I'm not judging you. I'm just saying. You are vastly underestimating your cat.
I know, because I used to underestimate mine, until my friends taught me better. Almost everyone in our society does.
Cats understand English and mental images quite clearly, for the most part, and they know things that will be helpful to you if you slow down and listen to them.
I'll give you an example. When we decorated our little Christmas tree a couple days ago, Rigel crouched on the couch arm and showed me with his body language (you know that intense gaze, wiggly crouch thing a playful about-to-pounce kitten does) that he really, REALLY wanted to play with those bright dangly things in that fun-smelling indoor tree.
So I picked him up, took him over to it, and talked to him about it. I told him what it was, and why we had set it up, and that it was not a toy and that we did not want him to play with it. That it was for looking at only, and that it was okay also to sniff it as much as he wanted to, but for him not to jump onto the table with the tree and definitely not to play with the ornaments.
I accompanied this with mental images in my mind showing him what I wanted. I asked him to pass the message on to his sister.
Neither cat has attempted to play with the tree.
This is not an isolated example. We were having issues with Bellatrix swiping at Chani (the dog), and Chani chasing, which was worrying us as it seemed likely someone might get hurt. So we had a talk with her about not antagonizing the dog. And she stopped antagonizing the dog.
I could go on.
It's not 100%. It's absolutely true that cats are not people-pleasers quite the way dogs are. They have independent spirits and sometimes the monkey (human) rules just don't quite make sense to them, and they are going to do what they are going to do.
This has been a problem with our curtains... though they stopped playing QUITE so vigorously with them after a few conversations, they still sometimes get caught up in their playtime and ... bend ... that little rule...
But when a cat is treated with respect and honored for the intelligent, responsive being that they are, you may be amazed at just what cooperative and thoughtful roommates they can be.
And don't worry that you're too late because your cat is old or whatever. I learned this late in life with Inara, my cat before these two. I wish I'd known it sooner. Regardless, as soon as I began speaking to her this way, she began responding.
You will have to slow down a bit. It's faster to yell, "No!" and go about your day. And we're acculturated to do that. But try it. Slow down and really look at your cat. Focus on them. Communicate with them. Listen to them as much as (or more than) you talk to them.
And when you do, you'll probably learn more about their needs and what they want from you. Be considerate of them just as you would like them to be considerate of you. You don't have to do everything they want (mine would like me to play with them at 3am on a regular basis), but there will be much you can accommodate (not picking them up when they're not in the mood, for instance) that will go a long way toward a mutually satisfying relationship.
When communicating TO them, sometimes it is necessary to repeat oneself a few times both verbally and with the mental images. Think of it as though the cat is having to translate from a second language (which they are) and you'll understand why this is. It's not for lack of intelligence. But give it a try and find out just how rich your relationship with your kitties can be.
You won't be sorry.
(With thanks to Irina and Jacob for teaching me this, first by example and then explicitly.)
Fen Druadìn (they/them) is a storyteller, a visionary, and a book midwife.
Fen's mission is to change the world for the better, one paradigm-shifting book at a time.
Fen works with CEOs and consultants who care deeply about their impact on the world and want to enhance both their legacy and their personal effectiveness through the power of a professionally published work, in their own words.
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When they're not working with clients or writing their own books, Fen can usually be found wandering the woods alone, sitting around a campfire with friends, or swimming in the cold spring waters native to the Southern Appalachians.