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Do cats see humans as mothers?

Is It Really a Mothers Love?

Do you have two cats that are related? The nature of this relationship can often predict how well they get along.

Published: April 5, 2011 Updated: September 24, 2019

If anyone has learned to accept the empty nest syndrome, its the mother cat who watches her kittens leave one by one by at about 12 weeks or so – either through adoption or by wandering off to fend for themselves. So its interesting to see how mother cats and their kittens behave when they remain together in the same

Sibling Rivalry? “The least amount of conflict occurs with cats that have been brought up together,” says Katherine A. Houpt, VMD, the emeritus James Law Professor of Animal Behavior at Cornell Universitys College of Veterinary Medicine. “Feline siblings often become friends in the household.”

But staying together in a small area, such as inside a home, is not the usual course of events for adolescent cats, explains Dr. Houpt. Friction can occur. There may be skirmishes for social ranking among cats, especially the males. Most of these conflicts involve some threatening posturing, but usually dont result in all-out fights. Eventually, one cat will probably assume an “alpha” position in the hierarchy, while the others become content to sit on a lower rung on the social ladder and maintain the peace.

Mother and Daughters. Adult females are usually less likely than males to fight. In fact, there can be an enduring relationship. Some females in the wild will care for each others kittens, such as when one of the mother cats goes off hunting. A mother cat in the wild may end up adopting small kittens if their own mother doesnt return. So the female bonding that occurs within the household among mother cats and their grown daughters may be similar to the bonding that occurs in the wild between female cats. And this bonding may very well serve as a survival mechanism, further ensuring the protection of the young.

Mother and Sons. It can be a different story with feline mothers and sons. Some females may become aggressive toward a male when he becomes an adolescent. A mother cat may be affectionate to her son one day and turn on him the next, seemingly without any reason. “As a child, I had a male cat that was beaten up by his mother,” says Dr. Houpt, “but this is not very common in free-ranging cats.”

Here is one possible reason for this occasional behavior: “In the normal situation, the male will usually leave the area where hes born when he gets to a certain age,” says Dr. Houpt. So its not natural for males to live for a prolonged period of time with their mothers. In the household, therefore, the mother cats aggression may “signal” that she no longer wants her male kitten around – that its time, in fact, to leave the nest. The problem is that the male may have no place to go if hes kept inside, causing friction between the mother and son.

The Incest Taboo. Will cats from the same litter mate with each other? Unlike humans, cats dont have an incest taboo. Siblings and mothers and sons will mate, as distasteful as that may seem to humans. Again, says Dr. Houpt, “this normally wouldnt happen in the wild because the male usually leaves his mother and siblings and looks elsewhere for a mate. But if hes given no choice, he may try to mate with the cats he grew up with.”

Cats that grow up and stay together in a household with humans do face social dynamics that probably differ from what they would experience in the wild. But if cats could talk, theyd probably concur with humans about family: You can choose your feline friends, but not your relatives.”

Do Cats See Humans as Cats? An Exploration of Feline Cognition

It is said that when cats bring you dead mice and birds, they bring it as a gift because they think you’ll starve. Along with other strange things that they do to us, does it ever cross your mind if cats see humans as cats?

Cats see us as strange-looking cats that provide and care for them, like a mother. They see us as bigger, non-hostile cats.

Learned something new? We have a lot more to tell you below! How do cats view us? Do they think we’re predators? We’re going to explore the feline condition.

How Do Cats View Humans?

Kittens meow to their mothers just as how our adult cats meow to us to convey that they need something (usually food). They knead the mother’s teats while nursing to stimulate milk flow and some owners observe their adult cats doing this to them. They rub themselves against our legs, lick us affectionately, etc., like how they would with other cats.

A human-to-cat relationship still differs compared to a cat-to-cat relationship. We provide food, shelter, affection, and almost everything they need but some behaviors they should have outgrown from kittenhood are being shown to their human owners, suggesting that they view us as their mother figure, just furless and perhaps weird-looking.

When interviewed by Inverse, certified cat trainer and behavior specialist Molly DeVoss shared, “It is thought that cats perceive us humans as bigger versions of themselves.” This has been spreading around the community for such a time that many started parroting it as a fact. Dr. Yui Shapard tells Inverse that the idea might have spread based on the teachings of British anthrozoologist John Bradshaw.

John Bradshaw, the author of Cat Sense, has said that cats view us as bigger, non-hostile cats but clarifies what people may have misunderstood. “More research needs to be done. It’s not an area that’s received sufficient attention,” he told National Geographic in an interview.

Do Cats See Humans as Big, Clumsy Cats?

You could’ve tripped over your cat once or twice, or maybe always. Your cat has seen that you’ve dropped and broken items, making you look like a big and clumsy creature. It may also bring you “food” (dead rats and birds) from time to time, thinking that you’ll starve because you don’t hunt as your cat does.

John Bradshaw, anthrozoologist and author of the popular book Cat Sense, was asked this question by National Geographic in an interview. He said, “In the book, I say that cats behave toward us in a way that’s indistinguishable from how they would act toward other cats. They do think we’re clumsy… But I don’t think they think of us as being dumb and stupid, since cats don’t rub on another cat that’s inferior to them.”

Do Cats See Humans as Predators?

Other bigger animals regard humans as predators because we are very efficient and dangerous in groups, even a hundred years back before modern tools. Cats see us differently due to domestication. They have lived with us for a long time to perceive us as dangerous animals that can hunt and devour them.

Instead, cats see humans as providers and protectors, as a mother cat would act toward its kittens. Undomesticated cats view us as bigger animals but they don’t view us as prey either. We look like predators but cats don’t see us hunting and eating their kind.

A study conducted by UC Berkeley scientists suggests that the shape of eyes and pupils can reveal which animal is prey or predator. Martin Banks, a UC Berkeley professor, acknowledges that cats are predators due to this trait; humans are too. Predators would prefer to avoid other predators as it’s easier to bring down smaller, weaker prey. We can then say that cats do see us as predators but it’s not worth the energy to bring one down.

Do Cats Choose an Alpha Human?

Unlike dogs, cats are individualistic animals. In the wild, they look after themselves and often hunt alone but there are exceptions such as the case of feral cats that form small colonies to achieve a common goal (food).

In a house with more than one person taking care of a cat, it may favor you over the others particularly when you prepare the food and water, and spend the time playing with and grooming the cat. It will see you as its provider and even parent.

Do Cats Have Thoughts About Us?

Cats recognize which is their human among a group, easily by scent. They know who gives them food, provides them affection, and grooms them once in a while. Cats form emotional bonds with their owners and have thoughts about us.

They think of us as their provider, protector, a member of the pack, and to some extent the mother. To their mind, we appear to be bigger cats but a little more unique than other felines.

What Do Cats Think When We Meow at Them?

Boredom and curiosity have led many of us to meow at our cats at least once in our life. Surprisingly, they meow back! Not all the time, so we try again. What you’re doing is initiating communication but not a conversation.

Cats can’t understand what you’re trying to say because meowing is a tool they use to ask something from you, so when you meow back, it doesn’t make sense. They do think you’re telling them something so they respond as if to say, “What is it?”

Do Cats Mimic Your Personality?

Cats see us as their provider and therefore like a parent. In this type of bond, the cat, assuming the role of a child, will learn and mimic some personality traits that the presumed parent has.

In a study published regarding the parent-child relationship of the cat and the owner, it was revealed that cats with aggression, anxiety and fear, and behavioral problems were linked to more neurotic owners. Psychology Today defined neuroticism as “a tendency toward anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and other negative feelings”.

On the other hand, cats that are friendly, less aloof, less aggressive, and less anxious and fearful were linked with owners who were open, extroverted, conscientious, and agreeable. These owners were more likely to leave a positive impact on their cats’ behavior and well-being.

This study proclaimed that owners with higher Neuroticism scores were more likely to keep their cats indoors or restrict their outdoor access may reflect a generally more over-protective, overly anxious caretaking style. This was also identified within the parent-child literature. What do you think of these findings?


Each cat thinks differently of its owner. With how playful or aloof they can be around you, they view you as a part of the family. Because we provide them with their basic needs and even more, cats start to see and treat us as their provider and a mother figure, but an odd-looking mama cat.


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