Pamela Merritt’s “philosophy of cats,” apparently makes a lot of sense. Her recently launched website, wayofcats.com, very quickly reached a million hits.
“The key to cats is that no one is the “Boss.” They want to be friends,“ Merritt said in a recent interview with the Lake Placid News and The Virginia Gazette.
She explained that if an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect is created, the cat will care about our feelings. “Our cat doesn’t want to hurt our feelings… Half of training is communication, and the other half is love. If we show the cat we love them, they love us back. Then, they will cooperate and not get into trouble.”
Merritt is a highly skilled communication specialist, who had her first close encounter with a feline when she took in a stray cat. “She was grown and dignified, yet graceful and affectionate. I found this low key, yet intense, kind of relationship to be more and more fascinating”
She knew nothing about cats. “I had grown up with dogs. What worked great with dogs was counterproductive with cats. This ‘starting from scratch’ was great way to proceed, because I was guided by what worked,” she said.
When she lost her first cat, she learned to avoid some common mistakes like letting them outdoors, or matching up shy or quite cats with “rowdy” ones.
While developing a relationship with her cats, Merritt was doing the right things kind of instinctually. “I could tell what a cat liked, or didn’t like. I did try to reach out to them, so I knew what to repeat and what to avoid. Because when I got it right, the cat was so happy and loving. It made me happy and loving too!”
Noting that she never found cats to be what so many people said they were like, aloof and unaffectionate, stubborn and un-trainable. “I found out these were all cat myths. It’s happens when we try to train cats the wrong way.“
It was a time when there were very few books about cats, and they were about basic care. Not until Carole Wilburn started to write books about a radical concept for the time, asserting that “cats had feelings,” Merritt said.
Carole Wilburn, had become Merritt’s “cat mentor,” and she has found that the more she interacted with her cats, the more she could ask them, and the more would they deliver.
“Cats need more than food, water and a clean litter box. They need also love, toys, perches and activities that satisfy their wild instincts; which are operating at a high level. Domestication hasn’t changed cats much from when they first came out of the desert. That’s one of the things so fascinating about them,” she said.
This fascination with cats and their behavior, made Merritt into an expert. Her book, “Cat 911: Fixing their care, Learn The Way of Cats,” (Kindle Edition,) is gathering accolades from readers.
“Cat 911, by Pamela Merritt, is one darn useful book for diagnosing and fixing cat behavior issues – or, as you realize once you read the book, YOUR behavior issues,” wrote a reader.
Another reader wrote: “Pamela Merritt is a great resource…. She really lifted my spirit while opening my eyes: giving me tips I never would have thought to try.”
Merritt may be good at giving advice to others about cats, but it seems, she still has a few things to learn about communicating with her own cats.
“The other day, our two year old girls cat was having trouble letting me know what she wanted, “ she recalled. “So she fetched our senior cat, James Bond, and he guided me through the exact steps of what she wanted. She wanted a particular snack that she normally gets from my husband. Only, he was taking a nap. By enlisting our oldest cat, a wonderful communicator, she got what she wanted.”
What Merritt seems to be determined to accomplish is to communicate to as many people as possible that “cats are much more loving and smart than many people give them credit for.”
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.