I know that as a lesbian this is sacrilegious, but I don’t really like cats. I have tried to fight this feeling for much of my life, tentatively patting friends’ cats and smiling at funny videos, but much like my sexuality, no amount of faking it could change me. My family always had several big, friendly, cozy dogs when I was growing up and just don’t really ‘get’ cats or why you would want one in your home.
The issue is, my girlfriend and I moved in together a few months ago after three years of dating, and she has a cat — so now, by default, I have a cat. I’ve tried, genuinely really hard to warm to him. He’s a sweet enough cat and I’ve sometimes had fun playing with him, and I do enjoy when he curls into a little loaf.
But I just can’t get past this negative feeling towards him. I don’t like the way he climbs all over the furniture, don’t like having to hide my stuff so he won’t scratch it, don’t like having a litter box in our living room, don’t like the creepy way he stares at me…I could go on. I recognize these are all pretty minor things, but it all just makes me that bit less comfortable in my home and I feel my mood darken when I hear his meow. I am aware that I sound like a terrible person and this is why I can’t discuss the issue with friends.
My girlfriend is aware I’m not the biggest cat person and we talked a bit about my concerns before we moved in together. He’s not allowed in our bedroom, and she’s conscious of dealing with his litter etc. But I don’t want to tell her that I’m struggling now because she’d only be stressed and upset and there’s nothing she could do.
I don’t want my girlfriend to get rid of her cat, of course, that would be a horrible thing to do and our relationship definitely wouldn’t recover. I just want to learn to love (or at least like) this creature who will now be part of my life for the next ten or so years (all being well with my relationship and the cat’s health). How can I do this?
First of all, I just want to affirm that it is perfectly okay to not like cats. I say this as a cat person! It is okay to not like cats, and it is not required of gays to like cats despite any stereotypes that might exist. You are also not a terrible person, and if you do want to talk about this with your friends, I think they would be open to it. Who knows — some of them might be able to relate and offer advice! Because I think your situation is perhaps more common than you realize. Merging pets — as with a lot of the things that come with moving in with partner — can be tricky to navigate.
You already did things right by talking about this before moving in together. So great work on that front! I’m glad you talked about your concerns with the cat ahead of time, and I’m glad there are already some solutions in place like not allowing the cat into the bedroom. If anyone else is reading this piece who might soon be a similar situation, DO WHAT THIS PERSON DID! Talk about it before you move in with someone. That’ll make it so much easier to have ongoing conversations.
So, on that topic, I know you probably see this coming, but you do have to talk about it again with your girlfriend. You can preface this by telling her you really are trying (it sounds like you are!) and that you’re grateful for the ways she’s already being accommodating about making you feel more comfortable in the house. But sometimes it takes a while to truly get used to new living situations, and sometimes it takes renegotiating compromises.
It sounds like you’ve made a genuine effort with the cat but things are still bothering you. So, now is the time to talk to your girlfriend about how you’re really feeling. This might be a very difficult conversation. Pet people tend to be intense about our pets. But I hope you can both approach the conversation from a place of mutual understanding and a desire to figure out ways to cohabitate with minimal friction — and when I say cohabitate I also mean you and the cat not just you and the girlfriend!
Some if not all of the things you outline do sound like they could be addressed in a conversation with your girlfriend. Let’s go through each one and see if there are possible solutions or compromises to try out!
I don’t like the way he climbs all over the furniture. This is a possibly solvable problem. While it can be difficult to train cats, sometimes people are actually the stubborn ones when it comes to training cats — not the cats themselves. It’s worth asking your girlfriend if she’s open to incentivizing the cat to no longer be on the furniture as much. Or maybe not to climb on particular pieces of furniture. If she agrees to it, then you can both test out some methods of enforcing new rules for the cat. Don’t spend a bunch of money on the sprays that are supposedly deterrents. Most of them are kind of scammy. You can Google all sorts of cat training tips and tricks. Focus on the ones that prioritize rewarding the cat rather than punishing; they’re usually more effective. We’re still in the process of trying to get our cat to stop scratching our couch, and so far the thing that has worked best has been moving a cat scratcher to right next to the couch and moving him to that any time he tries to scratch the couch. It has helped a lot. Again, while it can be difficult to change or redirect a cat’s behavior, it’s not impossible. And even if you can’t prevent the cat from being on any furniture, it’s possible there are some compromises here! Did you bring some of your own furniture into the space? Since that furniture is newer to the cat, it could be easier to make it off limits.
I won’t lie: It’s possible none of these things will work or at least not work perfectly. And it’s kind of up to you if it’s worth the hassle and time to even try. There’s only so much we can control pets, especially cats. But I think anything that might make you feel more comfortable in what is now your home too is worth at least trying.
I don’t like having to hide my stuff so he won’t scratch it. Yeah this one is definitely tough! Would love to hear if any cat owners have suggestions in the comments. I wonder if this speaks at all to any broader issues: Do you have places in the home that feel like yours? Do you feel like adequate space has been made to store your stuff? It can be hard to be the person moving into a partner’s space, and I hope you have things and areas that do feel like yours, which sometimes gets complicated when there’s a pet in the house since they tend to, well, treat the entire place like it belongs to them, especially cats.
I don’t like having a litter box in our living room. This is the one I actually feel most confident about coming up with a compromise for. Understandably, I do think litter boxes are one of the biggest sticking points when moving in with a cat when you’re not really a cat person. Is there any other room that would make you feel better for it to be located? For most cats, it’s pretty intuitive for their litter boxes to be moved. I’m not sure what kind of litter box your girlfriend currently has, but is it worth it to look into other options that reduce smell, dust, etc? There are self-cleaning ones and some that use alternatives to traditional litter. These higher end litter boxes get pricey, but it could still be worth trying out. I also have friends who got really creative with hiding their cat’s litter box: They bought a small cabinet from IKEA with a door (something like this), placed the litter box inside it, and cut a hole in the back of it so the cat could easily get in and made that back part face a wall with enough room for the cat to still maneuver into it. Then when they need to clean it, they open the door at the front, slide the box out, clean it, slide it back, and close the door. They did this so their dog wouldn’t be able to get into it, but it also doubles as a creative way to keep a litter box unseen in a home. The cabinet also lends an extra protective layer against smells.
I don’t like the creepy way he stares at me. This one, I gotta be real honest, is probably the least solvable one of the list 😭 cats do indeed just stare creepily sometimes. While I don’t see this as likely to change, I think it’s possible that if some of the other things on your list are addressed and your girlfriend works with you to reach compromises about the cat then it’s possible this won’t bother you as much as it currently does! This one might not be worth bringing up with your girlfriend since I don’t really see a way to shift it, and I think part of what will help with your girlfriend not getting stressed or overwhelmed is sticking to focusing on reasonable shifts that can be made. And I don’t say that to make you feel weird or like you’re being unreasonable! In fact, I’m confident from your letter to know you’ll understand why it probably isn’t reasonable to expect this one to change.
I think being open and honest with your girlfriend — if not sharing all of it — could lead to some further compromises which could in turn lead to a better relationship with the cat. I think it’s important to temper expectations. You might not fall in love overnight, so I like that you’re already striving for at least liking if not fully loving right away. It’s true that living with your girlfriend requires living with the cat, but loving your girlfriend doesn’t necessarily require loving the cat. It just requires making an effort, which you’re already in the process of doing. For what it’s worth, it sounds like you live with an easy-ish cat, so that’s good! If you don’t like cats, you don’t like cats. But you do like your girlfriend, and the cat comes with her. You can treat this as an ongoing process and open ended conversation. Letting things bottle up might make it so much worse.
You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.