Monkey & Banana… not quite two peas in a pod
Having an animal companion at home can help reduce our stress levels, decrease loneliness and make us feel happy. I totally agree with that. Having had cats all of my life, I can confidently say that they have been wonderful companions through some really tough times.
However, not all pet owners recognise that this goes both ways. Animals have companionship and mental health needs too. Welcoming an animal into your family should be as much about you being the right family for them as they are for you. What breed is the animal? What are their basic needs? Does its breed affect that? Is your home environment suitable? These are all crucial questions we must ask ourselves before bringing an animal home with us.
Is your home suitable for the breed you want?
Understanding different breeds and their needs in consideration with your home environment and its suitability for them are important before bringing your pet home. Having a cat or any animal within your family isn’t just about what they give you but what you can give them in return. That’s why I want to share my story of my two cats, Monkey and Banana, to help give a little insight into the importance of appreciating their individuality and ensuring your actions allow them to flourish.
My parents made sure that my sister and I learned about the personalities of our cats and took responsibility to care for them. They were not “live” cuddly toys to do with as we pleased. We were taught to build trust, learn what actions they took when they were trying to tell us something, wait and let them approach us if they wanted to and how to recognise when a cat has had enough of human contact.
Cats are always themselves and that’s why I love them
I love cats, mostly because they are unapologetically themselves. They will not drink or eat from a bowl that they don’t like for example. They can be very particular about where their food bowl and litter tray are (and even picky regarding litter types). I got both Monkey and Banana when they were kittens. Monkey has been with me for 10 years and chose me as his trusted person early on. Despite being around people from the start, he is a nervous cat and isn’t fond of children. This is tough when you have young nephews who want to cuddle and play with your cat. However, it has allowed me to teach them about respecting him in the same way my parents did for me.
A little bit about Monkey…
Monkey loves soft furnishings, fresh cold water, sleeping and food! He is really affectionate and will regularly come to me for a good chin rub and cuddle (especially if I’m wearing his favourite dressing gown). When he’s relaxed, I can approach him and stroke him happily. When he is sleepy, he loves for me to hold his paw. He has chosen the bottom of my bed as his and Banana prefers the top.
Monkey likes to know someone is close by but prefers to be on his own, snoozing on his favourite blanket. He will not go to anyone else in the same way he comes to me and I always make sure to tell people that. If approached too quickly, he gets scared. He is just very particular with whom he shows affection and he does it in his own time. He loves sleeping in cupboards and doesn’t venture far from home when he goes out. The one thing that is challenging is a trip to the vet or when I go on holiday. Monkey hates the cat carrier and gets anxious travelling to the vet, so I try to make those trips as smooth as possible and talk to him the whole way.
He loves his home comforts so much and is nervous with people and places he doesn’t know, so I would never put him in a cattery. Thankfully I have friends and family who will stay with him when I go away so his routine isn’t disrupted. He has lots of little quirks; a favourite blanket, won’t go out in the rain and taps on the cupboard when he wants fed, to name a few. He’s also a chancer with food. He will eat all day long if you let him and has a particular love of melon, yoghurt and all things sweet (so watch where you put that bowl).
Banana, the wild one!
Banana on the other hand, is my wild child! He is a year old and I knew that bringing him into the household, when Monkey had been the only cat in the house for nine years, would be challenging. I know how to introduce cats to each other, and it took patience and time before Monkey was comfortable with a little one running around. He also made it clear to Banana that he was in charge and the dominant one. Now they get on fine and enjoy sleeping near one another on the bed and can eat together happily. However, as with all family members, they like their own space to do their own thing too.
Banana is young and adventurous. He is extremely sociable, loves the car, people and isn’t stressed by new places. He chirps and has the loudest purr I have ever heard. In fact, he is so inquisitive and confident, that I was able to take him to my friends’ houses when I was visiting and into the office at OneKind, (so as not to leave him at home when he was young). This also gave Monkey some space while getting used to him. Banana absolutely loves company and loves to play. He also LOVES sitting on a laptop, which makes working challenging! When I started to leave them both at home, putting the radio or tv on for a little while helped to settle them.
Always ready for play… but touch on my terms only
Banana even learned to play fetch by himself, bringing the ball to you to throw. However, don’t expect to pick him up to cuddle him. He is a wriggler and will only snuggle on his own terms. You can sit or lie next to him but stroke him when he doesn’t want it and he will quickly start cleaning himself. He’d rather you didn’t touch front paws but back feet are fine. He is cuddly in the mornings and wakes me up by crawling over me and chirping. When he sleeps beside me, he likes to be really close. He loves the shower and tries to catch the water. As soon as he hears it running, he runs to the bathroom. When he wants his own space to sleep, he will snuggle up in my shoe cupboard or go to the corner in the bedroom.
Banana is an easy-going cat who has recently discovered outside. His new routine is to go outside early in the morning and come home late at night, once a week. He is not tempted by human food (unless you have ice-cream) and only eats dry food.
Similar but different…
Monkey and Banana do have some similarities. Both like home comforts, drinking from the bathroom tap and cat tv. There are lots of videos on YouTube that will entertain your cats. Neither of them like collars, so I don’t force them to wear one.
While both of my cats are the same domestic short hair breed, live in the same environment and have many similar traits, they have their own personalities. I have taken time to learn their preferences, to ensure they enjoy life to the fullest and are happy. They both know the rules of going out. Before I go to bed, it’s in and out the front door and after that, they know to tap the bedroom window to get in.
Get it right and you’ll both be purrfectly happy
Having a cat is so rewarding but it’s really important to consider that it’s their home too. It’s crucial to respect your cat’s preferences. Smothering them because we want attention is not the best way to build a bond with them and we must treat them as individual, sentient beings, not toys. When cats know that you respect their privacy, you will gain their trust and they are more likely to feel relaxed and come to you. I want my cats to feel loved yet free to live life on their terms. I wouldn’t change them for the world.