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Becoming a Cat Person

This blog post is the Winner in our Pets and Their People PPG Summit Blog Contest which invited entrants to submit a blog post on the topic of being rescued by a pet.

I was never a cat person. First of all, I had a cat allergy. A few hours near a cat and my nose started dripping like a faucet. Strike one.

Soldiering through my congestion, the animal-lover in me desperately wanted to pet my aunt’s cats when we visited for holidays. She led me into the bedroom and let me peek under the bed where her calico was hiding. No toys or treats could lure her out, so I left the room disappointed. Strike two.

In 5th grade, I agreed to take care of my neighbor’s cat while they were away. My hopes of bonding with a cat would be dashed again, however, on the second day when Bud suddenly decided to bite me. Strike three.

I had to conclude that cats were just not worth the effort. If they make me sneeze, won’t spend time with me, and bite out of nowhere, what’s the point?

Home Run

Over the years I became adept at avoiding cats. Until I fell in love with a cat dad. Love makes you do crazy things, so I agreed to let Calypso join our home and cleared a space for a litter box. My husband explained that Calypso was just a one-person cat. She loved my husband, but never asked other people for attention. I thought that was perfect; if we could ignore each other and keep our distance, maybe my allergies wouldn’t be so bad.

On the day she moved in, my husband opened the carrier door and Calypso looked around her new home.

“Meow!” She rubbed up against my husband’s leg.

 Okay, that was kind of cute, I thought. But you can stay over there with Dad.

Then, to my horror, Calypso turned toward me. Her face pressed into my shin as she rubbed against me, too.

I suddenly felt a frozen piece of my heart melt. My protective barriers came down and the young animal-lover in me, the one that was desperate to befriend a cat, took over.

I knelt down and held out my hand. Calypso rubbed against my knuckles and came back for another pass on my knee. In just 30 seconds, she had won me over.

The Journey Continues

I still found cat behavior mystifying and unreadable. I wanted to understand what she was thinking and what she needed, so I started doing some research. Body language, diet requirements, play behaviors, nail maintenance. It was all fascinating and I began to appreciate our little house tiger more and more.

As a wild animal trainer for many years at my 9 to 5 job, I started to wonder if I could use that knowledge of animal behavior to help other cat guardians understand their cats. I signed up for classes and now, two years later, have earned the title Certified Feline Training and Behavior Specialist and have a part-time gig assisting a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant help pet parents with their cats’ behavior.

Calypso saved me from a life of viewing cats as aloof weirdos. She gave me a home with early morning snuggles, ridiculous zoomies, and rumbling purrs. Our connection even inspired me to spread the word about cat behavior and help others turn a misunderstanding of these unique creatures into appreciation the way I did. I don’t know where this cat journey will lead me, whether I start my own consulting business or just train cats at my local shelter, but I know that I owe it all to Calypso.

About the Author

Photograph of the author, Haley, and her cat Calypso.
Haley and Calypso

For 11 years, Haley Selen, CFTBS has worked in zoos and museums training wild animals and teaching environmental education programs. She was never a “cat person” until two years ago when a cat named Calypso moved in. It was love at first sight and Haley began learning everything she could about cats and their behavior. In 2022, she completed the Feline Training and Behavior certificate program through the Animal Behavior Institute. She is excited to help people gain a better understanding of their cats and apply the science of behavior in their own homes. Haley lives in the northwoods of Wisconsin with her husband, cat, and pet rabbit.

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