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Do Cats Think Humans Are Cats?

Have you ever wondered how exactly your cat perceives you? Evidence shows that they may think you are also a feline. Being a cat person could have a whole new meaning! 


Orange cat looking in a mirror
Reflective cat

Cat experts have given insight into several indicators of why cats may think we are one of them. In an interview with National Geographic, leading behaviorist, John Bradshaw states, “all the behavior [cats] show to us is derived in some way from the mother-kitten relationship.” This familial relationship is why cats rub our legs, raise their tails, and purr. Cats do all these things to other cats as well. 


If you have an affectionate kitty, you probably have felt the joy of being kneaded on. As you may know, this happy action is associated with nursing from their mother. It is recorded that kittens purr to persuade their mothers to continue nursing them, and when your cat purrs with you, it indicates their desire to receive more pets. This is one of the more direct examples of cats exhibiting the same behavior they use with other cats with us humans. 


While examining other house pets, according to Bradshaw, dogs change their behavior with humans vs with other dogs. Dogs play with humans differently than they play with other dogs. On the other hand, cats play with humans the same way they play with other cats. What an honor!


Though cats likely think of humans as fellow felines, they know we are superior due to our larger size and control over their food. Bradshaw explained, “by rubbing on our legs when they greet us, cats show us that they regard us as friendly but at the same time slightly superior to them.” This is because cats only rub on other cats in higher positions than them. For example, “kittens rub on their mothers, females rub on males, and smaller cats rub on bigger cats.” So, they have ways to acknowledge we are the dominant animal in the relationship, no matter how sassy they can be toward their owners. 

Larger black cat grooming a smaller gray cat
Grooming between kitty sibilings

Grooming is another indicator of cats regarding us as fellow cats. Mother cats groom their kittens by licking them. Our pet cats often lick us, serving as a bonding ritual they have copied from their mother. According to Pet Central, when mother cats lick their kittens, they’re not only grooming and showing affection, but they are also establishing that that kitten is theirs. Cats may be broadcasting that their human family belongs to them alone as if they are our mother and we are their kitten. Licking is also their form of equivalent affection to our ability to give them pets.


There are often helpful new insights into how our cat companions behave and view our relationships. Within owner and pet dynamics, the human is essentially mothering and caring for their cat, though we know cats care for and mother their human companions equally. We mutually care for each other, which is one of the most beautiful aspects of having a furry family. 


A tortoiseshell kitty laying on a lap, looking up and stretching a paw
Cuddly lap cat

So...does your cat think you are a cat? Yes, we like to think they do and scientists seem to agree. Our feline companions recognize us at least as members of the same family, perhaps thinking of us as one of them a weird-looking, big, clumsy cat, and we’ll take it!


 

Bibliography:


Dell’Amore, Christine. “What Do Cats Think About Us? You May Be Surprised.” 


Terry, Sarah Jeanne. “Does My Cat Think I'm Its Mother?” cuteness. Leaf Group Lifestyle. 22 March 2018. https://www.cuteness.com/13711112/does-my-cat-think-im-its-mother


Trumps, Valerie. “5 Reasons Why Cats Lick You.” Pet Central. Chewy, Inc. September 12, 2016. https://petcentral.chewy.com/behavior-pet-body-language-why-does-my-cat-lick-me/


Wong, Katie. The Inner Life of Cats. Scientific American. October 1, 2018. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-inner-life-of-cats/


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