There is no more sincere form of flattery than stealing ideas, so today I’m stealing from a wonderful dog trainer, Michael Baugh who recently posted about My Last Dog Syndrome, or MLDS. I was so touched by his post that I wanted to do more than share it. I wanted to explain how there is also a My Last Cat syndrome that many of us go through after we lose one of our favorite cats.
You see, My Last Cat Syndrome, or MLCS, is a very real malady that affects just about everyone who has lost a favorite feline in the past. We constantly compare My New Cat with My Last Cat. We tend to see our former cat companions as perfect in so many ways. We even see their more irritating qualities as endearing. If only we could extend that graciousness to our current feline friends. They are here now, in our lives, ready to give their all to us and they deserve better.
Cats are especially prone to unique personality quirks that we need to accept before attempting any kind of training. I have one feline friend who needs a hug before each meal and even then may not eat until she’s absolutely sure she’s safe. I have one who behaves like a Looney Tunes character and wolfs down every morsel like a dog. Each of these cats is wonderful in her own way, and the greatest gift I can give each of them is acceptance.
Acceptance is the greatest training tool in our arsenal. When offering training guidelines, it’s important to factor in the things each cat wants to do. This helps to pave the road to success. We need to make sure we aren’t forcing something on them that they neither want nor enjoy. We need to adapt our expectations to the raw material we’re given. If a kitten is prone to biting noses, we can help them to succeed by replacing our nose with a ball that they can bite instead. We can also help them by never placing our nose within reach. Tempting them with our nose only sets them up to fail and we want them to succeed. We can help them by acknowledging who they are, not just what we want them to be.
If you were asked to paint a picture of the sky but were only given red and orange paints, what kind of sky do you think you’d paint? Probably a sunrise or sunset. You would become very frustrated and unhappy if you set your heart on painting a crystal clear blue sky or a rainy sky before the paints were revealed, but that’s what some cat caregivers do when they get a new cat. They immediately get infected with My Last Cat Syndrome.
“My last cat sat on my lap all the time. How do I get my new cat to do that?” is a frequent refrain. My New Cat is a young, fiery sunset full of energy and My Last Cat was a sedate, goth girl. How can they ever be expected to behave in similar ways? They are as different as a palette of red paints and a palette of blues. Both are palettes of paint, to be sure, but they both do well at very different things. The sooner we acknowledge that reds can be wonderful too, the sooner we’ll find our way with My New Cat.
And if I truly want My New Cat to have a personality like that of My Last Cat, my best option is to adopt an adult. Most folks go straight for the kittens because, let’s face it, they’re irresistible, but older cats need homes too, and you can get a better idea of their personalities before you choose who you’d like to adopt. In addition, an adult cat will presumably already be spayed or neutered and be current on all his or her shots. It really can be a win-win.