In Search of Ponies: Cats operate on reverse psychology

"I'm running late," the woman's sleepy voice stated. "I overslept because the cat laid on top of my cell phone and muffled the alarm.

It had to be the best excuse ever.

It might have seemed too bizarre to be believable, had the woman telling the story not been forced to pause every couple seconds to sneeze or sniffle.

"I don't know how the stupid cat got in my room but its killing my asthma," the sound of an inhaler was followed by a desperate suck of air.

A later conversation revealed that the woman was terribly allergic to cats, but her roommate was a cat lover. The imperfect solution was to keep her door closed, a solution which seemed to make the cat love her even more, resulting in the feline designating her bedside table as cat Mecca.

Sometimes it seems cats suffer from an oppositional disorder that drives them to be where they aren't wanted and causes them to hide when they are.

Have company over and the cat will ignore any "here-kitty-kitty-kitty," run through the gauntlet of outstretched affectionate hands and high-tail it to the cat-hater or the one allergic person in the group and proceed to rub all over them like a long lost friend.

As if that weren't enough, they must have been paperweights in another life, because you can spend all day chasing after your cat only to have it scramble at the sight of you, but the second you lay papers on the table in front of you, the cat interprets it as an invitation to lounge.

For those who dislike cats it comes across as an instinctual drive to torment and annoy.

And for those who go into fits of sneezing, develop itchy eyes and lose respiratory function, its easy to start feeling like they must be sporting an invisible target or emit Eau De Catnip.

As targeted as one may feel, to the contrary, it all comes down to a difference in customs and quite frankly, the cat just doesn't see things quite the way we do.

In fact, nothing says mixed message quite like barreling toward a cat, arms out stretched, yowling, "here kitty."

Humans have this abrasive habit of charging up to one another, shaking hands and going through a greeting ritual, while to cats, such a greeting is the equivalent of storming the castle and as a generally solitary and territorial animal, the cat can pretty easily read into an advancing person as not good.

Someone who shows no interest, on the other hand, and just sits quietly or tries to avoid the cat has the effect of empowering them.

It pretty much comes down to a need to smell before socializing, with cats relying on their sense of smell to tell them if someone is familiar, friendly or threatening, according to catbehaviorassociates.com, the website of Pam Johnson-Bennett, a certified cat behavior consultant. Cat greetings are so significant, Johnson-Bennett has devoted a section of her website to "Using Proper Cat Etiquette" when greeting those of the feline persuasion.

It turns out cats are playing a game of opposites, of sorts, or humans are, but either way, somebody's got it all wrong.

In fact, avoidance is closer to a polite cat greeting than anything else, and just as cats will circle each other in a room, getting a little closer with each pass, all while seeming to ignore one another, a person who shirks away from the cat is pretty much hanging out the welcome sign.

So for allergy sufferers and those who arrant terribly fond of cats, the answer is pretty simple. If its a cat-free life you're after, take some antihistamines have an inhaler ready, wear gloves and a mask just in case, and learn to say, "here-kitty-kitty."

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: insearchofponies@gmail.com or on the web at: www.insearchofponies.blogspot.com

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