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I went my entire life never having a cat, so it was quite the leap for me when my wife presented the idea of adopting two kittens from a foster. I reluctantly agreed at the time but almost immediately I fell head over heels in love with them both. My only regret is going my whole life up until this point never having known this. I am now a cat person.

They are sweet and affectionate with me and multiple times a day will come to my lap to snuggle and purr. My wife who adores them as well, is not so fortunate. They almost never want affection from her and even if they are comfortable, her petting them will usually result in them getting up and moving a few feet away. It breaks her heart, and it breaks mine that they are rather ambivalent to her.

I feel so unbelievably guilty to give them affection around my wife. She plays with them, and spends time with them and they give her joy, but I can see that sadness too. I want her to know this joy and was wondering if I were to stop petting and giving them affection, if they might start favoring her? It would break my heart but it is a sacrifice I would be willing to make for her, as long as it has a reasonable chance of working.

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While it would surely work in theory, assuming you were stubborn enough, it's pretty heartbreaking to ignore your pet for so long it's forced to seek attention elsewhere. It's even a little mean to the cat, as it's like giving your best friend the silent treatment. I do not consider it a reasonable solution.

Instead, I suggest using bribes. Ideally, your cats are food motivated. But even if not, try to find some treat that is particularly high value for them. Or, perhaps catnip, if they're the type of cat that's really likes catnip. Or, if your wife takes over feeding them, she could do this exercise before giving them their meal.

What she should do is feed them with one hand, not too quickly. She should let them smell the food, and get them interested and trying to get it. As they're distracted, she should pet them with the other hand. Then let them have the treat. Do it enough, and they'll surely be more interested in her petting them. After a while the treats can be phased out, as the cats will have learned by that point that your wife doesn't need to be avoided.

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  • Thank you, this is a great idea! She will give it a chance and I will let you know. Apr 18 at 11:48
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Something most people ignore when interacting with cats is their body language. Cats use it to communicate with each other, but unfortunately, the same body language has a different meaning for humans.

Humans are among the very few mammals that look into each others eyes to communicate connection. Cats look into each others eyes to communicate aggression. If your wife looks into their eyes when she wants to pet your cats, shes unknowingly telling them "I don't like you"!

In cat language, connection is expressed by "the lazy cat blink". I'm sure you've noticed it before. You wife should imitate that slow blink whenever she sees one of your cats and wants to pet them. She should never stare at your cats, not even adoribly. It will still take several days, probably weeks, but eventually your cats should understand her intention.

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