Can a person who doesn’t like cats ever love one? How can they learn to love cats?

I have chosen men with cats in this image as it is normally men who might dislike cats and can then learn to like them. Image: MikeB
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The answer to the first question in the title (plucked from social media) must be an unequivocal, yes. Over the years that I have been managing this website, I have bumped into many instances of “dog people” and people who frankly disliked cats, falling in love with a cat that they ultimately adopted perhaps because their partner insisted on it. They become cat people and retain their love of dogs as well. So how does this transformation come about?

It’s about a change in mindset. Often people dislike cats because they don’t know cats. They’ve been told about cats perhaps by their parents when there were children and they never learned for themselves what living with a cat is really like. It’s often about shedding that initial, what I might call, indoctrination about cats by somebody who doesn’t like them and then learning through exposure to cats and observing them that they are completely different to the impression that they had.

It can be quite a slow awakening for the cat hater to learn to like and then love cats. When they spend time around cats observing their behaviour, they learn to appreciate their unique characteristics.

And sometimes cats learn to love a particular individual in the home. They like that person’s behaviour and smell. They become the chosen one. This certainly helps change their mindset.

Perhaps initially, a person who dislikes cats should visit friends or family who have cats and spend time with them. Or they may visit a cat café or a shelter to introduce themselves to cats and gradually break down attitudinal barriers. By observing cats in different settings, the person may start to notice cats’ individual personalities, affectionate behaviour and playfulness.

Understanding cats better and educating oneself on their behaviour can help dispel misconceptions or preconceived notions a person might have. A person might even have a fear of cats which is called ailurophobia. It may have come about because of a traumatic incident with a cat when they were young. A genuine issue but it can be overcome by a gradual desensitisation carried out by gradually introducing oneself to cats in gradual stages to break down the fear.

Once a person who dislikes cats takes these initial steps and has an understanding of a cat’s needs, behaviours and communication cues they can then create an empathy with cats which leads to a deeper connection with them. And so, the ball is rolling in terms of learning to like cats.

Once you develop that empathetic connection with cats you are a long way on the journey of loving them. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you will automatically like cat having taken all the steps above. You might still dislike them because it is in your nature. That’s perfectly normal but at least you give yourself the chance to like them through a better understanding.

Perhaps the best way to introduce oneself to a domestic cat is to play with them with a cat tease. People who dislike cats should not necessarily pet them with their hands because it might lead to bite or scratch if they pet them in the wrong way. Playing with a cat at a slight distance with a cat tease is a good idea because the cat will love it and the person will be part of that enjoyable interaction. The cat will learn to like being with the person and the person will learn to enjoy pleasing the cat.

Petting cats should be done in a careful and respectful way. There are too many instances of people overdoing it to a point where the cat no longer enjoys it and which may provoke a play response which might include biting and scratching. That’s not what a person wants if they don’t like cats! Hands should not be play toys for a cat.

But by providing care and witnessing their resilience and capacity for love a person may develop an appreciation for cats.

And it is important too, that people developing a love of cat should be aware that each individual is different. They all have their own personalities and it’s up to the cat caregiver to understand their cat’s personality which means understanding their likes and dislikes, the kind of handling they like and whether they like a lot of contact or not so much.

At all stages, the person should proceed at the cat’s pace. And the same applies to the person. It should be a gentle respectful process and it may take some time before a person who dislikes cats learns to love them. It could be several months or more before the transformation has been concluded.

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