It was love at first snuggle. The tiny snowshoe Siamese kitten made himself comfortable on my shoulder and fell asleep. This was, of course, a major strategic move out of the kitten playbook, and I fell for it in nanoseconds.
Magwitch and his littermates had been found abandoned at a construction site. So he was terrified of noises, sudden movements and strange people. But he also had a big heart under his café au lait–colored coat, and he wanted to be loved very badly. So, at some point, he decided that he might as well take a chance and love and trust the human with the comfy shoulder.
Around 7 years later, Magwitch still follows me around, chattering away in true Siamese style and hooking me with his paw whenever he feels he’s not getting enough attention.
But he also still refuses to deal with other people. They don’t exist, as far as he’s concerned.
Auras and Human “Moms”
What makes a feline keep to 1 human, forsaking all others?
Fearfulness is one possibility. Cats aren’t always big on trusting. It’s part of their lingering wildness…and, if they were strays, sometimes part of their emotional baggage. Trusting 1 human being is difficult enough for many cats — trusting more than 1 is overwhelming.
But there are other possible explanations for the 1-person equation.
“It could be the individual’s manners, voice or simply how that how that person treats the cat,” says writer Tristan Andrews. “Perhaps it may be that the individual is really gentle, or maybe a little more forceful — bringing out the best in the cat.”
It’s also possible that this intense connection is spiritual, that “cats bond with someone due to a ‘psychic aura’ that is compatible with both the person and the cats.”
My knowledge of auras is limited, but I know from my Reiki work that cats are attracted to certain types of energies.
In 2007, Claudia Edwards published a study about cats and attachment in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine.
Twenty-eight cats between 1 and 7 years old were put through Ainsworth’s Adapted Strange Situation test (named for Dr. Mary Ainsworth, a pioneer in human attachment theory).
The results showed “that cats can manifest attachment behaviors toward their owners” that were markedly similar to those of children between 1 and 2 years old. When the cats were with their people, they tended to be more playful and chatty; when with strangers, they were infinitely less so and spent a lot of time hanging out by the door.
Anyone who has ever raised and/or worked with very young children has seen similar behavior when those children suddenly find themselves with unfamiliar adults. Their world doesn’t go back to normal until their parents reappear.
It’s a Breed Thing
That’s the theory, at least. The Siberian cat, according to one breeder, “often becomes attached to 1 family member…follow[ing] this person closely, if possible both in and outdoor. The cat accepts the whole family but when it comes to coziness or cuddling or the cat is ill, it chooses 1 person.”
The list of breeds said to share this tendency include Norwegian forest cats, Russian blues, Bengals, Bombays and Himalayans.
Siamese often show up at the top of this list, particularly the females. It’s true that 2 of my Siamese females were very much 1-person cats. Star in particular adored my son, Zeke. She came to us when he was 3 and adopted him immediately. About 16 years later, when she was dying of kidney disease, she hung on until she sensed that he was ready to let her go.
Feel the love this cat shares for her human:
A State of Mind
Cat behaviorist (and occasional Petful writer) Pamela Merritt doesn’t buy into the breed theory, saying that she has heard many stories about “seriously mixed breeds” who were 1-person cats.
“It’s not a breed trait so much as a state of mind that creates a One Person Cat,” she writes. “These cats are happiest with a high degree of interaction and trust, and, once this is established, they will not be driven to seek that same level with another person.”
Life isn’t always easy for these felines. They can get jealous, mope and act out if they feel that they’re not getting enough attention from their chosen person. And if something happens to that person, they can go into a deep depression or worse.
Merritt says that other family members should make a genuine attempt to connect with the Magwitches of the world. It gives them “a go-to person for times when their special person is not available,” and that can only be a good thing.