Dear Miss Advised,
I have a ‘hairy’ situation on my hands. My girlfriend and I have been together for almost two months now; this is the longest relationship I have been in and I am loving it. We have a similar sense of humor, we never run out of things to talk about, and I can spend hours with her without getting bored. Last week I went with her to visit her parents, it was great fun and all of them were so welcoming and warm. All, that is, except for one. The thing my girlfriend insists on calling her ‘cat’, or by the name she gave it: Furry Potter. Although she insists he is a friendly kitty, I think that it is the Devil’s spawn sent from hell to punish me for some heinous crime. That’s the only possible explanation. The thing is malicious. It scratches and bites, and sometimes (completely unprovoked) it will arch its back and hiss in my direction. Unfortunately, my girlfriend seems quite keen to keep it, and she made it clear to me (several times) that it is a very big and important part of her life. Since it is so important to her, she gets really upset when the creature and I don’t get along. I’m joining her on another visit this weekend and I’m worried the thing’s temper will only get worse and that my girlfriend will get upset. I don’t want her to have to choose between the two of us, but that thing is definitely out to get me.
What should I do?
A victim of Cat-titude.
Dear victim of Cat-titude,
Step one in restoring your place in your girlfriend’s heart and forming a better relationship with her cat is abstaining from using the following words: “it”, “that”, “that thing”, “the creature” or “the devil’s spawn”. Try calling ‘it’ “him”, “kitty” or maybe by his human given name (which is absolutely fur-tastic, by the way). I believe this will come across as a more friendly approach, both for the cat and your girlfriend.
Now, I am no expert when it comes to cats, my knowledge about cats extends to the dietary preferences of a certain, lazy anthropomorphic cat (lasagna is the way to go) and his particular aversion to Mondays. But I will say this: at the beginning, there was the cat, and then came the boyfriend. That cat was a part of her life long before you came along, and although you two might be getting along splendidly, she knows that cat better and has loved it for longer. Pets are a big part of any pet-owner’s life, so it is no surprise that she’s upset when the two of you don’t get along. Furthermore, that cat is a part of her pre-uni life, her childhood and her time living in her parent’s house, while you are a big part of her uni life; her exciting, new and independent life. I think she is probably torn between reminiscing and wanting to explore her new life, and these two urges probably seem to conflict when her boyfriend hates her cat. If you like this girl as much as you say you do, the least you can do is put some effort into forming an amiable relationship with her pet. There are several things you can try: first try reading a little about cats, perhaps there is something in your way of approach that is intimidating to the cat. Another option is to talk to your girlfriend about the problem, ask her to teach you how to handle cats, how to hold, pet and talk to them. Even if the cat doesn’t warm up to you showing interest, it will show your girlfriend that you care.
I will now venture to give you a specific piece of advice about cats, keeping in mind my previous disclaimer concerning my knowledge regarding cats: they can be quite territorial, so having a stranger come into its house and steal its human’s attention might be intimidating to the furry feline. Try petting the cat while your girlfriend is holding it; this will show the cat that you are no threat. With some purr-suasion I am sure you will form a claw-some relationship, which might even turn you into a Cat-tholic.
If all else fails, though, the Internet is full of great lasagna recipes.