by Janiss Garza
Because they don’t solicit attention in the same way a dog does, many people assume that cats are anti-social loners. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Cats actually thrive on interaction with their chosen humans. In fact some cats even like making new friends and socializing. Yes, there are cats out there who are extroverts… and there may be more of them than you realize.
The stereotypical view of cats – that they’re scared of new things, hide when visitors come over, and don’t really like people in general – only covers a minority of felines. A significant minority, but not most of them. There are just as many who greet friends at the door, who want to join in family activities, and enjoy being social.
Just like people, some cats are introverts and some are extroverts. If you are treating your extrovert cat like a shrinking violet, you are cheating her out of a lot of fun experiences.
Does your cat:
* Greet visitors at the door?
* Enjoy getting attention?
* Want to be part of family activities?
* Need to check out anything that comes in the house, whether it’s a person or something a postal carrier dropped off?
* Think change is actually pretty interesting?
* Have a bold streak and a sense of fun?
If you say yes to most of these, you have an extrovert. Extroverted cats need more stimulation than shyer cats. They need lots of interactivity. They want you to be part of their playtime. When they’re not playing, they want to share space with their people, maybe soaking up a sun puddle while you putter around in the kitchen, for example. Let them meet friends and workers, even if they will need to be locked in a room afterwards for their own safety (for example, if there is remodeling going on in your house). Extroverted cats may enjoy learning simple tricks, like sitting up, hand-paw shakes or high fives. Since they are curious, they may want to explore the outdoors, so you might consider leash training them.
If your cat sounds like the exact opposite of this, then she is more of an introvert. Let’s look at the checklist for introvert cats.
Does your cat:
* Hide when the doorbell rings?
* Dive under the bed when company comes over?
* Only want to be petted by close family members, and then only when she chooses?
* Get upset by change?
* Enjoy quiet family activities, but will disappear when things get too noisy?
* Get startled easily and need a lot of recovery time?
Then yes, you have an introvert. Even though they don’t need the kind of high stimulation that extrovert cats crave, they still need your attention. The best thing you can do for an introvert cat is be there when they want you. Sure, they will be okay playing by themselves a lot of the time, but they will occasionally want to play games that include you. All cats need safe spots (humans do too!), but introvert cats need them even more deeply. Their safe spots need to be respected, and they must know that when strangers come to the house, they can go there and not be disturbed. Introvert cats need a lot of personal space, so let them have it. The safer they feel, actually, the more likely they will come out and hang with you. When they do, remember, that’s a gift they are giving you.
Many cats are ambiverts, with both introvert and extrovert traits. The best thing to do with these cats is give them their personal space in instances when they want it, but also do things to keep them engaged – letting them hang out with visitors, and giving them ample interactive playtime, for example. Like people, all cats have different quirks to their personalities. That’s part of the joy of living with cats.
Whether a cat is outgoing or withdrawn depends a lot on how they were raised. Responsible breeders and fosters at shelters who work with youngsters and nursing moms often wind up with very sociable kittens because of their hands-on approach. Even the shyer kittens will be more confident and secure with a lot of socialization.
You can’t change an introverted cat to an extroverted one, or vice versa. But you can give them the opportunity to be themselves. Cats flourish with respect and understanding. They’ll be better pets… and maybe you’ll learn a few things from them too.