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I have a confession to make. I’ve never really been a cat person. Don’t get me wrong–there’s not an animal on the planet that I couldn’t find something about to enjoy–but, on my own, I would not choose to have a cat.

So, of course, Finnegan wants to be wherever I am, and preferably on me or my possessions — my laptop being one of his favorite spots. It’s not that I don’t love Finnegan, our Maine Coon mix — I do. He’s a really cool cat. But I find that I don’t have the natural patience for him that I do for my dogs. I’ve thought about this a lot and I believe I’ve figured out why.

I understand dogs. By that I mean I understand dog behavior deep down in my bones. I know why they do what they do. And I know how to train away from some of the more annoying dog-like behaviors, like jumping, to more acceptable human behaviors, like not jumping and just wagging madly. This is stuff that comes naturally to me. And on top of finding my dogs easy to understand, I find them endlessly amusing. They make me laugh out loud several times a day.

I’m not finding Finn endlessly amusing. I’m not finding him clawing my furniture to shreds amusing (even though he has lots of scratching posts he never uses). I’m not finding him feeling free to walk on the counters amusing (even though I’ve set up high places for him to prowl). I’m not finding him climbing up the screens in my bedroom at two in the morning amusing (even though he has a tall cat condo to climb).

Is Finn the problem? I don’t believe so. The problem, as I’ve realized it, is that even though I intellectually understand Finn’s behavior as natural cat behavior and have provided the environment he needs, I haven’t bothered to learn how to redirect that behavior to something I find acceptable when he doesn’t automatically redirect himself. I haven’t taken the time to think creatively. I haven’t taken the time to delve into the cat’s mind the way I have with dogs. Mea culpa.

So my birthday present to Finn, who is one year old today, is that I will educate myself more fully on the needs of cats. I will find a way to embrace Finn as deeply as I have my dogs. I will find a way to get him to stop shredding my furniture so that I don’t constantly feel mildly annoyed at him (declawing is not an option). I will find books and friends who know more than I, and learn from them. I will figure out a way to turn myself into a cat lover. Finn deserves that.

No time like the present to get started! Any cat lovers out there feel free to give some pointers. I’m all ears.