What Do Cats Think Of Humans?

When you're a pet lover and have a pet or two in the family, you can't help but carry on a conversation with them. While we know that our animals can't answer back, there's still something comforting about having a loving ear to listen to us.

baby cat
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When we treat something that's not human as human, it's called anthropomorphizing. We recognize how smart cats are, so it just seems natural to assume they have other human-like traits. But how similar are cats to us, really, particularly from their own perspective? While we're chatting with them and spoiling them, what are cats thinking about us? We dug into the psychology of our felines to find out what exactly they think of humans.

Cats think about humans differently than dogs do.

According to scientists, dogs change their behavior when they interact with humans versus when they hang out with other dogs. Cats, however, don't alter their behavior at all around humans. A cat's behavior is much more subtle, and we might recognize it as their characteristic aloofness. While plenty of cats love company, they also need their space from us.

Why do cat's treat us this way? Well, one reason is because cats don't necessarily seem to understand that humans are any different from them.

Young woman in variation of vrischikasana pose, home, cat near
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Cats observe humans.

In case you haven't noticed, your cat stares at you. A lot. That's because cats are naturally curious beings, and they love to watch everything we do. As cats watch us, they learn our behaviors. They learn which of their humans likes what. They learn which human is the most likely to drop food or give them treats. That allows cats to understand how we act, but that doesn't mean they quite understand what we are.

Cats basically think humans are just bigger cats.

Cats perception that humans are just larger felines makes a lot of sense, because our cats clearly think that they can control us. Scientists have noticed that cats don't treat us any differently from the way they treat other cats. Clearly, they're aware that we're bigger than them, but they don't seem to think we're otherwise that different from their feline kin.

Cats treat us with respect, doing things like rubbing themselves against our legs. However, that is still a behavior that would use on a fellow cat, particularly a cat that they respect.

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Cats treat humans like they would treat a mama cat.

Some of our favorite cat behaviors — rubbing against our legs, licking us, jumping up to stare or "talk" to us — are behaviors they seem to have learned from their close relationship with their mothers.

Dr. John Bradshaw, Director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol, explained, "Almost all domestic cat social behavior must have started out as mother-kitten behavior. Their ancestors were solitary, territorial animals, and the only friendly behavior between two cats would have been between mothers and their kittens."

Other scientists argue that cats purposely try to make us feel maternal to get what they want out of us. We know how our kitties love to manipulate. One study in Current Biology, suggested that cats learned to cry in a way that mimics the sound of a baby and triggers a need to "mother" our felines.


Really, we should be flattered that our cats see us as part of their same kind. That just makes our relationship feel all the more special. Plus, it makes us feel a little better about treating our fab felines like small, fuzzy humans.