Keys to Feline Charm: A Case Study

or How I Got Oliver to Stop Screaming and Learn to Love My Mom

I recently had cause to write up some of my thoughts on the practice of charm, a neglected, but in my experience extraordinarily practical, esoteric skill. Charm will earn you affection, attention, access, and actions that money and influence will only give you grudgingly – if at all. As with all truly effective magicks, the esoteric elements of charm are inextricably bound with the basely material – so if you’re looking for a solution to a truly vexing problem, it behooves you to address it from every angle possible. Don’t be snobby about getting results!

A correspondent and I were brainstorming about her cat, ‘Arnie’. I wrote up some suggestions based on my own experience living with cats and with the practice of charm in multiple contexts.

Cast of Characters: ‘Seraphina’ and ‘Stan’ are two people living with Arnie, a male rescue cat. Anthony is my husband, and the bouche is our currently deceased male cat who lived with us for about 15 years.

The Problem: Seraphina now and then leaves the household to visit other animals. It seems that Arnie prefers her to Stan and is jealous of her time away, and the other animals receiving her attention. Arnie expresses this displeasure by spraying inside the house, outside the house, even in Seraphina’s car.

My Proposed Plan of Action: Stan will set out to charm the socks off of Arnie. While Stan may never become first in Arnie’s heart, Arnie may start to see the charm of special times with Stan and thus become reconciled to Seraphina’s absences.

There are three main strategies to seducing a cat (or dog, human, parrot, and so on):

1) giving them positive experiences (treats, play, etc)
2) getting them to associate you with positive experiences
3) developing telepathic/empathic rapport.

In my experience the second strategy is the most powerful – cats can be a bit suspicious of transactional relationships, but if you’re just always around when something great is happening love blossoms as if of its own accord. I gained the trust of my friend Kate’s notoriously distrustful and aggressively protective australian shepherd Spot in just this way. On a very hot day we were hanging out by a creek, and Spot was standing in the creek in the dappled shade of the sycamores. I simply stood or sat where I would be in her field of vision for the 30-45 minutes she was in the creek, happy as a clam, and that was all it took.

So Stan, you’ll want to give Arnie treats, play with him if he likes that, brush him, etc. But even more so, pay attention to when Arnie is enjoying himself and then make sure that he is gently aware of your presence – hum or sing a little tune so he hears your voice, or position yourself in his field of vision. If he has a spot he particularly likes to nap or sun in, take a tee you’ve worn and put it there so he associates your scent with that place. You don’t have to participate in the fun, just be a part of the background.

And make sure to create special experiences for him when Seraphina isn’t home. Tuna or melty cheeses fed by hand, even a little, or other treats that he doesn’t get when she is there. If he likes grass or catnip, give it to him yourself and let him go to town, then put it away. There are lots of weird herbs and plants that cats can get into – once Anthony went camping and a blanket he took got covered in these weird burrs. The bouche went absolutely WILD for them!! So much so that I picked them all off by hand and then bundled them into a little sachet for him, I’d give it to him for a treat and keep it in a closed container otherwise to keep the scent going.

So see if there’s any plants he likes. Anthony’s family had a cat growing up that loved chewing on cantaloupe rinds so keep an open mind! You can also go big – Anthony gained the undying adoration of my mom’s Cairn Terrier Jazz using this strategy. Jazz loved carrots, so for Christmas Anthony got Jazz the biggest carrot in town (about a foot and a half long). Jazz was enthralled, took her over a week to eat that carrot, and she never forgot who made that happen for her.

Most cats like someone who will patrol their territory with them, though I draw the line at helping them beat up other cats (the bouche was always disappointed in me for this weakness). They like someone helping them keep watch, too. And then there’s music, dancing and singing – Anthony used to practice the pennywhistle and the bouche would come RUNNING in from wherever he was to rub his head all over that whistle!

Some cats will develop a certain fondness for a particular blanky (as in humping it exclusively). If you’re gonna go hardcore Stan, again take something you’ve worn (spoiler – your shorts) and keep it next to that blanky! An extreme technique, to be sure, but if it calms him down to where he’s not spraying everything in creation …. It’s always suggested to comfort an animal with a tee that their person has worn, and it works. But ‘in the wild’ as it were, dogs and cats will always steal their beloved’s worn underwear in preference to any other article of clothing. 

Dogs will deliberately roll in exotic vomit and fecal matter, parrots show their love by regurgitating food and offering it to their mate, cats will spend a quarter hour contentedly licking their own butthole – as humans we are squeamish about these things, but they speak powerfully to our animal companions. To be understood by them, we need to understand their language.

This strategy may seem manipulative, but in actuality it’s based on observing what the cat likes, and then making sure that the cat has plenty of these enjoyable experiences. Any reasonable cat will start to trust and value the person who is treating them with this type of consideration. Of course you will want to avoid doing anything the animal finds distressing or unpleasant. However, being associated with joy and happiness will earn you trust and respect, the animal will want to be near you and forgive you for any unpleasantness, and they will come to you for comfort in their distress – which in my opinion is the highest compliment one can receive.

You can develop telepathic/empathic rapport with animals. You can approach it like remote viewing (only you’re RVing the thoughts of the cat); you can contact them in dreams (lucid dreaming is great for this, also some cats just show up in people’s dreams on their own too); you can develop a heightened capacity for receptive ‘listening’ to the cat.

My meditation teacher Leslie Temple-Thurston has always been very big on animal communication. She has a lot of free resources, if you like you can just listen to any of her audio with the intention of activating your own animal telepathy skills and that will help (you can even simply set your intention and listen while you’re sleeping, no need to actively meditate or visualize, tho of course you may).

Free Downloads – CoreLight

Again, as the mundane and subtle are one and the same, you can develop rapport through becoming more observant about how you and your animal friend are interacting through sight, sound, touch, etc. The Bird Tricks YouTube channel is excellent for this – they do home visits and you can see them guide people through learning how to communicate clearly with their bird friends. It’s all about positive reinforcement and you get to see lots of smart and gorgeous birds, too. Highly recommended – many thanks to my brother Bryan Quick for turning me on to this channel.

BirdTricks – YouTube

Spare a moment of compassion for all creatures beset by jealousy or nerves to the point of resorting to chemical warfare! And more than a moment for their human friends. Will my proposed strategy work in this instance? I don’t know, but if I receive an update I will pass it on to you.

One thought on “Keys to Feline Charm: A Case Study

  1. Wow, I never realized the intricacies of convincing a pet to like you through that kind of positive association. My general go-to when there’s a scared baby kitty is to just lay down and be chill, and let them get curious and eventually come over and check me out. Of course, that may not work with an older cat, or one that’s not scared, but just nonplussed… Clever animaling, Steph.


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