It’s difficult to ever be sure what our pets are thinking and feeling, but many cats appear to have a relationship or bond with their owners that they enjoy and value.
The reason cat owners might question whether their cat cares about them is that cats are so very different from us and different from dogs too – so the type of relationship and bond we have with them will be very different. A lot of it comes down to the expectations we have about cats.
For those cat owners who find themselves wondering whether their cat really cares about them, there are three main things which it might be helpful to consider.
Firstly, you need to consider their origins. The ancestor of the domestic cat we have today is the Arabian wild cat. These cats are primarily a territorial, solitary living species. It’s generally believed that domestic cats first appeared around 10,000 years ago which is relatively, recently compared to other domesticated species, such as dogs.
"Many domestic cats today still have a lot of wild behaviour traits, such as predatory and territorial behaviour, and a lack of sociality towards people."
Through domestication, people have had very little influence over the breeding of cats – they have generally selected their own mates, so, in contrast to dogs, we haven’t really selectively bred them for any particular behaviour traits – including traits like companionship.
As a result, many domestic cats today still have a lot of wild behaviour traits, such as predatory and territorial behaviour, and a lack of sociality towards people. In fact, it is often considered that cats are not fully domesticated, and are actually somewhere between a domestic and a wild animal.
It’s important for owners to understand the origins of their cat, and appreciate that cats are considered by some as not fully domesticated. We need to manage our expectations of the type of relationship we can have with them. Many people expect cats to be comfortable with being hugged and petted, and relaxed about living in close proximity to humans, but that isn’t always the case –and for many cats these things can be a cause of stress.
"Since domestic cats have evolved from a solitary species, they don’t have the same intrinsic need to be part of a group as other highly social species like dogs and humans do."
Cats like short, frequent interactions, whereas people like long and intense – like big hugs, but less frequently. Sometimes in order to have a better relationship with our cats, we need to put some of human-type behaviours to the side and think more cat.
Another thing to consider when thinking about our relationship with cats is their social behaviour.
Since domestic cats have evolved from a solitary species, they don’t have the same intrinsic need to be part of a group as other highly social species like dogs and humans do. This means if we upset our cats by shouting and telling them off, we can easily break the bond we have with them and potentially cause more problems.
Also, different cats require different degrees of social contact, and some may be more independent and aloof than their owners wish.
Lastly, research looking at the attachment of cats has found that they don’t seem to form the same type of secure attachment to their owners as dogs do – or even children do to their parents. This suggests we don’t necessarily give them that sense of security. They are more likely to be attached to their area, since they are territorial – but this doesn’t mean they don’t have a relationship with us; just that it is a different type of attachment or relationship.
More information on keeping pets happy and healthy can be found at the RSPCA website.
I think it depends on the cat whether it likes to be close to humans or not, i had 2 cats one that only wanted a cuddle when she wanted to but she didnt liked being picked up to cuddle, she only slept in my bed when it was cold, but my other cat loves having long cuddles andbeing really close to me, hes never really far away from me, they both were rasied in the same way in a loving home and both from kittens but a few yrs apart from eachother, i dont think if you shout or tell your cat off for doing wrong is going to break the bond because they never listen to you anyway, they just give you a funny look like yeah your not gonna be mad at me for long, they know you more than you know yourself, i know my cat loves me.
Speaking from my own experience with various different cats either my own or other people's it is my opinion that cats only really choose one or maybe two people in their family that they truly bond with, while cats will still give other people their attention they usually choose to bond with people who show them mutual respect and meet the cats social needs.
Cats are clever animals and know where their food source comes from but that doesn't mean that they will bond with a person because that person feeds them, a cat will often trade affection for food because they know that people like to receive affection and as a result are more likely to acknowledge the wants of the cat.
Bonding with a cat can be difficult as their social structures are very complex compared to that of dogs or other domesticated pets, but patience, attentiveness and a respectful manner are key when dealing with cats.
To know when a cat truly bonds with you, you must obviously come to know the cats personality... Is the cat independent or highly social? Does the cat have a calm and relaxed personality or is it high strung and constantly alert? Has the cat had any past traumas from dealing with yourself or other people?
Once you have some idea about your cats personality you can then look at his or her personal preferences, for example an independent cat who doesn't like to picked up and fussed all the time may choose to sit close to (sometimes just out of reach) or on the person who's company they like best or in the case of a highly social cat they choose to socialise with certain people more than other's regardless of whether or not they feed the cat.
It all comes down to who the cat chooses, although just because a cat likes to sit on your lap all the time it doesn't mean your their favorite and you've bonded... you could just be the most comfy person to sit on, you also have to look at other aspects like does the cat tend to follow you everywhere even when other people are offering the cat their attention, does the cat often curl up on your clothes or blanket or anything that has your scent in particular when your not there, does your cat show signs of respect towards you (and no meowing at you twenty four seven is not a sign of respect) respectful behaviour is respecting your personal space, being attentive yet relaxed in your presence.
Sometimes cats will mirror the moods of their chosen person, or more often they are more aware of their chosen persons emotional state.
There are many ways in which to find out whether you have really bonded with your cat or not, and the answer can be found by being aware of the choices your cat makes and observing their behaviour towards yourself and other people, learn a little bit about the cats language structures like for instance, sitting or laying calmly and squeezing their eyes shut means they are smiling, gentle flicks of their tail means they are happy, calm and yet still alert to their surroundings, while a wide sweeping of the tail means they are feeling playful or depending on the position of their ears could mean they are feeling stressed.
But remember you can't make a cat bond with you, you have to earn it or they have to choose you as cats are very proud creatures. So if you find your cat hasn't chosen you as their companion, don't feel disheartened because with a little patience and understanding you could still become the best of friends.