up.
5. The in or out dilemma
Introverts can easily relate to a cat’s indecisiveness about leaving the house. Cats will sometimes linger in the doorway — to their human servant’s annoyance — deciding on whether going out is the best thing to do right now.
Sometimes they can be out for less than five minutes before wanting to come back again. And other times they will be swept up in some kitty adventure and be gone until the next morning. Whenever they come back, be prepared to stand in the doorway and wait while they make up their mind about whether to go back in again.
Introverts love spending time at home; whenever an outing is required it takes due consideration, to first decide if it’s worth it, and then time to mentally prepare for it. Going to a place where I know there will be plenty of people, like to the city centre, takes more preparation than deciding to go for a walk in the forest. It also means that I’ll be knackered by the time I get home and will need to chill until my energy levels are replenished.
Public transit during rush hour is one of the most exhausting things I know. I have been known to take the train in the opposite direction just to get away from the crowd. Getting on my train at a less central station ensures that I’m well tucked away in a corner somewhere reading a book (ignoring the rest of the world) when the flood of commuters boards the train.
6. Cosy is the default mode
Both cats and introverts are creatures of comfort. We have our favourite nooks and crannies to burrow in, and we can happily spend a few hours in a state of stillness. Introverts are often described as having calm and quiet energy, to the point that they’re called loners (just like cats).
This way of living enables introverts to re-centre themselves so that they are ready when another burst of inspiration strikes and they tear off after the next shiny thing:
Are introverts like cats or cats like introverts?
Just like cats, introverts are innately curious and like to investigate their surroundings. Bookstores, museums, libraries, art galleries and gardens are favourite haunts for introverts as they can spend eternity wandering around lost in thought.
Introverts like cultivating relationships with people that bring out our adventurous side but are also happy to chill. When you don’t see us for a while, we’ve found someplace to gather our energy in a calming environment.
Eventually, we’ll reappear like we never left and be ready to spend some quality time with you again, like “Ahem, ‘scuse me”:
One of the things I enjoy most about hanging out with introverts is that they don’t use the time that passes between get-togethers as a measure of friendship. Whenever we have time to get together again — even after months or years — we can just pick up where we left off without the guilt-tripping that I’ve had from more extroverted friends.
Not seeing each other for a while doesn’t mean it’s hostile; a lot of the extroverts I’ve known over the years have gotten their panties in a bunch over this and gotten upset that I don’t care about them anymore.
Introverts are skilled at being alone and don’t require social interaction as much as others do. Introverts often don’t depend on social interaction to define themselves or boost their self-esteem, and they aren’t concerned with being popular. Hanging out alone or flying solo for lunch is fine (as opposed to “sad” or “embarrassing” as I’ve been told) because it provides a chance to regroup and maybe read some.
Even though I also really love dogs, I can only take so much of their high energy and need to socialise before I need a break. I’m sure we’ll end up with a dog or two in the future, but I think my relationship with cats will always be on another level.