Those of us who share our homes with pets can’t understand how anyone wouldn’t love being owned by a dog or cat. Non-pet people have their reasons, however, for preferring to live in a pet-free zone. They may have pet allergies, work a lot of overtime hours, like to travel, or have children with allergies or asthma. Some people are scared of dogs or cats because of previous encounters that didn’t end well. Yet people who don’t necessarily want to be around pets seem to be a magnet for cats and dogs. Ever wonder why?
As responsible pet parents, we take the time to properly socialize our dogs to people of all ages, different environments, situations, other dogs and sights and sounds, so they are comfortable and relaxed in any surrounding. When we do our job right, most dogs are fine approaching new people, even though not everyone is as eager to meet him.
Cats, on the other hand, tend to be suspicious of anyone they don’t know, although there are some people-friendly cats that will approach a stranger to say “Hi.” People who don’t like pets believe a well socialized dog comes to them because the animal knows they don’t like dogs, or that cats are just being annoying when they try to rub against their legs. Some people believe the animal’s actions are done on purpose to irritate them, which just isn’t something dogs or cats think about. It’s all about body language!
Dogs are true experts at reading our body language, but cats also observe our actions. Dogs know what kind of mood we’re in by watching us and observing our face. People who aren’t dog lovers are indifferent to canines, and dogs are able to pick up on it. A shy or timid dog sees the person not making eye contact (which can be threatening), as the person who won’t bother him and settles down beside him/her for some undisturbed quiet time. A dog can be well socialized, but isn’t keen on being petted, and the person ignoring them will likely leave them alone. Some dogs try to get someone to play with them because they are being ignored.
In the cat world, eye contact is threatening. When a cat walks into a room full of people, the cat lovers ooh and aah to get her attention, and stare at her. Depending on the kitty, she may not want unasked for attention. Instead of going to someone who is staring at her, she’s more likely to approach the person in the room who isn’t watching her – the non-pet lover – to cuddle up next to. In the cat’s eyes, when she surveyed the room and found that one person ignoring her, that was a warm invitation.
Cats are also diligent about marking everything in the home, including people, by rubbing against what they want to claim as theirs. Any cat owner will tell you – they may furnish the home, but it’s the cat who owns everything inside and outside her domain. But people who have allergies or just don’t care for cats may not be excited about being rubbed against. Instead of allowing the feline to do her thing, they do their best to ignore her and try to shoo her away, which only makes some cats more determined to get that person marked.
Some pets are more comfortable around certain people. I had a rescue dog that avoided anyone wearing a hat or talking in a loud voice. A pet that spends most of his time around women may be more comfortable with other women, and the same holds true for men. Not all pets like children and if kids are around, the pet is more likely to seek out someone not paying attention to them, whether that person is a pet lover or not.
Dogs are just as curious as cats, and one of the best ways to teach a dog to come when called is to sit down and ignore him. He’ll come to you because he can’t contain his curiosity about what you’re doing. Even a cat has a hard timing ignoring someone if it looks like there might be something going on. Non-pet people might see an encounter with a dog or cat as something to avoid, but the more non-threatening they seem, the more inviting they are to some pets.
Top photo by Eli Duke
Bottom photo by Denise Mattox
Read more articles by Linda Cole