Feline attraction to allergic person
May 11, 2006 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Cats are mysteriously drawn to me.

I'm allergic to cats. Put me in a room full of people (who are not allergic to cats), and the house cat will walk straight towards me while ignoring the other, non-allergic, people. Why is that?
posted by seawallrunner to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's hardwired into a cat's brain to seek out the one person in the room least likely to want attention from a cat.
posted by briank at 1:25 PM on May 11, 2006

It's partially because cats like socializing with people on their own terms. Likely, the non-allergic people show some interest in the cat. The cat sees you as a human who he can hang out with who won't annoy him too much -- the fact that you are allergic doesn't matter much to him.

I say this as an owner of 5 cats who never has other peoples' cats walk up to him.
posted by rossination at 1:26 PM on May 11, 2006

You're not alone. I have heard the same thing from other allergic people. They probably smell fear. I am allergic to cats, but stupidly, I want them to come by me anyway. And they don't.

Just be glad you're not my sister. All pets want to have sex with her. Dogs who have never humped anyone's leg - hump my poor sister's. Parrots. Rabbits. You name it.
posted by clh at 1:30 PM on May 11, 2006

Cat enters room. Cat lovers look at cat. Cat perceives eye contact as threat from animals trying to dominate it. Cat keeps away from threatening animals and goes to investigate the animal that isn't looking and therefore not dominating. You (or I) sneeze.
posted by dismitree at 1:31 PM on May 11, 2006

I can add another anecdotal data point. I'm allergic to cats and people comment how much their cats want to be near me and my stuff. I think it's partly their attracted to indifference.

It may also be that me and my belongings are curiously free of any cat scents, which they are keen to correct.
posted by justkevin at 1:36 PM on May 11, 2006

their = they're
posted by justkevin at 1:36 PM on May 11, 2006

I am very allergic to cats, and this happens to me all the time. I always put it off as the "indifference" factor - like the cat enjoys a challenge or something.

Except the other day I noticed a cat in my living room. After I chased it out of the house and realized it crawled in through a relatively small hole in my screen door, I came up with another hypothesis - Cats are Evil.
posted by SassHat at 1:44 PM on May 11, 2006

I, too, am allergic to cats and this happens to me all the time. My friend's one cat who will not give her or her family the time of day will immediately jump into my lap the moment I sit down. My brother's three cats will surround me and take turns attempting to get attention from me. My friend believes it has to do with eye contact, as dismitree says.
posted by rhapsodie at 1:48 PM on May 11, 2006

Staring to the cat is the equivalent to a threat or sign of aggression. Since your not doing that they figure your not a threat like everyone else is. Or what dismitree said minus the sneezing.
posted by squeak at 2:03 PM on May 11, 2006

I may be imagining this, but I seem to recall Desmond Morris talking about this in his book Catwatching. It's pretty much as rossination says - the allergic person is the only one who's acting sensibly, as far as the cat is concerned. A small squirt gun will be your friend.
posted by jasper411 at 2:13 PM on May 11, 2006

Response by poster: hah, so many of you say that playing hard to get is getting me into feline trouble :)

thank you for the responses so far. I am now wondering whether my cat-free smell, or my 'hey, new person in da house' smell is also an attractant.

I wish I was not allergic to cats - although I am definitely a dog person I also think that cats are cute. But the moment I am in a room with a cat, my jaw begins to itch and my eyes are watering unless I take some anti-histamines before the visit.

I wonder whether repeated exposure to a given cat will decrease that cat's attention to me, as well as decrease the cat's effect on me.
posted by seawallrunner at 2:15 PM on May 11, 2006

A small squirt-gun or other deterrent can also get you punched in the arm by the cat's owner. YMMV.
posted by tweak at 2:17 PM on May 11, 2006

To translate the above comments into an action other than using a squirt gun: try making "HERE KITTY KITTY" noises while looking directly at the cat, and/or and commenting loudly about how pretty (or well groomed or whatever) it is (which will please the owner). Consider it an experiment - how much worse can things get?
posted by WestCoaster at 2:28 PM on May 11, 2006

It's also the same thing that makes my cat ignore me all day until I start to read the newspaper. At that point, he leaps onto the table and lays across the crossword, begging for attention. Pest.
posted by gatorae at 2:28 PM on May 11, 2006

Here's an interesting thing. Some of the common negative human reactions of distaste or anxiety are actually interpreted by cats as benevolent and/or welcoming. An example is our tendency to narrow our eyes when looking at something we don't like. Cats interpret this as friendliness - it's wide eyes which look menacing to a cat. There are other examples but unfortunately I can't recall them all. I read this in one of those "cat psychology" books years ago and as a long-time cat owner, most of it made sense. Bottom line is, your body language is probably sending the opposite signals to the cat that you'd like it to.
posted by Decani at 4:21 PM on May 11, 2006

Best answer: What I think you need to worry about is that these cats are drawn to you in a mysterious way. I'm assuming that they are floating towards you, like ghosts? Or are they teleporting?

"Blink cats" are a form of demon, native to the ethereal plane of K'tay. They are extremely dangerous, as they can suck out your soul if you aren't wearing silver. Ghosts themselves aren't dangerous, but will make your clothing moldy over time.

I'm suggesting that some form of exorcism is in order. Holy water in a spray bottle, as was suggested above, is probably not going to handle your problem.
posted by Dunwitty at 8:38 PM on May 11, 2006 [3 favorites]

Dunwitty wins.
posted by eritain at 9:20 PM on May 11, 2006

I expect that when you see a cat you narrow your eyes and look away. This, to a cat, is smiling a welcome. The cat thinks you're inviting it over and will come accordingly. If you want to deter it, widen your eyes and stare at it. This will make the cat nervous of you.
posted by talitha_kumi at 3:43 AM on May 12, 2006

What I think it is, is that you are more likely to notice a cat in a mysterious way, and that ordinary approach of any given cat seems like a big deal whereas you might not notice that the cat has already met every other person because it hasn't met you yet and you make it a big deal. Possible?
posted by vanoakenfold at 7:51 AM on May 12, 2006

Response by poster: thank you all for your responses. they were all helpful. I marked Dunwitty's response as best because, gosh darn it, I really did laugh out loud. I'll remember to wear silver and leave the spritz gun at home :)
posted by seawallrunner at 11:16 AM on May 12, 2006

Similar answers above. I'm horribly allergic to dogs, & somewhat allergic to most cats except my own cats which I've become accustomed to (as long as I don't bury my face in their side or touch my face after petting them or something).

The way it was explained to me was that the allergic person is likely the only person in the room exhibiting non-dominant behavior towards said critter in terms of animal body language. The only drawback to this is that while it's good to know, it's not particularly helpful when you try reverse psychology & they decide you're still their newest bestest friend evar.

Dunwitty's response was the best.
posted by susanbeeswax at 10:45 PM on May 12, 2006

An ex-girlfriend who was allergic to cats would bring catnip with her, surreptitiously hide it in an out-of-the-way spot in the room, then steer clear. Once the cat got wind of the catnip, it would just roll around on the floor and ignore everybody in the room.
posted by antifreez_ at 1:49 PM on May 16, 2006

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