Actually, Your Cat Thinks You Are a Giant Cat

Consider yourself a kitten's mommy? You're actually more like its freakishly large roommate.

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Basic Books
Basic Books

John Bradshaw's new book

If you own a cat, you probably identify as something like its mother, albeit a human version, who feeds it, entertains it, and licks its fur to keep it clean (hopefully not). Unfortunately, your cat sees your pet-owner relationship much differently, according to the new book Cat Sense by English biologist Dr. John Bradshaw. It actually thinks you’re a “larger, non-hostile” cat.

Bradshaw, who has been studying the behavior of domesticated animals for over 30 years, reveals some fascinating explanations for why cats act the way they do around humans. For one, since cats have never been bred for a specific function other than looking nice, they’re ultimately less domesticated than the dog breeds humans have designed for chasing down game and helping around the house. Given that 85 percent of cats breed with feral tomcats, according to the book, the species has also stayed relatively wild. The animals’ interactions with their owners are driven less by learned behavior than by pure instinct.

When a cat kneads your body or the surface of a bed, it’s a behavior that’s meant for its mother’s belly, a message to keep milk flowing. Rubbing up against a human leg or hand is a way of treating you as another cat, “the clearest way cats show their affection for us,” Bradshaw explains. Leaving dead rats around the house isn’t a way of “feeding” their owners, but rather, the cats want a safe place to eat their kill. When they actually take a bite of the victim, they realize their normal human-delivered cat food tastes way better. And if you’ve ever seen a rat in any major city, this should be obvious.

So next time you call your cat your “baby” or chide it for being annoying, just remember—it thinks of you as a fairly pleasant roommate that just happens to be freakishly large for reasons it can’t comprehend.

136 comments
rabakomaba
rabakomaba

you should try it on manscavefootball

Sarcasm
Sarcasm

That explains why my cat loves all humans but hates all other cats.

catsloveus
catsloveus

this argument that they think we're big cats is always funny to me.  I'm pretty sure my cats do not ask each other to 1) let them outside/open doors for them 2) feed them 3) walk them (yes, one of mine walks better than a dog) 4) pick them up 5) give them treats 6) get their toys out for them, 7) let them sleep ON TOP of them, etc.  Pretty sure they're smart enough to know we're much different than they are...obviously they don't conceptualize "human" but definitely "different"...to say they think we are cats is to say they also think dogs, mice, and birds are other rather scary or tasty cats.  silly silly.  if you don't think your cat loves you and need scientist who have probably never been loved by a cat to tell you how cats act, it probably doesn't love you and you should get a dog.

Bannef
Bannef

This is funny, because I've always compared having a cat to having a roommate. If I were to compare my relationship with my dog to a human relationship, I would say it is a little like having a child - I look after him, he wants to be involved in my stuff as much as possible, and there is unconditional love on both ends. If I were to do the same with the many cats I've had over the years I'd say it's more like having a roommate - we help each other out, and we even love each other on most days, but ultimately we both have our own things going on.


Now obviously these are both completely inaccurate: Comparing a dog to a child is insulting to parents everywhere, since raising a child takes waaaaaay more work and money than caring for a dog. Also my cat won't steal my iPhone and sell it for meth money, so the roommate comparison falls apart too. But when I think about how I felt towards my cat and how I feel towards my dog, these comparisons seem apt.

George286
George286

Funny analogy, people assume that other people think like they do too.  A good Rorschach test of people is what motives they impute to the actions of others, is she in love or is it his money? for instance.  It honestly reveals how they think and their own values.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

I'm curious about the comment that 85% of cats breed with feral tomcats.  Growing up we had cats, and my own family has had cats, and we have barely let them outdoors (studies quite clearly show a cats life expectancy is much shorter if allowed to go outside).  And most of them were spayed too.  Anyone else feel that is a number that should be challenged?  Now, if my cats never go outside, but the outside feral cats mate over and over and over then it might be that 85% of all cats have feral blood.....that is not what the article says however.   We tried to "save" some feral cats once.  A horrible experience, not recommended.  

PhoenixLyon
PhoenixLyon

A giant cat? I don't think so. If I roared or meowed, I could maybe understand them obeying, (funny, I know) when I say 'no', as opposed to my raised voice, or firm tone. At night, though, when I'm fighting three or four kitties for leg space to sleep with knees unbent, I wonder if they REALLY appreciate me....then there's a bad day when I can't hardly get outta bed, and there's a ball of purry furriness at my ear, licking my cheek. Littermate? huge cat? Alpha pride leader? room-mate? slave? owner? All right, not 'owner'. 'Slave' has possibilities; however, I think 'roommate', covers all the bases....he/she is the roomie that never does anything. I've had a couple of those....I'll keep my kitty-roomies.

romano70
romano70

Us cat owners have always suspected that 2000 years from now, someone is still going to come up with a study attempting to answer the same question: "Do cats really love us, or not?". Truth is, WHO KNOWS? Having a cat is the closest thing to being married to a woman...they love you dearly, but when they are in their mood, they will scratch the crap out of you....they need you but they are independent....they want you to be clean (and clean their litter box) or there will BE consequences....they will cuddle with you when it is cold, but they will push you away when it is hot ("how dare you be in MY bed?"). And finally, you cannot help but loving them is spite of all the crap they make you go through...don't they look pretty sitting there?

bigtopfour777
bigtopfour777

I'm okay with that.  I think of my cat as a tiny human. 

TallusRip
TallusRip

"Another cat" isn't the same as "mother cat."  Also, adult cats can't and don't consume milk from their mothers so it makes no sense for them to want to send signals for milk to be produced.  I'd say it's just one more over-analyzation of something that's got a simple answer anyway.

When a cat is kneading you, it's looking for weaknesses...so it can kill you later. XD

ButtermilkDrop
ButtermilkDrop

I'm sort of confused about why this article opens with the claim that cats see humans as "larger, non-hostile" cats and not as mother figures, only to later described kneading as a behavior cats direct towards mothers. Is it possible that cats see people as both oversized cats as well as mother figures? 

According to the New York Time's article on the same book, "
As for cats’ attitudes toward their owners, Dr. Bradshaw thinks they regard them not as kittens but as a combination of mother-substitutes and larger, nonhostile cats."

I haven't read Bradshaw's book, yet, but these two vastly different interpretations are suspicious. It sorta seems like the writer for Time Newsfeed misread some things (although it's possible the fault lies with NYT).

fafoxy11772
fafoxy11772

The author is an idiot, and disregards the obvious.  My cats do NOT think I'm a giant cat.  Domestic cats obviously treat humans differently than they do other cats.  They recognize us as some kind of animal, but definitely don't see us as a giant cat.

libby.xyz
libby.xyz

I am pretty sure that my cats see me as cook, maid, nurse, entertainer and furniture.   But that's ok with me.  They look into my eyes with obvious affection as they purr and when they finish grooming themselves, they often bestow a quick grooming to me.  Cats are marvelous creatures and I am delighted that I have had the privilage to get to know and love as many as I have.  Oh and as far as bringing us their kill, I only have one cat that does that and I'm pretty sure he's depositing a trophy as proof of his prowress as predator of the neighborhood.  That is of course if he decides not to eat it.  I've disposed of many of his victims (sometimes just partial remains) and I've had to hose off many of the leftovers that he denigned not to consume and daintily ate around.

ValerieO'Gilain
ValerieO'Gilain

I'm a happy, doting cat owner that routinely anthropomorphizes my kitty, but I am a bit confused by the number of people who seem at least slightly offended by the suggestion that their cat may not think that their pet-human relationship is unique or paternal or whatever.  If you are happy and the cat is happy, who really cares if he or she sees you as a giant cat?

AnneMartin
AnneMartin

my beautiful ca thinks differently. He thinks he is a small human and will end up like us. Therefore, he studies the computer and clicks haphazardly here and there, he watches tv and read books over my shoulder. If he can learn to read, he will have accomplished his purpose in life. 

WilfTarquin
WilfTarquin

I'm pretty sure my cat considers me its mom or dad. Which I suppose would make me a "giant, non-threatening, cat".

I'm also pretty sure that cats which display the vermin they kill has had an evolutionary advantage during these 5000 odd years cats have been living on farms with humans. Life with humans has always been nasty, brutish and short for cats, and being a proven good hunter has no doubt saved many a cat's life.

And the next time you chide your cat, remember that it doesn't actually understand a word you say, but it can read the tone of your voice.

GuoLiang
GuoLiang

90% of cat owners are mentally unstable. 

PROVE ME WRONG.

KevinBrown1
KevinBrown1

I find this researcher's conclusions to be hilarious as they seem to be completely oblivious to the well known, universal truth that cats only "meow" to humans. A meow is a communication specifically geared to catch a human's interest. They do not meow to each other if a human is not present. Given this fact that has been proven time and time again, the "big cat" conclusion of this researcher is basically the same thing as saying, "Hey guys and gals, guess what? I'm basically an idiot who just made up stuff about cats that I hope you are stupid enough to believe in!"

KirkGregoryCzuhai
KirkGregoryCzuhai

cats stink and i am not having one until they get food for me and flush and clean my toilet!!!!!!!!

TeresaFields
TeresaFields

I have heard this before, only the last time I read this particularly fun benefit of cat/human (you can decide for yourself which is the pet, and which is the owner) interaction, it stated that cats believe that we are overgrown littermates.  If you are blessed with more than one member of felis cattus domesticus species, you will notice that cats prefer to nap together in piles.  This practice begins at birth (maybe earlier, I don't know, as cats discourage discussion of intimate details).  I find that any time I sit down in a comfortable chair, or (even better!!) lie down in my bed to read, sleep, nap, etc., my cats will show up in usually less than 60 seconds and take up their preferred positions in or around me.  For the 20 pound Bullwinkle, this is right on my stomach.  He considers that my breathing is an unnecessary activity as long as I am providing him with a large hot water bottle.  My little 5 pound manx's preferred spot is right next to my face.  She also regards my breathing as superfluous, (you may breathe if you insist, but there is always the possibility of inhaling a great deal of cat fur when the cat plasters herself to my pillow).  They both indulge in "making biscuits" several times a day.  I find that their preferred portion of my body to engage in this behavior seems to be anywhere the layers of cloth are the thinnest as they seem to avoid more heavily clothed areas.  Since they both still possess their claws, this isn't always the most comfortable of activities for me.  As Bastet, Egyptian Goddess who ruled her city Bubastis with an iron claw was often heard to remark, "Where Cat Is, IS Civilization".


paulgeorges
paulgeorges

Someone can write  everything he wants if someone  wants to publish it to earn some money ,no matter it's true or not .According to this book my cat think I 'm a kind of big cat.Then why don't my bird think I'm a big bird. THINK about if we try to fly together from a skyscraper  !  His next book my horse think I'm an ass !

TomHarlander
TomHarlander

My cat doesn't think of me as being a "larger, non-hostile" cat because he knows well enough not to push me too far.

DariaL
DariaL

The only ones who truly know cat behavior are those who live with them. You would have to record thousands of homes 24 hours a day to get a better idea of how cats react to their families and I suspect you wouldn't see that many patterns. 

Each cat has a distinctly different personality and each person has a different relationship with each cat.

lizliz
lizliz

Thank you, I have finally got why my cat stalks me around the house: she wants to know where my giant food bowl is.

Freemistertony
Freemistertony

I want to know how many cats were interviewed in this study.  

chokingkojak
chokingkojak

When house cats, but other pets -- particularly DOGS -- lick your hands or face, it's not because they "love you,"  it's because they smell and want some of the "Cheetos" crumbs (or whatever other edible item comes to mind)  that you have on your hands and face at any given moment.      


Why do I bring this up?  


Just so a certain "dreamy" crowd of cat owners -- young and old -- don't confuse the above with the -- I think --  plausible acts of cat "affection" mentioned here:  rubbing up against a human leg or hand


Zeravania
Zeravania

@romano70  As a married woman, and cat owner, I found your comment accurate, and more than just a little funny ;)

shan22044
shan22044

I think it's cute. If you are a cat lover, and see them as beautiful, unattainable enigmas who somehow effortlessly essentially make you their slave - it's a compliment to women to be compared to them.

David_Lloyd-Jones
David_Lloyd-Jones

@romano70  


Romano,

I've flagged your remarks as offensive, but I doubt that Time will take them down.  That leaves me needing to say -- you comparison of women with pet cats is offensive.

-dlj.

Zeravania
Zeravania

@TallusRip  I had a few male cats that tried to knead and feed from other male cats, well into adulthood. It's a comfort thing. 

romano70
romano70

@TallusRip  Adult men don't breast feed either and yet you still see them going at it, so what is your point?

fafoxy11772
fafoxy11772

@GuoLiang  It depends on how many of them voted for The Obamanaic ("If you LIKE your cat, then you can KEEP your cat !"  :)  ).

biguglycat
biguglycat

@GuoLiang   And 90% of statistics quoted by commenters have been made up by the commenters.

Zeravania
Zeravania

@KevinBrown1  My cats meow to each other all the time when I'm out of sight. They meow at the dog, too. 

cookiemonstersmom
cookiemonstersmom

@KevinBrown1 No, my cat quite often will go up to one of our three dogs, bump her head against the dog's face or shoulders, and meow to the dog. The dogs turn and run, as they're afraid of the cat.

DuncanTweedy
DuncanTweedy

@TeresaFields We had a beautiful tuxedo kitten who, when she was only about 4 weeks old, would climb onto our bed, get right in our sleeping faces, and deliver gigantic wet sneezes until we woke up.  Which was almost immediately of course.

I'd get so upset.  Then I'd look at her and even with my face still wet from her sneezes I'd melt and pet her.  We used to think she was just evil but then we observed that she would sneeze whenever she got really happy.


I've rescued 50 or 60 cats, mostly kittens.  Each one has a totally unique personality.  I've never met a kitten I didn't instantly fall in love with.

BettyADuffy
BettyADuffy

@DariaL I think your study would be much more interesting and enlightened than that this one!!

libby.xyz
libby.xyz

@chokingkojak  Hahaha.  But I share my cheetos with my furkids so they don't have to lick my fingers.  But they still give me kisses.  

evolnemesis
evolnemesis

@chokingkojak  They commonly rub up against items and other animals too just to get a little of their scent on them... cats have pheromone scent glands by their cheek that they rub on things, this is a way to 'claim ownership '... so really, when your cat rubs their face or backside up against your leg or hand, it means they like you sure, but more like a favorite toy, or a pet... it only shows that they are comfortable marking you as theirs...

Stryp
Stryp

@David_Lloyd-Jones @romano70  You are just straight up stupid. It is not offensive at all. Saying "Closest thing to" doesn't equal to "is exactly like". Better shut up and learn something.

ChubbySurvivalist
ChubbySurvivalist

@BenjaminWilliams @fafoxy11772  "science" did not say it, one biologist selling a book for money said it. And it is ridiculous. If a grown cat's actual mother was available, it wouldn't try to nurse. The kneading may be a habit formed during nursing, but that doesn't mean your cat thinks you're a cat, too.


And rubbing against you? Just because it relates to you in some of the same ways it would relate to another cat doesn't mean it thinks you're a cat, either. If you talk to your cat, does that mean you think it's really a miniature human??


It's just a gimmick to sell a book.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@fafoxy11772 @GuoLiang  Always always a right winger has to make it about politics. By the way kittycat, I like my doctor and I have kept him, and my 28 year old daughter who has a husband with preexisting conditions like their doctors that they can finally have.

.




WilfTarquin
WilfTarquin

@cookiemonstersmom @KevinBrown1In a household the cat normally is dominant over dogs, even when the dog is much larger than the cat, so it's quite likely your dogs are afraid of your cat. Head-bumping is a greeting, but not one a dog would be likely to understand -- dogs don't greet each other that way, so they'll interpret it as dominance behavior, as the cat "pushing them around". And truth be told, that's probably what it is, cats tend to be jerks to subordinate dogs.

libby.xyz
libby.xyz

@evolnemesis @chokingkojak  When they mark you as theirs, it means that they have affection for you.  Otherwise, if they didn't give a damn, they wouldn't go to all that trouble.