For thousands of years, people have been fascinated by and besotted with cats. These sometimes aloof, often quirky and seemingly selectively loving creatures have shared our homes with us for a very, very long time, yet there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the inner workings of feline minds.
This begs the question – what does your cat really think of you? When your feline friend purrs incessantly and chooses your head as a sleeping spot, it’s easy to believe they are just as capable of feeling love and loyalty as their canine counterparts. Fortunately, according to research, this isn’t too far from the truth. Let’s take a look at some common cat behaviours and what they indicate about how your cat feels about you.
Kneading is when your cat presses its front paws onto a part of you or a soft surface and gently pushes its claws in and out, alternating from paw to paw. A kneading cat will often accompany this with purring and squinted eyes. Kneading is actually a leftover behaviour from kitten hood – while nursing, a kitten will knead the area around its mother’s teats to stimulate milk production. It is widely accepted that adult cats will knead when they are feeling happy and content (hence the accompanying purring) and will most often knead humans because they associate the motions with comfort and nursing, and thus with positive feelings toward you! In addition to this, cats’ paws are rich in scent glands, so by kneading you or a soft item, they are marking their territory.
When your cat meows incessantly and circles you while you’re near their food bowl or eating area, chances are they want to be fed. However, there are many times when your cat may meow at you even when her belly is full. Science has shown that cats very rarely meow at other cats and reserve their mewing for their mothers – when they are kittens and are still blind, they use their mewing to let their mothers know where they are. As they grow older, they transfer this form of communication to their human parents in order to seek attention or simply to communicate (what they are trying to communicate if they’re not hungry, no one knows just yet!). Cats are clever little critters and have realized that humans are talkative and respond to their cat chat.
Dogs wag their tails – cats purr. It is common knowledge that cats purr as a sign of contentment, but they may also purr for other reasons. One of them is when they are feeling distressed and they use their purr as a form of self-soothing. Another is usually when they pair it with a meowing-purring combination which is almost always a ‘solicitation purr.’ A solicitation purr is a behaviour cats have developed toward humans, similar to the sound of a baby crying. When your cat purr-meows, they are usually wanting to be fed or given loads of affection.
If your cat butts its head against you, it’s almost definitely marking its territory. Cats’ heads are full of scent glands and by bumping against you they are releasing pheromones that let other cats (and people) know that you belong to them. Your cat also has scent glands throughout its body, which is why he may weave in and out of your legs and rub itself against you.
Almost all cat owners have experienced a sudden cat attack when they thought their feline was enjoying a gentle belly rub. Cats are hyper-sensitive, so most petting actually aggravates them and overstimulates their skin. Common warning signs to look out for that indicate your cat is getting fed up with cuddles include: quick turning of the head towards your hand, biting or attacking your hand, sharp, rapid tail flicking and flattening of the ears. Even if your cat rolls onto her back and shows you her belly, this doesn’t mean she wants to get a belly rub. Cats will usually roll over and show their bellies to people they trust, so take this as a good sign but not an invitation for petting.
It can be creepy – you glance over at your cat and she is sitting staring at you, unblinking. For a long time! Cats are very visual predators and will usually stare in order to determine what is going on around them. Take the staring as a sign of affection, as your cat is likely trying to determine more about you and communicate with you non-verbally. If your cat squints at you, or looks away, take this as yet another sign of love – a cat will only break its stare or compromise its vision if it trusts you.
If your cat likes to bring you dead birds and mice (or any other unfortunate creature it has killed or maimed), try not to scream and appear upset. By bringing its kill to you, your fearless hunter is sharing its prey with you and clearly sees you as part of its family.
Studies also show that cats are unique to dogs in that they don’t adapt their social behaviour too much when interacting with us. Whereas a dog will interact with a human very differently to his canine counterparts, cats treat us as they would another cat – in fact, as they would their own mother. Now you can continue cooing and babying your feline friend, because it appears that you are, after all, their really large, two-legged mom!
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