We can't deny it, we love our cats. Even when they misbehave or annoy us, at the end of the day, a purr or a snuggle will make everything better. However, cats aren't known as the most affectionate pets. Many consider cats to be "aloof," but are they really?
Does My Cat Know That I Love Her?
The truth is, many cat owners know their cats to be extremely affectionate. Science has even proven that seeing their humans gives cats a boost in oxytocin, aka the "happiness hormone." But how do cats see our relationship? Do they understand how much we love them?
Cats think humans are other cats.
While dogs behave differently around humans than they do other dogs, cats actually treat us very similarly to other cats. It's not hard to believe that cats can understand our affection, because they aren't differentiating us from their fellow kitties.
John Bradshaw, author of Cat Sense and a cat-behavior expert at the University of Bristol explained, "They obviously know we're bigger than them, but they don't seem to have adapted their social behavior much. Putting their tails up in the air, rubbing around our legs, and sitting beside us and grooming us are exactly what cats do to each other."
Cats interact with us the way the do with other cats they're comfortable and affectionate with. And we hope they know the affection is returned.
Cats treat their owners as a mother cat.
This may be the most significant evidence that cats understand how much we love them. They treat us the same way as they would treat a loving, caring mama cat, so it stands to reason that they understand that we love them in a similar way.
Dr. Bradshaw 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."
So if cats learned to recognize their loving mamas as safe creatures that they could exhibit friendly behavior with, then they probably drew a similar conclusion about humans.
Do cats know we're their caretakers?
First of all, cats often choose a favorite person, and that person usually displays "loving" behavior toward the cat. Marilyn Krieger, a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant explained, "The favored person may be someone who feeds or plays with the cat or someone who spends lots of time around the kitty." While it may seem like cats don't notice our loving behavior, the fact that they often react to loving behavior suggests differently.
Secondly, cats developed the "meow" to play to our loving emotions. Surprisingly, cats don't meow with their fellow cats; this is a sound developed specifically for humans. And new studies suggest that cats adapt their sounds to their specific humans, and these sounds are particularly effective for getting humans to do what they want. Their sounds mimic the sounds of a baby, and that plays on our emotions. But how could our cats toy with our emotions to their advantage if they didn't know they exist?
Also, cats DO want our attention. While many people consider cats aloof, they usually do crave attention from those they love. Cats often greet us at the door, even rolling around to show that they want our affection. Also, when we're really special to them, they might sleep in our laps. The fact that they crave our attention suggests that they know how much we want theirs.
Finally, cats like to knead us when they're feeling loved. If you have a cat, you may have noticed it occasionally leaps up onto you you and kneads at your belly with its paws. This move is an expression of adoration, and cats typically do it when they're feeling loved.
Cats are very selective.
While dogs might be less discerning, cats are very picky when it comes to people they let close to them. Cats don't always like being around strangers, some might hide or at least keep their distance. The fact that they react differently to humans who love them and those who are just passing through again suggests that cats understand that we love them.
And whether they totally get it or not, we won't stop loving our kitties any less.
They have us wrapped around their snuggly little paws, whether they know it or not.