Kitteh, teh protector?
December 6, 2012 11:35 AM   Subscribe

What is up with my boyfriend's cat? Do cats "sense" certain things?

My boyfriend and I live together with his cat, a 7 year old tabby adoptee (or maybe he adoped my boyfriend? Who knows). His cat and I have a good but dysfunctional relationship. My boyfriend is hands down, clearly kitty's favorite human ever, to the point where I think kitty is jealous of me (which I find amusing and endearing). When it's just me and kitty in the house we just stay out of each other's way. However, the moment my boyfriend comes home, kitty morphs into this meow-y, needy, attention whore and wants my boyfriend ALL TO HIMSELF.

My boyfriend and I literally cannot even stand in the kitchen and hug or cook together without kitty pulling on his pants legs. We can't sit on our counter barstools and chat at any time of the day without kitty in our faces (he's not allowed on the counters), we have to kick him out of our bedroom at night and he's just all over my boyfriend. Of course my boyfriend indulges kitty with attention when kitty does this stuff but sometimes he even gets a little annoyed (like when he's trying to do work in his office and kitty is all over him when he's on a conference call). Kitty NEVER does this to me or even ventures over to me if I'm home alone watching tv on the couch. He doesn't seek any attention from me ever, although I do wish he did. I am the giver of treatz, and kitteh toyz however which is not new at all, but other than that, he pretty much just keeps to himself and I keep to myself.

Except when I'm sick or have my period. I've noticed over the past several months an emerging trend that if I have a bad cold then kitty will come and nuzzle me for about 15 seconds and then walk away like nothing happened. If I have my period, however, suddenly I have earned a new lap cat. Kitty will literally dive into my lap and will insist on sitting on my stomach everytime I sit or lie down. He's perfectly calm, he just parks it right on my belly. He won't give my boyfriend the time of day.

I'm just really curious and amused about this drastic behavior change. Do cats "sense" this stuff? What is kitty doing exactly? Is kitty trying to comfort me? Protect me? Control the household with kitteh mind games? I'm really interested in hearing your take on this or if your cat does similar or other drastic kitty behavior in other situations.
posted by floweredfish to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Cats definitely can sense or smell the difference in hormones and body chemistry, and I would guess kitty is responding to that. It might sound weird, but the cat probably likes your smell better during those times.

How long have you lived together? Because my cat really freaked out when my fiance and I first got together—first night in the same bed, kitty was UPSET—but now the cat adores him and even has a ritual where he goes to him first for pettings at night.

You being the giver of treats and playtime is the right thing to do to bond with the kitty and show that you are a giver of good things. Seven years is quite awhile though, and most likely the cat will always be more bonded to the boyfriend.
posted by Eicats at 11:49 AM on December 6, 2012

Cat's can take a LONG time to adjust to changes. Maybe it's just now starting to accept you. My first cat took over 2 years to start being friendly with cat #2. Maybe when you're sick or on your period you're more tired and thus give off a more relaxed vibe on a physical level? The cat may feel more comfortable interacting with you in this state.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:50 AM on December 6, 2012

My kitty Eartha is naturally aloof.

She's not all that interested in love. She spends her evenings with me at the foot of the bed. But when I'm under the weather, she parks herself right next to me.

In the cat world, one member of the pride will stand watch while the others sleep. My theory is she's standing watch so I can rest.

Cats DO have a way of sensing this stuff. Your boyfriend's cat is acknowledging that you're a memeber of the pride and he's taking care of you.

Soon he will be up in your grill wanting attention too.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:52 AM on December 6, 2012 [7 favorites]

Basically, to the cat, he and your boyfriend have been in a long-term relationship and you are the Other Woman.
posted by marylynn at 11:57 AM on December 6, 2012 [10 favorites]

Domesticated animals can absolutely tell when a member of their family is feeling poorly, and will try to comfort them in the same way that I bet when the cat gets sick, y'all comfort him.
posted by griphus at 11:57 AM on December 6, 2012 [6 favorites]

We have an aloof cat that sometimes gets aggressively snuggly for 10 minutes or so, usually around 10 or 11 am. So possibly it was just a snuggle fit independent of your period.
posted by umbú at 12:07 PM on December 6, 2012

Cats can definitely tell when their caregiver is feeling unwell. My old cat would tone down her crazy and become extra affectionate when I was depressed, anxious, or sick. During those times, she would fall asleep next to me or on my lap, purring while I gave her behind-the-ear massages. She wouldn't get up unless I disturbed her by getting up myself, and usually she'd wait in the same place for me to return. It was incredibly comforting, I think, for the both of us.
posted by mayurasana at 12:09 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing kittehs knowing when you're not feeling well. As for the rest, how long have you and your bf been together? How long did you date before moving in together, and how long have you co-habitated? Did you move into his place, or did the kitty wind up moving?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:19 PM on December 6, 2012

Response by poster: We've been dating for over a year and before we lived together, I'd stay at his place 4-5 nights a week, so kitty definitely knows me (and I have been the giver of treats and toys for about 10-11 months).

We moved into my place, but kitty knows my place because if we spent the weekend here before we moved in together, my boyfriend would bring kitty over here with him. He had his own catbox and kitty stuff here and everything already. Kitty has spent several weeks with me too before all of this when my boyfriend was traveling for work.

My boyfriend has owned kitty for 4 years. He rescued him when he was 3.

We've been living together for over two months now. If anything, the biggest difference is that we're now home a heck of a lot more than we were before, carting our asses between houses and such as dating people tend to do.
posted by floweredfish at 12:32 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Humans have a sense of smell like a mole has eyesight, virtually nonexistent, it would definitely know if you were menstruating (to be rather crude). Heck, if dogs can smell cancer, maybe they can do scary mindreading via smell?
posted by maiamaia at 1:09 PM on December 6, 2012

Cats live in a world of sights, sounds and smells we can only imagine. For them to react to things we're not aware of is not at all surprising.
posted by tommasz at 1:18 PM on December 6, 2012

You didn't mention that you ever pet the cat. I've found that the best way of making friends with a cat is learning how they like to be petted, and then petting them like that.

My girlfriend's cat absolutely loves me and runs up to me everytime I come over, even though I've never fed him or given him a treat.

It's because I know how to scratch him. My girlfriend pets him very softly with the palm of her hand, while I use my fingernails and really get in there when I scratch his back. He loves it. Not all cats will like that, though. You just have to try petting them a bunch of different ways and see what they respond to.
posted by mcmile at 1:18 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Panther used to know when my wife was not feeling good. Particularly during that time of the month. She would be resting on her stomach and Panther would go lay down and fall asleep on her lower back. She always loved that - that warm, soft, purring cat made things feel a lot better, a better pain reliever than heat wraps.

As far as them being able to sense things... She used to work at a no-kill car shelter. If there was a cat in the middle of the room and the rest of the cats all suddenly started backing away from that one, she knew a seizure was about to happen.

Simple rule of cats - they know what's up, even if they don't care.
posted by azpenguin at 3:11 PM on December 6, 2012 [7 favorites]

My cat LOVES me when I just came from the gym, or if I go a day without showering. And (this is gross), if I ever leave clothes on the floor, she rolls around in the armpits and rubs her face all over them. I think she likes human body odours. Your body odour is probably stinkier when you are menstruating or sick.
posted by lollusc at 3:31 PM on December 6, 2012

" Simple rule of cats - they know what's up, even if they don't care."
One of the more brilliant things I've read today!

So, I agree that cats can tell when you're not feeling yourself. AbsquatuKitty made herself quite affectionate when I was laid off from my job years ago, when I had a death in the family, when I myself was on the mend from a near-deathly illness, etc. So, yeah, I bet they can tell.

As for the excess attention from your kitty to your boyfriend, I've had similar problems too when AbsquatuKitty is needing something. I take a behavior modification approach: active ignoring or third-party adversive stimulus to help extinguish the behavior I don't like. For example, AbsquatuKitty is begging for attention by walking on my keyboard, I'll shoo her down but give no pets, no eye contact, NOTHING. If it's really bad, I'll shake a can with pebbles in it, or use a squirt gun, but not while interacting with her in any way. I want her to associate the bad consequence with the ass-on-computer, not with me. In a few minutes, when she's quiet and otherwise distracted, I'll get up and play with her like mad for five minutes. This has made my work days at home much more productive. I've also scheduled dedicated play times so that she gets the attention she needs.

posted by absquatulate at 3:32 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

If my kittehs have ever known that I felt unwell (and I sure as hell have felt majorly unwell a whole lot since I've owned them in the many years I've had 'em around), they never, ever indicated they could tell. I'd like to think it's because they've got a genetic kitteh defect, but I've accepted that, you know. Cats are weird. I'm sure they perceive a crapton of things that we don't, because our senses are just not as well-designed in a number of ways, but even so. And this is even with one of the kittehs being ultra-super-friendly to humans, all the time. If somebody's visibly upset, or there are tears - they act the same. If there's the yelling and the shouting, though, sometimes there's hiding.
posted by bitterkitten at 3:54 PM on December 6, 2012

My affectionate cat definitely knows if there's illness, pain, or sadness in the house. She gravitates towards it and minds it very closely.

On the other hand, dear departed Winston, who was aloof and grouchy, knew when my other cat Cosa was dying. She lost the use of her hind legs over the course of a few days, and I sat in bed with her the whole time. He was right there with us, curled up next to my shoulder and paying very close attention. It was not at all like him. I'll never know whether he was comforting me, or comforting himself.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:18 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

The resident cat in my home hasn't ever shown any extra care for me when I'm sick, and I've had some pretty miserable health issues pop up in the time I've lived with him! He did, however, latch onto me and make me "his person" pretty quickly after I moved in. I'm the only menstruating person in the house. Sometimes I wonder.....!
posted by springbound at 10:25 PM on December 6, 2012

I hate to bring the morbid, but your question reminded me of this which I found pretty touching at the time and still do.
posted by greenish at 4:50 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am firmly in the camp of Cats Are Magical and All Knowing. My cat will curl up on my stomach and purr when my menstrual cramps are the worst. She rarely does this at other times. The love she gives me plus the pms style heightened emotions means I usually have a little cry of appreciation for her love. That's not embarrassing, right?
posted by saltwater at 6:55 AM on December 7, 2012

When I had a week-long migraine brought on by severe TMJ, my roommate's otherwise VERY dumb cat (we are talking about a cat who does not know how to retract her claws when she gets stuck in the curtains and will hang there scream-meowing indefinitely) curled up on the small of my back and stayed there almost 24/7 for days.

Cats definitely know what's up.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:28 AM on December 7, 2012

See my AskMe from 2006. Short answer: yes.
posted by echolalia67 at 9:31 PM on December 15, 2012

« Older NYE, UTC−04:00 edition.   |   Where to go menorah-shopping? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.