Are Cats Manipulative or Is What you See What you Get?

oriental shorthair cat with book

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It would be a huge understatement for me to say that when it comes to feline behavioral issues, my husband Marty and I often don’t see eye-to-eye.

As an example, the other day I was becoming extremely frustrated with Dr. Hush Puppy’s finicky feeding behavior. In fact, it was driving me straight up the wall. Since after opening several different cans of high quality grainless cat food, I finally hit on one that Dr. Hush Puppy thought was the “bee’s knees”.

But after about a week of cheerfully chowing down on this particularly delicious brand, all of a sudden for no apparent reason he decided it was no longer acceptable. It’s possible that he even started covering the food dish with the bathroom mat, because he suspected that I was trying to poison him!

I was about to throw up my hands in sheer desperation and defeat when I discovered that if I offered him a few pieces of grainless kibble – (his all-time favorite treat) he would practically inhale them. He would then get down to business and eat his cat food. I was so excited about learning this new diversion which successfully gave his appetite a jump-start, that I couldn’t wait to tell Marty about it.

provocative manipulative cat
Provocative, manipulative cat? No, I think this cat simply wants to play and is provoking the dog into playing.

Marty had a totally different “spin” on Dr. Hush Puppy’s apparent compliance. Please understand that I certainly am not recommending that everyone use this method and bribe their stubborn, finicky cats into eating; however (knocking wood) since this little trick has thus far been working like a charm, I think of it as type of “appetizer”. Needless to say, my husband disagrees strongly and is positive that Dr. Hush Puppy is skillfully “playing me” like a Stradivarius violin.

From where I sit, just considering that of a cat is capable of “playing” someone is totally unrealistic. Cats are highly intelligent little predators, openly showing their emotions. I have never considered them to be in the least devious. Quite the contrary. In the many years that I’ve been kept by cats, I find them to be inordinately honest and “up-front” in the way they share their feelings and desires.

So When Dr. Hush Puppy sits on the floor next to the cabinet in which we keep their treats and starts to lovingly gaze up at me, he is simply saying “ Please give me a goodie”. After all, at least in this particular case, one doesn’t need to be an expert feline behaviorist to understand this polite request. There is nothing in the least covert about this behavior.

On the other hand, Marty thinks this is manipulative and I am too easily being seduced by Dr. Hush Puppy’s charming manners. But since I have willingly taken on the role of kitty servant, devoting hours on end doting on them, thinking of ways to please them; in our household I consider myself to be more of an expert in understanding feline speak – a language, which in my experience I find to be always direct.

Please understand that I am not casting any dispersion on my husband’s capacity to love our two delightful furry family members. I don’t doubt for an instant that they both hold a very special place in his heart. When they rub up against him and jump into his lap, he gets a “goofy” expression on his face and beams from ear-to-ear. However, there’s no question in my mind that our trusting felines would be greatly disappointed and upset if they thought Marty didn’t trust their motives for showering them with love and affection.

Many people still believe that cats are sneaky and manipulative. What do you think? Share your opinion in a comment.


Photo credit: Jo Singer (Sir Hubble reads Jackson Galaxy)

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38 thoughts on “Are Cats Manipulative or Is What you See What you Get?”

  1. Manipulative? No. Persistent? YES! Around here when momma says no it means no but…if they go to poppa and beg to be let out into their enclosure he goes all mushy and lets them out. That is persistent. If they cannot get momma or poppa to do their bidding then they drop back to their human sister and beg to her. I have noticed recently that if they don’t get what they want from momma and poppa they give up. Their human sister always asks momma and my word is law. I have to say that once they have something in their heads they are determined.

  2. In the past, I had the viewpoint that I’m the boss about food and they’ll eat what I give them, which was dry food, water, and if I gave them plates to lick after our meals, that was a treat. Then i got a purebred cat who had been raised on an expensive, high-quality food and for the first time, experienced both finickiness and a tummy that wouldn’t tolerate certain foods. The purebreds I’ve had were also picky about how they wanted to be held and petted, also harder to clip claws, harder to pill, and my current Ragamuffin doesn’t like to be combed. Prior mutt-cats were never such primadonnas.

    • Rani,

      I wouldn’t attribute pure-breed ism to difficulty trimming nails. I do attribute that to how they were handled when kittens, starting them when they are very young. I have never had problems trimming nails with out cats, even Nemesis who was half Siamese. I did have one mutt kitty that initially fought me tooth and nail about trimming claws for several weeks but eventually realized it was no big deal and was very cooperative. Thankfully she was a kitten and far more ready to learn new things.


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