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Do cats think they are human?

Inner lives of cats: experts explain what they think about you

Research has shown that having cats in our lives make us happier and even healthier , but can cats say the same about humans?

Cats are often viewed as aloof, uncaring animals, and a common misconception is that cats are perhaps disinterested in their owners. That belief largely stems from human disappointment that cats don’t behave like other humans, experts say.

“Cats are not people,” Carlo Siracusa, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, told The Guardian this week. “And they are not dogs. Humans hug and kiss. Dogs become very excited and jump around. Cats don’t do anything like that. They are much more elegant. They approach us. They bump their heads. Then they have some contact with us and walk away.”

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A 2018 study from researchers in the U.K. found that letting cats indicate when and where they want to be pet increases their affection toward humans. Cats are much less likely to exhibit signs of discomfort or aggression when they are given choice and control and when people are able to adequately read their body language, researchers found.

But cats are, for the most part, happiest when they are left alone, largely because they are the descendants of the African wildcat , a solitary creature.

“Cats are not social,” clinical veterinarian Karen Hiestand, of the University of Sussex, told The Guardian. “They do not need friends.”

Still, in multi-cat homes, cats often show affection toward one another by grooming.

Cats can also feel depressed, Hiestand said, though it can be difficult to detect because cat behavior is so subtle .

“We don’t notice when cats are miserable because a miserable cat sits still and doesn’t do much. We think that, if they are miserable, they’ll be hissing and fighting. But that’s an action of last resort for them. There’s a world of misery before then. We just don’t notice,” she said.

Most cats don’t enjoy being picked up, hugged or kissed.

Cats can also retain memories and even dream , mostly about humans. But just because cats have similar cognitive abilities to humans, doesn’t mean the two are all that similar.

“Cats are cats and humans are humans and we can’t become cats,” John Gray, the author of Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life, told The Guardian. “I think the question should really be, can we learn anything from them that is beneficial to us? I think we can. By looking at something so different to us, that lives alongside us, we can shake the more harmful habits that go with being human. Such as worrying about the future and not living enough in the present, or being content with the life we have.”


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Cats Think They’re in Charge, Not You

If you don’t know by now, you’ll quickly find out that cats think they’re in charge. Of you. Of the household. And of the entire universe.

And why wouldn’t they? Research outlined in Scientific American estimates that the affiliation between people and cats dates back as long as 12,000 years ago. For thousands of years, kitties have been revered by royalty, regular people and everyone in between — give or take a few non-cat-lovers.

As a pet parent, you can’t deny that your cat thinks she’s the boss. Here are three ways she’ll prove it:

Attention on Demand

Striped cat with bright yellow eyes looks up meowing.

Despite the pervasive myth that cats are aloof or standoffish, they actually are very affectionate creatures, especially when they want your attention. Like right now. Working from home on an important project? She’ll set up camp right on your keyboard. Trying to get in a quick afternoon nap? She’ll head-butt you until you wake up. Why? Because cats think they’re in charge, and are pretty resourceful when it comes to getting their demands met.

According to National Geographic, scientists have found out that cats learn how different people in the house will react to their antics, and they understand exactly which noise they have to make to draw someone into the room or conjure a snack. P.S. When you make noises to indicate you’re ready for some cuddles, your cat probably won’t listen. She only does things on her terms.

Refusal to Move

Simply stated, cats only move when they want to do so. Your cat thinks she’s the boss (isn’t she?), and if she wants to sit on that magazine or newspaper you’re reading, she’ll do so without a care for your reading pleasure. Want to put her in a cat carrier for a trip to the veterinarian? Good luck with that. Cats are very, very intelligent creatures; you aren’t fooling her by talking in a baby voice to coax her inside. And when it’s bedtime, don’t even think of repositioning her so you can lie down. You’ll be on the receiving end of a swipe, an annoyed glance, or even a low growl. While your little kitty may not be competing with you for food, Ohio State University’s Indoor Pet Initiative points out that she is a territorial hunter just like her jaguar and tiger cousins. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you — it’s just that she values her access to food and comfort so much more. And that means you’ll sleep on one tiny corner of the bed because you love her, and you’re her loyal subject.

Dinner Date

Perhaps the one thing cats love more than sleeping is eating, and that’s what makes you the number one employee. Cats think they’re in charge of the food supply, and you have to admit that they do call the shots when it comes to dinnertime. You are your kitty’s can opener, her waiter and her cleaner-upper. What’s that? You want to try out new cat food? Your cat may not take too kindly to a different daily special. Cats are notoriously picky eaters, so don’t be surprised if it takes a (very) long time for her to come around to eating it, let alone liking it.

Ever get the weird feeling that someone is watching you while you sleep, then open your eyes to find your kitty staring right into your face? That’s her wanting a snack. It doesn’t matter if it’s 3:00 a.m. She is hungry, and you will feed her now. Cats don’t function on the same daylight schedule that humans do, nor are they nocturnal like owls and bats. Your kitty is actually crepuscular, meaning she’s most active in the hours around dawn and dusk. Her instincts still wake her up in the predawn hours when small furry, feathery prey would be most active. Providing your kitty with healthy cat food and fresh water is an essential part of being a pet parent, but you’d better do it on her schedule.

Your cat thinks she’s the boss (or rather, she knows she’s the boss) of what you do and when you do it. (Not all cats have this mindset, of course.) And why wouldn’t cats think they’re in charge? Cat moms and dads fulfill their feline friend’s every whim and request — which is just one of the many reasons why she allows you to be a part of her wonderful, happy life. It almost makes you think, that maybe it is not us humans that rule the world, but perhaps there is this secret cat society pulling our strings like puppets to cater to their every whim.

Contributor Bio

Christine O

Christine O’Brien

Christine O’Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.

Vet 101: Do Cats Think They Are Human ?

cats-human-behavior-behaviorist-vintage art

Our guest blogger for Vet 101 Q & A is Dr. Letrisa Miller, a veterinarian with a feline exclusive practice. With cats being the subject of endless jokes, it’s easy to anthropomorphize them and be confused by their behavior.

Q: Do cats think they are people, or do they realize they are a different species than
their caretakers?

A: In most cases, cats do seem to recognize that they are not the same as their human housemates. For example, they generally don’t respond to humans in the same ways they respond to other cats. Cat to cat communication can be subtle and highly complex (I discussed this a little in an earlier post about cat behavior).

Cats have a specific etiquette when interacting with one another, but they tolerate quite a lot of rudeness from humans. For instance, cats that don’t know one another well and belong to the same social group don’t touch each other unless they are involved in a fight. Two cats will start out by looking at and smelling each other from a distance. Human like to interact with cats by touching them first with a pet down the back or a scratch to the top of the head as a greeting, then start to get to know the cat. If a cat did this to a another cat with which it was unfamiliar, it would get a violent response!

As a cat veterinarian, I have to apologize to cats constantly for my rudeness, but that’s probably a different story . . .

Cats definitely seem to know that different behavior standards apply for cats and humans, and this suggests to me that they perceive humans as a different species (or at least as “not-cats”).

Orphan kittens that are hand-raised without other cats do seem to have a problem making this distinction, however. And that can lead to behavioral problems. People usually do not like it when cats treat them like other cats. We humans tend not to understand many of the cues cats give, and we’re almost completely oblivious to how cats use odor and smell to communicate. So, when a cat treats us like a cat, and we don’t respond in the way a cat should, or, worse, we respond in way that an aggressive, threatening cat would, this may confuse the cat or cause it to respond inappropriately.

I often see this manifest in situations where a cat’s human companion is trying to introduce new humans into a household, whether a new spouse or partner or a new child, or even a temporary presence such as a dinner guest. The cat might perceive the new human as an invader on its territory (territory it has been careful to scent-mark, post “no trespassing” signs, as it were). When this happens, violence can ensue.

When cats think humans are cats, they tend to get frustrated with the humans and try to communicate with teeth and claws when their efforts at more subtle communication fail. This is isn’t too surprising. Many of us get annoyed or frustrated when a fellow human being ignores our verbal and body language cues. We typically respond (one hopes!) by signaling our discomfort a bit more clearly and, if that fails, by speaking politely to the offending person. But if the annoying behavior continues, we’re likely to modulate our communication, making it blunter and ruder in an effort to get through. That cats would approach annoying or frustrating behavior in a similar manner makes sense.To sum up, my opinion is that most cats do recognize they are not humans and that humans are not cats, but the exceptions are notable and can lead to serious behavioral problems.

cats-think-human-behavior-vet 101-behaviorist

Letrisa Miller, MS, DVM

Editor’s Note: We urge anyone living or interacting with cat to learn their body language and etiquette. Rule # 1: Never approach a familiar cat too quickly. Bend down to make yourself appear smaller. Remove sunglasses or large eyeglasses which may magnify your eyes and frighten some cats. Communicate your intention. A loving thought and soft-spoken greeting. Extend a finger at nose height so the cat can sniff it. Wait and see what they do. Watch their ears and tail for movement. Beware of ears flattened to the sides of their head and a sideways swishing tail. They may sniff, touch you hand, rub up against you with an upright tail. If so, consider this an invitation to possibly pet them. If they respond positively, explore further with maybe a chin rub but keep your first contact or introduction short. If all goes well, there will be a second time.

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