How to Introduce Your Cat to Your Partner
Take things slow, according to cat behaviorist Jennifer Van de Kieft.
Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)
Every cat is different — some love new people, some are more wary, and others just downright despise anyone who isn’t you. This third category has a special place in the hearts of many cat lovers, as it’s always nice to feel like you are the exception to the rule. The rule here being that all people are bad and to be avoided, hissed at, or scratched whenever possible. Except you. You can literally bury your face in that cat’s tummy and blow raspberries and the worst they’ll do is swish their tail a bit.
That’s all well and good when it’s just the two of you, but what about when you meet someone? Like, an actual human person? At some point, if things progress, you’re going to have to introduce them to your generally misanthropic feline life partner. What then? How do you set the stage for your cat and your person to have the best relationship possible?
Take It Slow
“When introducing your partner to your cat, give your cat a reason to like your partner and take it slow,” says New York-based cat behavior consultant Jennifer Van de Kieft. “It depends on your cat’s personality. Some love visitors, while others are fearful and keep their distance. For the guest-loving cat, this will be easier, but for more aloof cats, maybe start with your partner coming by for a few minutes at a time and gently throwing some treats in their direction.”
Play With Them (and Let Them Win)
Play is also an excellent tool for building a bridge between friend and feline. Wand toys are enjoyed by most cats and allow for playful interaction without them having to get too close to one another. Laser pointers can work too, but you need to make sure you allow your cat to “catch” that little red dot every once in a while and provide them with a treat when they do. (Otherwise they will get frustrated and start to find your partner even more annoying than they did before.)
Cater to Them
If your partner is on the loud side, remind them that cats can be sensitive to noise, so it’s a good idea to keep their volume down when interacting with the cat or entering their space. If your partner is moving in, have them take over feeding and litter-box duties for a while. That way your cat will start to associate them with the fulfillment of their needs, seeing them less as an interloper and more as integral to their maintenance and well-being.
Let Them Feel in Control
“In addition to playtime, food, and treats, being aware that letting cats come to you is a great way to let them feel in control,” says Van de Kieft. “When someone is trying hard to follow a cat and touch them, it usually has the opposite effect, where the cat wants nothing to do with them. If your cat is fearful, be aware of how you’re coming across with body language. Approach sideways to minimize your size, and don’t make direct eye contact, which cats may view as a threat.”
And if push comes to shove, well, cat’s don’t actually have nine lives. If your partner really loves you, they’ll wait. Over there. Where your cat can’t see them. Just for a few years. A decade at most.
Charles Manning is an actor, writer, and fashion/media consultant living in New York City with his two cats, Pumpkin and Bear. Follow him on Instagram @charlesemanning.