Our cat prefers me to my wife
October 13, 2009 9:01 PM   Subscribe

Bizarre Love Triangle: me, my wife, and our cat

As I type this, flat on my back on the couch with my head propped up, there lies on my chest a young adult spayed female cat whom Mrs. Beese and I recently adopted from the local Humane Society and named Jones after the durable feline in "Alien". If I lay down either on a couch or in a bed she will be invariably station herself there within minutes. She sits on the toilet lid while I take a shower. She wakes me up in the night by brushing my lips with her nose.

Now Jones will occasionally seek out Mrs. Beese. But not one-fifth as often as she comes to me. And my wife - who was the driving force behind the adoption in the first place - complains only half-jokingly about feeling left out. "Here comes your girlfriend," she'll frown as Jones crosses the floor to hop up on my belly. Being a little stinker, I can't always resist the temptation to rub it in by saying, "If you don't mind, I'd like to be alone with the cat." Now she talks about our having to adopt a second cat so she "can have one".

There are already sixteen legs in our queen-size bed on cold nights - so I really don't want another pet. Is there anything worth trying to get Jones to share her affections more equally? Or - since I'm not optimistic about the chances of ever changing a cat's behavior - is there any outlook Mrs. Beese could adopt to reconcile herself to Jones being such a Daddy's Girl?
posted by Joe Beese to Pets & Animals (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
16? 4 = cat, + 4 = 2 humans, is there another animal in the picture?

Can Mrs Beese do the feeding of scrumptious cat treets? Have you tried that?
posted by titanium_geek at 9:09 PM on October 13, 2009

Another vote for Mrs. Beese to give out treats.

PS: I believe Mr. Beese also has two dogs.

PPS: Jones(y) looks a lot like my Oliver.
posted by deborah at 9:13 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I was in a similar situation, the community cat always preferred me to either of the women of the house, despite the fact (a) I wasn't a cat person at all, (b) I didn't usually do the feeding and (c) I never gave out treats.

I figured it was either a smell thing, or some other sense of dominant-large-cat-in-charge. Or maybe just the least-bony lap. Despite the fact I didn't bring her home or know her first, within a year or so, there was no doubt she was my cat.
posted by rokusan at 9:21 PM on October 13, 2009

Just a thought - is it you or Mrs. B that feeds Jonesey? If it's you, work on a transition to having her doing the feeding exclusively for a few weeks. Start off with both of you doing the feeding for a few days, then just Mrs. B.

I've read somewhere on this blog that people have trained their cats to accept new mates when there was initial reluctance. They did it a similar way: Having the new boy/girlfriend come into the room and ignore the cat. Then rewarding with a treat when the cat gets close. Repeat for a few days, upping the ante by moving to a reward only when the cat goes up to the new mate. Something like that. Anyway, it's late and I'm rambling about cats, so that's a cue to skidoo. Good luck with it.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:23 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Congratulations... you've been adopted by a cat. This is just how they are. They tend to pick one person - they might pay attention to other people, but for all intents and purposes, if their person is in the room, they are mostly blind to the rest of the world. Sure, you can try to bribe them with treats and embarrassing amounts of love... but cats will be cats, and your chances of success depend on how fickle your new addition is.

A point of personal reference:
My former roommate and I adopted a pair of brothers (ginger tabbies named Fred and George). Fred took to me pretty much immediately, but George's mama was pretty busy and wasn't often around. So, he sort of adopted my friend, "Justin," who was there pretty much daily, and sort of made a point of being the "fun uncle" and bribing them with wet food, treats, fun and games. Now, I live with Justin, and George is pretty solidly glued to him. Greets him at the door, cries when he leaves, brings ribbon to play fetch with... it's pretty cute, really, but I think Justin wishes he'd worked a little less hard to win George's affections. Meanwhile, Fred doesn't buy the fun uncle bit in the least, is fiercely loyal to me, and gives Justin the hairy eye every time he sees Justin give me so much as a hug.
posted by honeybee413 at 9:32 PM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Cats can be trained, it just takes about a billion times more patience and a higher level of consistency than training a dog. Luckily, you're not trying to teach her something too difficult.

The first step is to figure out what your cat sees as the best reward. Food treats do NOT always work. Some cats desire praise and head-scritches above all else, or access to a feathery jingly toy, or catnip, or one absurd family cat who had a serious love affair with cantaloupe. My cat flips her lid when presented with the crinkly bag that once held bonito flakes. Not the bonito itself, mind you, but the crinkly bag.

Then arrange it so Mrs. B is the one that has that object or treat on her at regular intervals. If she's not doing the daily feeding already, do that, but the goal is to make Mrs. B the one Jones goes to for her Favorite Thing, and not you. So it's not just whining for gushyfood that Mrs. B is on the receiving end, but other types of appreciation and affection.

If there is a way that Jones especially likes to be pet, stop petting her that way, and only have Mrs. B do it for a while. My cat likes to be scratched between the ears especially, but the old family cat loved chin scratching and whisker-smoothing. If Jones learns that Mrs. B is the superior affection-giver, allegiances can be changed.

All the same, sometimes these things do not work. It is possible that you just smell particularly perfectly fantastic and that is that. In this case, it is probably best to adopt the attitude of my grandfather. He was a grumpy old man who liked nothing more than to complain about things, but the cat, Georgie, was a daddy's boy and loved on Grandpa constantly. Grandpa held, until the end of his life, that he didn't really care much about Georgie, humf mumf gruff, damn cat, and my Grandma got to pretend that Georgie cared about her as more than just Giver of Food. When in fact Georgie would always be getting secret, illicit cuddles and lap-naps from Grandpa when Grandma wasn't around. In short, your affair must be secret, and vehemently denied when Jones attempts to lavish herself on you in public. Scandalous!
posted by Mizu at 9:44 PM on October 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

I didn't get the math either, but there are 12 limbs in the bed, unless there is another quad in there? The relationship that the other four-limbed animal brings to the bed is also important, if there is a math mistake.
Mrs. Beese could indeed entice her to love with treats, but cats are fickle. It is funny how some domestic animals will attach to their "person". On the other hand, these same animals will "work for food"!
"Emily" is the cat that loves my husband, he is her "person." She doesn't much like me. (I think she is planning my demise!) "Bobbie" is "my" cat, she loves everyone, but to her, I am the sun god Ra.
Trying to influence these pets has been fun and funny. Everybody involved tries treats and love, but the cat's personalities are like clockwork in their reliability (they like their favorites best!). No food or love can induce the cat to (seemingly) change their opinion ...
We have 16 limbs in our bed, not inluding the snake.
posted by bebrave! at 9:51 PM on October 13, 2009

Yeah, well, cats are jerks. Despite the fact that I'm the one that feeds him and scoops the litter box, our 14 year old cat absolutely LOVES my husband and always has. I have no idea why. Whenever he's home, no matter what room he's in, the cat will find him and insist on sitting on his lap. When my husband has to travel, the cat wanders around the house yelling, looking for him. Usually around 3 or 4 am, he'll give and "settle" for sleeping on the bed with me, but he makes it very clear that he is in fact settling.

Maybe she likes sitting on your chest and she can't do that with your wife, boobs getting in the way and all. Maybe you sit still for longer periods of time and your wife is more fidgety. Perhaps your wife is making eye contact (a sign of aggression to cats) a little too often.

Most likely though, for completely arbitrary reasons, you have been CHOSEN by the cat. They do have brains the size of walnuts, you know.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 9:55 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

We have two 8 month old Bengals that my husband now refers to as my entourage. If the two of us sitting on the couch, the both cats will attempt to monopolise my lap at the same time (going so far as to leave his lap and go to mine when I sit down, just to really rub it in) and completely ignore my husband. If I go upstairs, they'll follow me up. If I take a shower... you get the picture. This, in spite of the fact that like Valko above, he scoops the litter and mostly feeds them. He also teases them more than I do, which no doubt plays a part. Welcome to cats. You may be able to change their behaviour but don't bank on it.
posted by Jubey at 10:05 PM on October 13, 2009

Yeah, I agree that cats are just like that. It doesn't necessarily mean they only like one of you, but it does seem that they pick one to fawn over.

My cat Jane is twelve years old. I had her for five years before my husband came into the picture. She still loves me, and will come if I call, or follow me to another room. But she reserves her most blatant adoration for my husband.

Whenever he's home, she stares at him and reacts to his every gesture and word. When he sits on the couch, she comes to sit right at his feet (she knows she's not allowed on the couch, otherwise she'd be in his lap). She just sits and stares and looks hopefully for the occasional pet or word. I'll be sitting just a few feet away and it will take a lot of calling and begging to get her attention when he's in the vicinity. Actually, he's taken to referring to her as Minion when she takes up her position at his feet.

I like to think that I'm more familiar and comforting, and he's intriguing and interesting, so Jane's infatuated (for the last three or four years, at least). He is louder and bigger and more unpredictable, and when we first moved in together he really wanted a dog so he'd chase her around, and he's pretty rough when he pets her. And she always comes back for more. It's kind of weird, actually. But you never know what kind of kitty personality and quirks you're in for.

And I'm finding her behavior and habits change over time, so that's interesting to see. For instance, Jane never used to come to me when I called her, probably not for about the first 9-10 years of her life. But now, I've gradually noticed, she will jump out of her bed and come running if we call her. Before I'd get the whole back-turned silent treatment standoffish-ness.

So anyway, I guess I like talking about my cat. She's interesting. And so is yours! Congrats and enjoy getting to know her! She will love you both.
posted by JenMarie at 10:12 PM on October 13, 2009

The best thing to do when meeting a cat is to ignore it. This presents you as a passive, harmless thing to be investigated as the cat's curiosity dictates.

Do you know how it seems like cats always go for the lap of the one person in the room with horrible allergies? That is because the person is trying to ward off the cat by ignoring its movements, not looking at it, and being very still when it is nearby.

Oftentimes, cat lovers will make a big effort to get a cat's attention, which can frighten or annoy the cat. You mentioned that the Mrs. was the driving force behind the adoption. Perhaps she tried too hard to make overtures to the cat, while you were more aloof?

I have experienced cat favoritism, and it makes no logical sense. But perhaps if Mrs. Beese proceeded with an eye to cat etiquette, the situation might improve.

This involves mostly ignoring the cat. She should greet the cat briefly, using kitty's name. Then sit quietly nearby, reading a book or what have you. If she should make eye contact with kitty, she should give a long, slow blink, which is the equivalent of a kitty smile. Have the Mrs. feed her. Give her lots of time and patience, especially if you just adopted her.

I can't stress the time and patience enough, especially for an animal from the shelter.
posted by Seppaku at 10:48 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Of the four cats I've been involved with in recent years, there were two that would enthusiastically love all over anyone who came around--friends, family, strangers and especially my father who is not an animal lover in the slightest. Another is a particularly cranky beast who doesn't seem particularly fond of anyone.

But there was one (who has since, alas, gone to the great catnip bar in the sky) who absolutely adored me and hated everyone else. She had no use at all for my husband and daughter, hissed at visitors, and really didn't seem to like me very much for about the first year. Then one day out of the blue she leapt into my lap and proceeded to love on me like I was her long-lost mama, and from then on it was clear that she was MY cat. No amount of cajoling from the Mr. or the kid ever changed her mind about that in the slightest.

She was an ornery one and I miss her terribly.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:42 AM on October 14, 2009

Same thing in our house. We got a second cat, who definitely likes me better. (It's been true in my experience that boy cats are more affectionate anyway, so if you do give in to another pet, maybe try for a neutered male.)

However, the first one will be more affectionate with me the more I ignore her, so there's another point for that approach.
posted by ferociouskitty at 5:13 AM on October 14, 2009

Is there anything worth trying to get Jones to share her affections more equally?


My partner and I have co-dependent cats. That is, I am my cat's human and he is his cat's. We each had the cats separately and when we moved in together, the cats became step-sisters. The cats loathe each other, but more germane to this situation, neither cat has accepted the other human fully.

His cat believes that I am the other woman. I swear I have seen cat bridal magazines in the litter box and wedding guest lists written up in tiny paw prints that do not contain my name on the list. She's gone so far as to mark him (via his pillow) as her "territory." (Yeah, guess how cats do that. It was certainly less than awesome to wake up in the middle of the night to THAT.)

Nothing I can do, no amount of bribery via food or tummy scritches or anything can stop this. She has, over time, eventually stopped directly attacking me. (She went so far as to try and get me *out* of the bed at night via biting my feet.) I believe this kind of detente is the best I can hope for with the cat, and it's been two years.

She's also territorial and jealous to the point where if my partner snuggles the OTHER cat, that cat is in for a beating as soon as snuggling has ceased.

(The other cat? My cat? The infamous "my cat is a dick" cat? Honestly believes that I am her mother. That I personally gave birth to her fat head. Boy is she going to be disappointed if/when I have a baby and she sees what I actually produce.)

You don't control the cat, the cat controls you.

As for Mrs. Beese: give her time. Possibly remind her that there's no guarantee a new cat would like her any more since cats are assholes. And stop asking for alone time with the cat, really. No need to make it worse.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:19 AM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's probably a 'cat manners' thing.

For example - I am allergic to cats.

Why do these things go together? (other than a sweet contrary vindictiveness on the cats part?)

I think I figured it out - it is very, very bad cat manners to *stare* at a cat.

Me seeing a cat, I'd immediately look away or down, as I was thinking (don't stare at the kitty, because then you'll want to pet the kitty, and then you'll start sneezing and swelling etc...). This turns out to be EXACTLY what you should do if you want to be non-threatening.

But then, if a cat came over to sniff, I'd put my hand out for it to sniff, because that's just good *manners* right? And otherwise look away a bit, or give a little stroke.
At this point, many cats would decide I was just the AWESOMEST THING EVER and proceed to sit or lie on me, while ignoring everyone else in the room.

So, *if* the dynamic is anything like that...
lemme guess. You've just been chilling out, doing your own thing, not even paying too much attention to the cat when it comes by except for say, a pat if it seems like it's really wanting the attention grooming thing - and the cat has decided to love you to pieces?
Mrs Beese... has maybe showered the cat with a *little* more attention and it's reacted against that?
Cats, cats, oh how contrary...

Mrs Beese *could* try being more low-key, or at least very eye-avoidant with the contact she has with cat. If you want to wig the cat out a bit, try staring directly at it lots and bug it (or don't).

Man, an actual cat person should be explaining this, I don't get it myself, it's just what I have observed.
posted by Elysum at 6:14 AM on October 14, 2009

Mrs. Advicepig claims that our two younger cats love her more because she's the one that feeds them. Well, our schedules have changed and I have fed them every day for two years now and they still love her about a million times more than me.

Thankfully, I have my own cat. ;)
posted by advicepig at 7:11 AM on October 14, 2009

She should be aloof with the cat. Cats know when you don't want them and they want you to want them.
posted by anniecat at 7:26 AM on October 14, 2009

I've noticed that girl cats tend to prefer men whereas boy cats tend to prefer women. Tell your girlfriend thats cats are just like that, it's not her fault.
posted by Jess the Mess at 7:42 AM on October 14, 2009

I wouldn't worry about this and I don't think there's much you can do about it. I've seen it happen before, and it is the case in my home, where we adopted two kittens (littermates), and one of them just took to me more than my wife. No accounting for taste.
posted by adamrice at 7:44 AM on October 14, 2009

We have this. There is no solution that I am aware of.
posted by everichon at 7:51 AM on October 14, 2009

I have seen a similar bias shown by every cat I've lived with. It usually corresponds to the cat having imprinted on one person as the primary food and care provider when the cat first joined the household. You can sometimes make the relationships a little less lopsided by having the non-preferred human take on a lot more of the care -- feeding, petting, litter cleaning, etc. -- but there will probably still be some favoritism shown by the cat to the originally preferred human.

When my partner's cat got elderly and sick in the last year or two of his life, I was home more than she was and therefore did a lot more of his feeding and medical care -- and he warmed up to me in a way he never had when younger and healthier. Of course this set me up to be more grief-stricken when he passed away. :(
posted by aught at 8:35 AM on October 14, 2009

Hey, did I write this question? Cat3—a cat I selected from the shelter because she was exceptionally affectionate—has upon adoption devoted all of her attention to my SO. She oozes away if I try to pat her, she looks upon me with utter disdain as I toil away cleaning her litterbox and filling her food dish and any attempts to waggle a toy in her direction are met with an unblinking stare that clearly translates as "You suck."

There is no way to change a cat's mind. Perhaps Mrs. Beese can take comfort in recalling that Jones has a brain the size of a walnut. Additionally, there's some small satisfaction in lording one's opposable thumbs about.
posted by jamaro at 9:37 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tell Mrs Beese to switch to tuna flavored toothpaste.
posted by orme at 10:43 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

It usually corresponds to the cat having imprinted on one person as the primary food and care provider when the cat first joined the household.
Not always. My wife had a cat for three years before we moved in together. I was in the picture, but only intermittently as we had a long distance relationship in those days. Not long after we moved in together, he decided I was the coolest thing ever and would hang out with me at every opportunity. I did next to nothing for him -- I was not the feeder or treat-giver or anything of the sort. He just liked me better for his own mysterious reasons. I perceived it to be taste and instinctive recognition of my finer qualities, although my wife did not share my views. Her solution (although not intentionally done for this reason) was to add another cat, which adopted her and then all cats had people and vice versa. Interestingly, once the older cat passed away, the younger cat had something of a time share system where he would lay with me maybe 30% of the time.
posted by Lame_username at 12:27 PM on October 14, 2009

We have two cats, and I take care of all their needs. I'm also crazy about cats, with a special connection with everything feline, so it's no surprise they follow me around the house, come when I call them, and sleep wherever I am -- much to the annoyance of mrs phliar.

At night, though, they sleep on her pillow, digging their paws and heads in her hair. I have long hair too, but they want nothing to do with it -- if she happens to be out of town they sleep on the foot of the bed. There is no accounting for cats. Your only hope is to resign yourself and roll the die again -- get another cat.
posted by phliar at 1:10 PM on October 14, 2009

Before I got married, my cat and I were each other's best friend. I wasn't sure whether she'd accept my husband or not. But you know what? It worked out just fine. I like to think that today (a year and a half after our wedding) my husband and I have as close to equal relationships with our cat as we're going to get. The best part is that we didn't really plan or have a strategy - it just kind of happened.

First, it helps if your cat is generally affectionate to anyone. If she's the kind of cat who hides when strangers come around, you may never be able to convince her to be completely trusting of more than one person.

Secondly, I think that the most important thing to cats is the amount of time you spend with them. I don't know anything about ignoring cats or acting aloof, but I know that when my husband spends all day alone with her, she attaches to him. If I spend all day with her, then she sticks with me.

What I think helped the most was that when we're both home, we are usually both sitting on the same couch or loveseat and she positions herself between us. She's within reach of both of us and we both make a point to reach over and pet or rub her belly once in a while. She relates to us as a couple, which makes things a lot more equal overall.

We also take turns feeding her. We take turns taking her to the vet. We both take time to stop and "talk" with her and have little lovin' sessions. We'll both change the litter. We'll both take turns being "the bad guy" when it comes to taking medicine or being brushed. We both call and discipline her in the same way. It's consistently equal treatment and since we're almost always in close proximity of each other if both of us are home, the cat is practically guaranteed access to both of us at any given time.

She still favors me a little, but most of the time she'll spend however many minutes on his lap, then the same amount of time on mine and then switch back and forth again. It's the same in bed at night. My husband plays a little rougher with her than I do, so she'll nip him every once in a while. I think that she doesn't do that to me because she knows I won't let her get by with it.

After reading a lot of the responses, I see that our experience seems to be atypical. It mostly depends on the cat, but I hope that some of what I said can help. Good luck!
posted by bristolcat at 1:21 PM on October 14, 2009

My cat has always liked men better than women. When my husband first moved in with me, she was stuck to him like Velcro, and had no use for me at all. She's eased off on that over the years, but occasionally has fits of mega-love for him. (And in further evidence that Cats Are Weird, no matter how clingy she is to Jeff, she will only ever sleep on the bed snuggled up with me.)
posted by sarcasticah at 2:08 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

« Older How can I tell which apartment buildings block...   |   Which GSM slider phone? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.