Cat owners frequently consider themselves to be the “parents” of their cats. After all, you provide your pet with a place to live and food to eat, as well as plenty of love and affection. But does that mean your cat thinks humans are cats?
While the answer to this query might be “yes” when referring to companion dogs, cats provide more challenging circumstances. At the moment there are conflicting views on whether cats see humans as just big, clumsy, hairless cats.
Most animal scientists seem to agree that cats actually view people as something other than cat. But whatever that “other” is, they don’t seem to care as long as you keep providing them food and affection.
In this article we’ll go over the viewpoints related to whether cats think humans are cats, plus some additional interesting insights on the human-cat relationship.
Does my cat think I’m a cat?
Ah, the age-old question of whether our furry feline friends think we’re just another cat. It’s a valid concern, especially when we find ourselves meowing back at them or trying to mimic their body language. So, do cats really think we’re just oversized, furless cats?
The short answer is no, they don’t. Cats are highly intelligent creatures with complex social behaviors and communication skills. They are well aware that we are not the same species as them. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a special bond with us.
To understand the dynamics of the cat-human relationship, we need to look at it from the cat’s perspective.
Cats are independent creatures, and they tend to see their human companions as more of a provider or a resource than a fellow cat. They rely on us for food, shelter, and affection, and they have learned to communicate with us in their own unique way.
Another way to think about it is to consider how your cat acts around you vs. other cats. Most cats treat humans and other cats very differently. For instance, many street cats will run up to people and try to rub their scent on them.
This affection and marking behavior shows that many cats (but not all) see humans as providers and a source of safety. But if you put another street cat next to that cat, they just might hiss and attack each other.
From the noises they make to their behavior, the differences in these reactions just show that they consider humans and cats to not be one and the same.
So, while your cat may not think you’re a cat, they do see you as an important part of their life. They may show their affection in different ways, like head-butting, kneading, or rubbing against your legs.
And if you’re lucky, they may even bring you the occasional “gift” (read: dead mouse) as a token of their appreciation.
But, does my cat see me as a friend?
Even if your cat doesn’t see you as a cat, they most certainly see you as an interspecies friend. There are many ways to tell if your cat loves you, from kneading and purring to following you around. Cats can even learn to read their owners and offer support if they sense their owner is sad.
The University of California, Davis’ Liz Stelow, a veterinary behaviorist, agrees that human behavior has a substantial influence on cats’ thoughts. Cats, for instance, are sensitive to people who are clinically depressed.
Additionally, research has shown that cats look to people for signs about whether a situation is worrying or not and may mimic human body language to find solutions to problems, says Stelow. You will need to wait for more research because cat cognition is still a relatively unexplored area of science before you can fully comprehend what your cat is thinking.
Grigg notes that “there are still many unsolved concerns concerning cat behavior, and particularly the internal experiences of cats,” and that “we are still learning a lot about domestic cat cognition, behavior, and interactions with people.”
Either way, what is clear is that cats can read, interpret and communicate with humans in their own way. Even if cats don’t think humans are cats, that still doesn’t hinder their willingness to be your friend.
Differing Views on Whether Cats Think Humans are Bigger Cats
Evidence: Cats Do Not Think Humans are Cats
A lot of scientific research and evidence supports the idea that cats do not actually view humans as bigger cats. Think, for instance, of the reactions of cats to an unfamiliar human in their home and to an unusual cat. Most cats will behave differently towards the unfamiliar human and the unusual cat.
Cats are undoubtedly capable of differentiating between a human and a cat. According to Emma K. Grigg, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, research on dog cognition does not support the notion that dogs perceive humans as larger dogs and that cats act similarly.
Cats see us as social partners and a “valued resource,” or a source of food. Even while your own cat may like you, an unsocialized or wild cat is more likely to perceive unexpected humans as a potential predator or some type of serious threat than as another cat, according to Grigg.
Evidence: Cats Think Humans are Cats
However, not all veterinarians and cat scientists agree on this take.
Veterinarian Chyrle Bonk of Excitedcats.com shares her own take on the myth of the “larger cat.” According to her, cats frequently show their affection for both feline companions and human caretakers by licking or caressing them. In her eyes, many of their gestures of affection are the same towards cats and humans.
Cats perceive people as larger cats, according to Bonk. “They may not be aware that we are a distinct species or they may not give a damn.” Stelow believes cats will treat people who care for them with the same affection they show other cats.
Stelow says cats will also bring us prey or play with us similarly to how they would with the other kittens in their litter, adding that we can “trigger the purring and kneading behaviors they first engaged in with their mothers.” Strong attachment, not mistaken identification, according to Stelow, is what motivates these behaviors toward people.
Can Cats Understand Human Emotion?
Scientists think cats are less adept than dogs at recognizing emotional signs in humans. According to Molly DeVoss, a Certified Feline Training and Behavior specialist, unlike dogs, cats can’t distinguish between human faces and don’t respond to facial traits that communicate emotion.
The explanation for this is that cats mostly rely on scent, rather than sight, to distinguish their owners. Changes in our fragrance might also indicate to our cat emotional or physical changes that are not immediately apparent to the naked eye.
According to DeVoss, “certain pharmaceuticals give a somewhat distinct stench to our bodies, and our aroma will alter slightly when we are experiencing disease in our bodies.”
Cats notice this and think you’ve changed, she continues, which frequently prompts them to behave differently as they try to figure out what’s going on.
However, some recent study indicates that cats may comprehend our facial emotions better than previously believed. Cats can read human gaze to gather information, according to a 2019 study.
Several studies have shown that cats can distinguish human emotions such as sadness, rage, and joy when they are conveyed in facial and vocal expressions. Cats perceive us as unpredictable and try to figure out what’s going on when we experience emotional differences, according to DeVoss.
Cats may also make eye contact with people to show affection or to request food. They do this by employing their recognizable “slow blink” technique.
According to research on task-solving, Grigg claims that unlike most cats, dogs would quickly approach their owners for assistance. However, cats continue to routinely use a strategy known as “social reference” to turn to human faces in order to make sense of their surroundings.
In the same manner that people do when we are with friends and something unexpected happens, cats have been proven to look to their owners when confronted with unusual situations or objects, according to Grigg.
Although scientists disagree that cats can sense our emotions from our faces, they do believe that they can understand our body language. They might not be able to recognize human faces, but Bonk claims that they can by our body language, speech, and other behaviors.
According to experts, due to preconceptions regarding cats as aloof or indifferent, people are under the impression that cats are incapable of understanding human emotion.
But this misunderstanding is most likely due tot hat fact that cats imply communicate differently than humans do, and some people aren’t very good at reading their cat.
Cats Meow Only For People
Another way we can tell that cats do not think humans are cats is by how they vocalize towards us. Cats actually developed their well-known meowing sound just to communicate with humans. We know this because simple observations show that cats don’t really meow at other cats.
But it gets even more interesting than that. The reason people think cat meows are so dang cute is because they share the same frequency as a baby’s cry. Essentially, cats are tricking our brains into wanting to protect and dote over them.
It’s not as if one cat figured this trick out and shared it to all their cat friends, though. Cats have been domesticated for thousands of years, and over time the cats that got the most attention (and therefore, food and shelter), were the ones that meowed like a human baby. And as such, these successful ones continued on their genes more often.
Even though the scientific jury is somewhat out on whether cats think humans are other cats, the predominant theory is that they do not.
There is just too much evidence showing cats treating humans differently than other cats. With that being said, there’s no denying that most cats do see people as friends and companions, even if they do not think they are other cats.
FAQs: Do Cats Think Humans Are Cats?
Cats don’t have the capability of categorizing different animals by name, but that doesn’t mean they don’t differentiate them.
Most cats see humans as simply creatures that provide them with food, shelter and love. We also have different scents and behave differently than cats. Perhaps they think they’re a bigger, weirder looking cat, perhaps they don’t. But regardless of that, they do see us as friends.
It really depends on the cat and the context. Some cats may see it as a sign of affection and enjoy the physical touch, while others may see it as a form of dominance and feel uncomfortable or threatened by it.
One theory is that cats may see petting as a form of grooming. When cats groom each other, it’s a way of strengthening their social bonds and showing affection. So when we pet them, they may interpret it as a similar form of grooming and bonding.
Another theory is that cats may see petting as a way to establish dominance. In the wild, cats will groom each other as a sign of submission, so when we pet them, they may feel like they’re being dominated. However, this is not always the case, and many cats are perfectly happy to be petted by their humans.
Cats may not expect humans to understand them in the same way that they understand each other, but they do seem to recognize that we respond to certain cues. For example, a cat may meow to get their human’s attention or purr when being petted, and they may expect their human to respond in a certain way. However, cats also have a reputation for being independent and aloof, so they may not always seek out or expect human interaction.
In short, cats probably don’t think that humans understand them completely, but they do seem to recognize that we respond to certain cues and behaviors. As with any relationship, the more time and effort you put into understanding your cat and communicating with them, the stronger your bond is likely to be.