Ever wonder how cats perceive the people that own them? Dr. John Bradshaw’s book, Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet argues that our feline companions have a very interesting take on their owners. Believe it or not, cats may see humans as other cats ‒ large, but ultimately harmless cats.
Looking Back in Time
This theory appeared in Cat Sense, a 2012 book authored by Dr. John Bradshaw. Having spent three decades studying cats, Bradshaw emphasizes that these animals have a vastly different history than domesticated dogs.Throughout human history, dog breeds have been developed for specific reasons. For example, Siberian Huskies, St. Bernards and Boxers are all classified as working dogs. Because of their genetic background, these animals have the traits necessary to perform certain tasks, such as pulling heavy loads and protecting property.
In comparison, human civilizations have rarely sought to instill various traits in cats through breeding practices. According to Bradshaw, cats first came into contact with people while pursuing mice that were drawn to human settlements by stores of harvested grain. While our ancestors probably appreciated cats’ propensity to hunt mice (and may have found their kittens to be irresistibly cute!), they generally did not attempt to mold their personalities and behavioral patterns.
The mating choices of cats likewise sets them apart from dogs. Bradshaw’s book notes that the vast majority of male household cats are neutered. Consequently, their female counterparts are often forced to seek out feral mates instead. In fact, Bradshaw contends that most cat mating involve wild felines, with 85 percent falling into this category.
So how do these mating practices affect the way cats view their two-legged owners? Cat Sense argues that this lack of domestication forces cats to rely on their natural social behaviors when interacting with humans. A prime example of such behavior stems from the connection between a mother and her offspring, a bond that represents the strongest social relationship among household cats.
Kittens purr when hungry, with the intent of getting their mother to supply them with milk. Once the milk starts to flow, a kitten will often start to push against its mother’s stomach with its front paws. It typically does so in a rhythmic manner, pressing with one paw and then with the other. This action is commonly referred to a kneading. Kittens knead their mother’s bellies in order to receive additional milk.
Showing Fondness for “Bigger Cats”
Even in their adult years, cats will frequently knead on their owner’s laps. Alternatively, they will also press their paws on other surfaces with soft textures, such as blankets, pillows and even other animals. A common explanation for this behavior is that adult cats still associate kneading with motherly nurturing.
The ways in which cats show affection might also offer a glimpse into their thought process. To communicate with one another, a pair of cats may opt to rub their bodies together. Dr. Bradshaw believes that house cats rub up against people as a way of displaying fondness for their owners. Since cats used this same communication method for both humans and fellow felines, Bradshaw’s book concludes that these pets view their owners as massive cats, complete with two legs instead of four. Cat Sense further notes that cats extend their tails upward when greeting friendly feline faces, and likewise do so when they cozy up alongside people.
Regardless of what cats think about humans, there is certainly plenty of evidence that lots of humans think highly of cats. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that more than 30 percent of US households owned a cat in 2012, a figure that translates into more than 36 million homes.