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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.

Read: Why Does My Cat Stare at the Ceiling?

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.”

Read: Why Do Cats Attack Their Owners for No Reason?

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.

Read: How to Discipline a Cat Not to Bite?

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?”

Read: Why Does My Cat Hug My Arm and Bite Me?

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?

Read: The Meaning Behind Your Cat’s Licking Behavior


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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