What do cats really think of their owners?
Cats are one of the most popular pets across the globe and have been at man’s side for centuries. Easy to care for as well as cute and furry, the cat’s aloof nature often only serves to make self-declared ‘cat-people’ love them all the more.
But what does the cat make of its owner and is it ever really possible for someone to ‘own’ a cat?
Research into cat behaviour
New research from Dr John Bradshaw published in his 2013 book Cat Sense finally sheds some light on these questions (and many others) regarding cat behaviour. Dr Bradshaw is one of the founders of the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ) located at the University of Bristol and one of the foremost commentators on animal behaviour and welfare. His research aims to update and consolidate existing ideas surrounding the social dynamic between people and cats.
Biologist and animal behaviour expert Dr Bradshaw believes that the cat is largely a solitary creature that has perfectly evolved to hunt and has little time for sentiment. Whilst you might nurture, feed and brush your pet cat out of love, it is likely that he sees your ‘affectionate’ relationship with him very differently.
Wild at heart
According to Dr Bradshaw’s research, the fact is your pet probably just sees you as a bigger, benevolent version of himself. His study shows that despite owners lavishing their cats with constant care, the fact is felines will never really become fully domesticated.
As well as being genetically hard-wired to be wild (cats share a large amount of DNA with big cats like lions and tigers), for unneutered cats the only available partners are often wild ones. As a result, their genetic make-up preserves more of the cat’s wild instincts.
In addition to this fact, as the cat was never bred for a purpose, humans have had less of a hand in the animal’s breeding. As the development of the species has been allowed to progress naturally, the cat is far more ‘wild’ than his rival the dog.
Your cat’s behaviour explained
Although many choose to attribute emotion to their pet’s actions, the fact is that cats are mainly driven by instinctual impulses. When he ‘lovingly’ paws your stomach, he is merely mimicking the actions he carried out as a kitten, kneading his mother’s belly for milk or patting you down to make himself comfortable!
Similarly, leaving dead rodents at your front door (or worse, in the house) isn’t a ‘gift’ – it’s simply an act of pragmatism, finding a safe place to eat his kill. And although rubbing his head against your leg is actually the closest your pet will get to showing affection, this is also behaviour that they display with other cats.
Perhaps the reason cats continue to be so beloved is in part due to their complexity and the very fact we cannot fathom the full intricacies of their behaviour or their psychology. It is this element of mystery that differentiates them from their counterparts across the animal kingdom.