Why Do Animals Gravitate Towards Me?

Why Do Animals Gravitate Towards Me?

As a quiet person, I have often been lucky and animals that were usually known to be timid were not afraid of me. Even though this has been a great honor, I know that there is no magic behind this.

I tend to talk quietly, make no sudden movements, and am happy to sit still for some hours with a good book until a shy cat dares to come out from their safe hiding place under the couch. Those animals that need constant excitement, on the other hand, would be bored of me very quickly, not to speak of those kind dogs that need to run miles every day! 

Some people seem to be blessed with a veritable Disney princess-like ability to attract animals. Dogs and cats trust them immediately and you would not be surprised if you came into their house and saw little woodland critters helping them with various household chores.

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Why Do Animals Gravitate Towards Me
Why Do Animals Gravitate Towards Me?

Whether you want to be this person, or are at the opposite of the spectrum and would prefer the horde of animals following you like rats following the pied piper would finally leave you be, you are sure to have wondered what makes certain people so attractive to animals. 

According to many voices on the internet, the reasons why animals like some people more than others are close to otherworldly. Some say that animals can sense vibrations or energy, even have some sort of psychic connection that shows them the true characters of humans.

This line of reasoning can, unfortunately, not even be argued with – after all, we cannot simply ask the animals themselves to tell us whether they really can see and judge our souls! 

Ultimately, seeing animals as borderline magical creatures that operate completely outside of our limited human understanding is not very helpful for knowing how to treat them. It is almost as damaging to put someone on a pedestal as it is to constantly treat them as inferior, and this is as true about how we interact with humans as with animals.

While for some people it feels good to say that animals simply sense that they are superior people, it simplifies a complex question and breaks a multifaceted subject down to a matter of black or white.

Not only is this frustrating for people who want to be able to truly understand why they have such difficulties in getting animals to like them, but it also encourages the treatment of animals not as living beings with very specific needs and behaviors, but as pseudo-mythological beings with oracle-like qualities.  

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Why are certain animals drawn to certain people?

Why are certain animals drawn to certain people?
Why are certain animals drawn to certain people?

A reason why certain animals are drawn to certain people is, of course, that just like we ourselves are individuals that like some people while we simply do not get along with others, the same is true for them. Whether it is a shared interest or a similar personality, there is always something that connects you to a friend.

In the same vein, there is likely something specific in both you and an animal you get along with that connects the two of you.  

Obviously, you will not bond with your pet via your common interest in board games, but it makes a big difference whether you are an outgoing, social person, who always has a couple of friends around or somebody who enjoys a quiet night in with the latest Netflix show.

For every kind of person, there can be found the right animal, but if you have not yet found that animal yet, you might think that there is no hope for you ever connecting with a pet. This is not true, but instead of trying to get just any animal to like you, it makes a lot of sense to stop and think exactly what kind of animal would fit well into your life. 

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Different personalities just scratch the surface of this subject, though. Most of us are roughly aware of our core personalities, whether we are shy or outgoing, loud or quiet. In our every interaction, though, there is much more going on than might be obvious even to ourselves.

Whatever we do, we are always sending out countless signals with our posture and the tone of our voice. All these are even more important when interacting with animals than with humans because while you can explain to a friend that you are in a terrible mood because you had a bad day at work, animals will just sense the aggressiveness you brought home with you. 

Animals can sense things about us that are hidden to even the best trained human observers. Have you ever wondered why, paradoxically, your dog-phobic friend keeps attracting the attention of dogs, whereas you, who love dogs more than anything, do not have half their success?

Well, there is a delicate balance to attracting animals. On the one hand, your cynophobic friend, with their racing heart and sweaty hands sends out much more interesting signals to dogs than you. On the other hand, somebody that loves dogs and wants to get their attention might go overboard with passion and attention, and overwhelm them with all the touching, cuddling, and their high-pitched voice. 

I have been on both sides of this conundrum. Growing up, I was very afraid of dogs, and just seeing a dog walker on my way to school, even hundreds of meters in front of me, was reason enough for me to cross the road. Luckily, at some point, this fear disappeared.

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Paw in hand

First, I began to enjoy spending time with my friends’ dogs, and by and by I felt ever more comfortable interacting with these animals. Now I rarely meet a dog I do not immediately want to adopt.  

Unfortunately, back then when I was so terribly afraid of dogs, they actually showed a lot more interest in me and seemed to be inexplicably drawn to me! Looking back, the reasons for this are obvious: being constantly on edge, staring at dogs, and always moving around the room to keep distance between me and that dreaded animal I made dogs extremely wary and uncomfortable, and, probably reminded them of a skittish prey animal, too.  

Now that I want to cuddle every dog I see, these animals are much more indifferent toward me, to my great chagrin. I would have loved their lack of interest as a child, but we cannot always get what we want, much less when we want it.

Fortunately, I quickly understood what the problem was and learned to approach dogs on their own terms, instead of mine. I now behave in an open and friendly way but do not force my attention on them. Most dogs like greeting strangers, but for a first meeting less is more: no matter how fluffy the object of my affection is, I let the dog make the first move and make sure that it feels safe and not threatened.

It is always a good idea to let an animal sniff your hand first before petting them – think of it as shaking hands with a person you just met. Dog owners also tend to enjoy talking about their dogs, so it is always a good idea to ask where a dog likes to be petted. 

Helping out

People tend to emphasize the importance of personal space mostly when it comes to cats, but in the end, no animal likes to be treated like a stuffed toy. Even the most affectionate animals like to decide when it is time for cuddles or a play session. Waiting until an animal comes to you requires patience but is usually rewarded with trust and a strong connection. 

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Aside from our body language, voice, and approach, there will always be some aspects to our effect on animals that we cannot influence and that have to be largely left to chance. Something that sits on the border between the things we can influence and those that are out of our control is the way we smell. 

Sniff, sniff

Even humans are said to choose their partners subconsciously via smell, and in animal-human-interaction, this is much more pronounced. For the most part, it is impossible to determine what exactly attracts animals to your smell, but some elements can be singled out.

If you have pets at home you might have often had the experience that other animals you meet are much more interested in sniffing you than your friends who do not have pets. This is because they can smell your pets on your hands and clothes, and this not only shows them that you are trusted by other animals, it also makes taking a good noseful of you as informative to animals as checking Facebook would be for humans.  

Other than that, a good rule of thumb is that to smell good to an animal you should try doing the opposite of what you would do to attract a human – this is not the time for strong perfumes or deodorants; unless, of course, the animals you want to attract are bees, then a strong floral scent will be just perfect. 

A special bond

Once I met with a friend to do some dog-sitting and she surprised me by confessing that she was wearing her unwashed workout pants because, apparently, dogs like body odor.

It turned out that she was right and the adorable dachshund we spent the day with was much more interested in sitting on her lap than on mine – serves me right for doing laundry! 

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Rosa Nowak

Rosa is a German-Canadian writer, a PhD student of English literature, and an amateur natural science enthusiast.