LIFESTYLE

What Do Cats Think of Humans: Do They See Us As Their Slaves?

cat looking cunningly
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

Cats develop deep bonds and attachments to their caregivers, which gives them unique insight into their owner’s moods, thoughts, and needs. However, this understanding may not go both ways. How many times have you looked into your cat’s eyes without understanding what goes on in that mysterious feline brain? You may want to know more about what do cats think of humans.

We already know that cats are smart, but their brains and thought process are still an unsolved puzzle. Recent studies have shown that cats have higher cognitive skills than expected and that their brains are capable of complex thinking. While scientists can’t tell exactly what’s going on inside those cute little heads, by observing their behavior, we can get a glimpse behind the curtains and learn what are they thinking, especially about us.

In this article, we will explain how cats perceive people and how you can learn what a cat is thinking based on her behavior. First, we will explore how cats see you in the physical sense, and then we will explain what cats think about us. Are we their slaves? Do they even understand that we are different species? Let’s explore that and more below.

How Cats See Us Physically

cat watching

Have you ever wondered what your cat sees when she looks at you? Cats aren’t color blind per se, but they aren’t able to see the same color spectrum as people.

Cats perceive the world in blue, gray, and yellow. Shades of green and red are impossible for cats to tell apart. This means that your most attractive features like your green eyes or bright red hair will go unnoticed by your feline companion.

On the other hand, cats can see colors that are at the ultraviolet end of the spectrum and that we aren’t able to see without a black light. It may seem to you that your cat is missing out on so many things, but the fact is, their world is as brightly colored as ours.

Furthermore, this fact shouldn’t trouble you much, since unlike us, cats don’t judge books by their covers and form their opinions towards people based on their behavior.

Although cats can recognize their owner’s faces, the study from the University of Texas and Pennsylvania State University concluded that cats either couldn’t tell human faces apart or they simply don’t care how we look.

In the test, both cats and dogs were trained to choose between two pictures to receive a treat. Encountered with pictures of their owner’s and a stranger’s face, cats were able to pick their owner only about half of the time.

In the same study, cats were shown pictures of familiar and unknown cats as well. In this case, 90.7% of the time the cats picked up the image of a familiar cat. Furthermore, the cats were also shown the images of familiar and unfamiliar outdoor environment and 85.8% of the time they were able to pick a familiar setting.

It is clear that cats have a good visual memory, but it is uncertain why they scored that poorly in facial recognition. Although, the experts’ guess is that because, besides their sight, cats rely on other senses to identify people.

They use scent and voices to identify their owners and are also able to read emotions to better understand human needs and moods. It is scientifically proven that cats react when their owners call them by their name. This means that cats have good voice recognition. However, any cat owner knows that the cat’s willingness to come when called is closely related to the amount of food she is likely to get in return.

The fact is that your cat isn’t seeing the same thing that you see every time you look at your reflection in the mirror. Cats live in a differently colored world and don’t pay so much attention to people’s unique features as much as they mind how they are treated on a day to day basis.

See Also: How to Show Your Cat You Love Them

Thus, make sure that you are providing enough attention and love to your cat always and you will be rewarded with her highest regard.

What Cats Think About Us

For thousands of years cats have shared their lives with people, and only recently we are starting to learn more about them.

There are many scientific researches done on dogs and their behavior towards humans. However, scientists are still largely in the dark when it comes to cats. Still, thanks to new research and cat behavioral experts, we now know a lot more about cat behavior, thinking process, and the way they perceive humans.

#1: They See Us as Jumbo-Sized Cats

cat looking up

We know for sure that dogs change their behavior the moment they encounter a person. From that change, scientists concluded that dogs are aware that people are different from them. When you observe a dog playing with his owner, and then look at dogs playing with each other, you will notice that the two playdates have nothing in common.

On the other hand, when you observe a cat’s behavior towards humans and other cats, you will notice that it is pretty much the same. It seems that cats use the same social skills with other felines and also in their interactions with people.

Cats do realize that we are bigger than them, but based on their behavior, they think of us as non-threatening big cats.

John Bradshaw is a cat behavioral expert at the University of Bristol and the author of the book Cat Sense where he introduces this theory to cat lovers. After observing cats for more than 20 years and their interaction with one another and people, he came to the conclusion that cats don’t understand us as dogs do.

Bradshaw spent a lot of time observing feral cat colonies and their social interactions as well as cats in shelters and their social structure and found that the dynamic between cats is quite interesting.

He also did more targeted observations of cats playing with their toys and test their behaviors during the different times of the day. Furthermore, he did extensive research on the relationship between cats and their owners, asking them to describe how they perceive their feline companions.

Based on his observations, he concluded that cats basically think humans are just larger cats. They are, of course, aware that we are bigger and sport a lot less fur, but they perceive us otherwise as no different than their feline relatives. This doesn’t mean that cats think we are inferior, uglier cats.

#2: They See Us as Their Nurturers

cat asking for food

The evidence that supports the theory that cats see people as their equals is that they head rub against their owner’s legs. Cats don’t show this type of behavior towards cats that they perceive as inferior to them. Furthermore, most cat behaviors like licking their owners, jumping to talk with them, kneading, and rubbing against their owner’s legs are learned from a close relationship with their mother.

To help you better understand how cats use the same interaction with other cats and their owners, we will use kneading as an example. Kittens use purring to attract their mother’s attention and their desire for milk, and once the milk starts flowing, the kitten will use her paws to knead the mother’s belly.

This kneading behavior isn’t restricted only to kittens. There are a lot of adult cats that knead their owners, blankets, or pillows. Some of them will also try to suck on their owner’s shirt while they are gently kneading their owner’s chest.

Cats that behave this way associate their owner’s attention with motherly nurturing. Hence, your cat thinks of you as her mother and believes that you can provide for her the same way her real mother could.

Basically, cats behave the same towards people and other cats and maintain the same social interaction with the exception of the meow. Scientists found that with the exception of kittens, adult cats use the meow as a means of communication only with people, and you will hardly ever see two cats meowing at each other.

Although cats may think of us as bigger two-legged felines, they do realize that we have trouble understanding them, so they use meows to share their thoughts and needs.

The interesting thing about meows is that cats found a way to voice it in such a way that it gets them the immediate and full attention of their owners. In most cases, a cat will meow to solicit food, or as a way to be let in or out of the house.

Furthermore, according to research, most owners can understand the hidden message behind their cat’s meow, but they aren’t able to do the same with equal accuracy when unfamiliar cats are concerned.

#3: They See Us as Their Equals

kitten sleeping with her owner

We know that it may seem hard to wrap your head around the concept that your cat thinks of you as a feline too, but once you give it a little thought, you will realize that this is an honor.

Contrary to many beliefs that cats perceive people as inferior beings that can be used as food sources, this theory suggests that cats think of us as their equals. And at the end of the day, wouldn’t it be great to be a cat just for a little while and experience the world through different colors and heightened senses?

How to Read Subtle Signs and Tell What Your Cat Feels About You

Cats are complicated and hard to understand to most people, and this is the reason why cats are often misunderstood. But with new scientific data and the efforts of people like Dr. Bradshaw, we are learning new and exciting things about cats.

If you are open to the idea that your feline friend thinks of you as a cat, then you can learn what she feels about you by observing her daily behavior towards you and other cats.

#1: The Eyes

cat blinking

Cats usually avoid direct eye contact and see it as a threat. However, if a cat is looking at you with a sleepy gaze that ends with a blink, that means that she loves you. You can let your kitty know how much you love and appreciate her by slowly blinking back.

The half closed eyes mean that your cat is content and trusting. This “kitty kiss” can come hand in hand with kneading, purring, or snuggling.

When a cat’s eyes are dilated and focused, it means that she is ready for action, and you can oblige by involving yourself in interactive play.

#2: The Tail

cat with its tail up

When a cat’s tail is relaxed, it means that she is as well, and you can safely proceed with cuddling or snuggling. On the other hand, if a cat is flinging her tail from one side to another, it means that she is irritated and that something doesn’t suit her taste.

If a cat’s tail is vertical, it means that she is in a good mood, content, and ready to play. When a cat’s tail is tucked between her legs, it means that she is anxious or fearful of something and you should try to figure out what is bothering her.

See Also: What Does It Mean When Cats Wag Their Tail

#3: The Ears

relaxed cat

If the ears are straight up and the cat seems relaxed and shows that with other subtle signs, it means that she is content and ready to be petted in your lap.

On the other hand, if the ears are pinned back and lying close to the head, it means that the cat is angry or stressed about something. Try to figure out what is causing your cat to feel this way, and try to improve her mood with a tasty treat.

Wrap Up

cat and his owner

There is a lot we don’t know about cats, but some recent studies have shed some light on the mystery that surrounds them. Cats aren’t big on talk like dogs are, and their standoffish nature raised the question: “What do cats think of humans?”

Dr. John Bradshaw, a cat behavioral expert, in his book Cat Sense suggests that cats perceive people as two-legged cats. This seems like the correct answer since cats, unlike dogs, don’t change their behaviors when interacting with people.

To learn what your cat is thinking about you, in particular, pay close attention to her behavior and body language and invest your time in understanding her.

Can you tell what your cat is thinking about you? Do you know of other cues that can help shed light on this still-debated matter? Share your opinion in the comments section below! And to better understand the complex mechanics of your cat’s unique feline brain, check out our article on what do cats dream about.

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.

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