DEAR JOAN: I don’t understand my cat. Sometimes she rolls onto her back and makes me scratch and rub her belly, but other times when I try, she tears my hand to shreds.
I don’t know when she wants belly rubs and when not. Is there a secret cat code?
Al G., San Jose
BEST ALL: Yes, there is a secret cat code, and no, we humans are not allowed to know it.
Here’s the best we can do – treat any belly offer with skepticism and fear. That’s because, for the most part, cats don’t enjoy having their bellies rubbed, even if they offer them.
Unlike dogs, who boldly offer their bellies with a hat, cats are much more protective. The stomach is the cat’s most vulnerable spot, and they’re determined to guard it with all the enthusiasm of a 290-pound linebacker protecting his quarterback.
However, that’s not to say that they don’t lose their heads sometimes and let us touch that forbidden piece of meat. You should pretty much start tummy rubbing when they are kittens. When a cat presents its stomach to you, it’s a sign that they have confidence in you, even though we all know cats have trust issues.
When your cat rolls onto her back and tempts you to reach out, take a look at her overall posture. Is she calm and relaxed? Are her claws sheathed? If so, she may welcome your touch, until that fateful moment when she isn’t.
On the other hand, if she’s tense and snappy, back off. It’s a trap. Actually, it’s an indication that she wants to play, but by now you know better than that. Try rubbing a stuffed animal near her face and keep it that way, but don’t touch the belly unless you have a whole box of bandages nearby.
DEAR JOAN: I just read your comment on the cat owner whose cat only drank from wet leaves and sprinklers instead of their water dish.
This may be because the cat feels that the placement of the water bowl is unacceptable. I had a similar problem with my amazing cat, Smokey. She preferred the leaky spout over water in any kind of bowl, including one of those expensive fountains.
The problem wasn’t the dish, it was the placement of the dish next to her food dish. I tried to place the water bowl on the other side of the kitchen and voila! She had no problems drinking from the dish.
She didn’t care that it was more efficient and aesthetically pleasing to have her water and food bowls together, she wanted it the way she wanted it. But we were finally able to get that leaky bath spout fixed!
James J Gough, Monterrey
DEAR JAMES: It’s probably feng shui feng shui.
DEAR JOAN: About the person who complained that his neighbors feed the crows, this is a perfect problem for mediation.
I am part of a trained volunteer group in Marin. We offer free mediation. There is also a group, Seeds, in Berkeley. I’m sure there are others in other Bay Area locations.
DEAR ELLEN: I learn a lot from my readers and mediation is an excellent option. In addition, there are many organizations throughout the Bay Area that can help if both parties agree. Thank you for letting me know.
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