Your Cat Thinks You're a Much Larger Cat With Good Taste in Food

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A cat will offer you affection, but always on its own terms — and that's part of their charm. jslander/Flickr

If you have a cat, you might think of yourself as your feline's parent. After all, you feed your cat, you snuggle him, and you probably even talk to him.

Your cat, however, sees things a bit differently.

According to Dr. John Bradshaw, your feline friend likely thinks of you not as a parent, but as "a larger, non-hostile cat."

Bradshaw, a biologist at the England's University of Bristol, has studied cat behavior for 30 years, and he's constantly finding new insights into the ways cats interact with humans. For starters, it's always on their terms.

He weighed in on the latest research, which focuses on how a cat responds to its name. Researchers led by Atsuko Saito, a cognitive biologist at Sophia University in Tokyo, found evidence they can distinguish their names from similar sounding words, but their response is subtle.

The researchers visited several places, from households to a cat cafe, to judge the cats' responses. In all scenarios, the cats responded to their own name more overtly than they did to random nouns or other cat names, but by overtly, we mean they twitched their heads, ears or tails.

"Cats are just as good as dogs at learning — they're just not as keen to show their owners what they've learnt," Bradshaw told Nature in an article about the Japanese study.

It backs up what Bradshaw has been preaching for years. In his book "Cat Sense" Bradshaw says the starting point for him is that cats are basically still wild animals.

Unlike dogs, which have been bred for specific purposes, cats essentially domesticated themselves.

As humans began farming the land, cats moved in to prey on rodents attracted to crops. They made useful and attractive companions, so we kept them around.

But cats have remained relatively wild because 85 percent of felines breed with feral tomcats.

Orange-and-white cat stalks through a yard
Domestic cats are more closely related to their feral relatives than dogs are. Elliotte Rusty Harold/Shutterstock

The domestic cat population is maintained through spaying and neutering, so the majority of cats available for mating are those that live outside of our homes.

This means that our cats' interactions with us are driven by instinct more than learned behaviors.

When your cat kneads your lap or another surface, it's a behavior meant for a mother's belly that keeps milk flowing.

When your cat greets you with an upright tail, this is a friendly sign reserved for greeting a non-hostile cat. Bradshaw describes this behavior as "probably the clearest way cats show their affection for us."

Rubbing against your legs and grooming you is another a way your feline treats you like a cat. If you have multiple cats, you've probably witnessed these shared behaviors between your pets.

And when your feline friend brings you the occasional dead rodent or half-eaten insect, it's not a gift or an attempt to feed you.

Your cat simply wants a safe place to eat his kill. When he bites into his catch, he realizes the food you provide tastes better, so he leaves the remains of the prey behind.

So while you may think of yourself as your cat's parent, he sees you more like a large, friendly feline who's generous enough to share the canned food.