How Do Cats Choose Their Human?


BetterWithCats.net may earn a small commission when you use one of the links on this page to purchase.
how do cats choose their human

Cats are oftentimes perceived as solitary and independent creatures and they are to some extent. Despite being rather introverted if compared to most dogs, cats are quite capable of affection and true companionship.

When you’ve been chosen by your kitty the feeling is incredible. It’s like a wizard or a witch, meeting their familiar. You should be able to recognize this wonderful feeling of your shared bond, as most cat parents will tell you that they do.

But how do cats choose their human? For some cats, treats and attention determine their choice. For others, it might be the feeling of comfort and safety they experience by being in the same room with their human. Headbutts, slow blinking, and cuddles are some of their love-signs.  

If you’re curious to know more about how your cat chose you, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Let’s get into it!

How Cats Chose Humanity

Before we can understand cats, first we must understand all cats. The relationship between humans and cats has been built for thousands of years. Some studies speculate that this process took approximately 12,000 years. As human civilization evolved it developed agriculture and began storing their grains. This change marked the beginning of a new alliance.

Grains brought mice and some wild cats saw it as an opportunity for easy access to food. Slowly some of them moved closer to humans and thus the domestication of cats began. Who knew that from one small group of cats, our world would be filled with millions of loving furry hearts?

The moral of this story is that once again the choice was made by the cats themselves.

As Claudio Ottoni of the University of Leaven pointed out, “It’s not that humans took some cats and put them inside cages. Instead, people more or less allowed cats to domesticate themselves.”

Do Cats Have A Favorite Person?

Of course, cats have a favorite person! It most likely going to be the person that provides the most feed, treats, pets, or playtime but every cat is unique and who they choose as their favorite person might not make any sense to you.

For example, you might think that cats would choose to avoid kids but there are some cats who truly seem to choose rambunctious young children as their favorite person! Check out this adorable video from The Dodo and Bailey the cat who is happy to be dressed up like a princess!

How Do Cats Choose Their Favorite Person?

Cats can be a tough crowd to please. Maybe decades of adoration have turned them into picky little lordlings. For some, it might be a quality to be avoided, but for true cat lovers, this is what makes cats so special.

Perhaps it’s exactly this hard-to-get attitude that pushes us on the edge of madness, and to this none-stop pursuit of feline validation. But what criteria we must tick out of their demand-list, before a cat decides not only to adopt us but to also allow us to love them and receive that love back?

Early Bonding

Developing the human-feline bond can occur at any time. In other words, a cat is never too old to choose you! Of course, building a strong bond with a kitten that you’re raising is typically going to be easier simply because they’re so impressionable.

According to research on the social behavior of cats, the socialization period of cats begins to decline by the 7-9 week of age. During this period, exposure to cats, other animals, and of course people prevents the feeling of fear. Of course, older cats that are used to the presence of humans won’t feel that fear, but it’s true that a lot of strays had to rely on that fear for survival.

This socialization period of a kitten often results in a cat becoming bonded to another cat or to their trusted caregiver. I had the pleasure to experience the love of a rescue kitten and an older cat I had found on the street. This truly taught me that while it’s easier to form a bond with a kitten by becoming their mother figure, a grown cat can have the same potential for love.

The Secret Is Communication

If you go to a couple’s therapy, the first thing you’ll probably hear is that communication is key. Well, cats aren’t that different. So, whether you’re the owner of a kitten or an adult cat you should learn how to communicate with them effectively and meet their needs.

A study of 12 cats and their owners, by Moriah Galvan and Jennifer Vonk of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan US, helped shed some light on cats’ ability to follow and attend to human emotional expressions. This study found that the animals behaved differently when their owner was smiling compared to when they were frowning. A smiling owner received a positive response of purring, rubbing, or sitting on their lap. Frowning on the other hand was met with less enthusiasm.

These findings showed us that cats are truly interested in us and our behaviors as much as we are in theirs. It turns out that our kitties pay attention to our moods and they can see when we’re showing positive or negative signs.

In order for you and your kitty to have a great relationship, you must bring positivity to the relationship and also adapt to their style of communication. Seeing your cat relaxed, having them feel comfortable and safe around you might be the greatest sign of their love. If you spend enough time with a cat and you find yourself distinguishing between their cries for food and their “good morning” meows, then you might be on the right track.

Personality Matters

A relationship between people and cats is a two-way street and compatibility can be important. Just like each person is a unique individual, so are our feline companions. Different factors determine their preferences, which are affected by how early they were socialized, their own personal quirks, and in some cases their breed.

A group of researchers for the University of Helsinki made an impressive report on the “Breed differences of heritable behavior traits in cats”. According to their research, they managed to examine 19 breeds and see which were more likely to seek human contact. They found which breed was more reserved when it came to strangers or novel stimuli. They also found which breeds were more likely to show signs of aggression towards human family members, strangers, or other cats.

Your cat’s breed might be an added factor, but as established previously there are more layers to a cat’s personality. Cats who are exposed to a variety of people and animals might grow into social and carefree individuals. But this doesn’t mean they all do; some could be more reserved and aloof instead, just like a kitten that’s used to only one caretaker might never feel comfortable around strangers.

Understanding your cat’s psychology and behavior is key to keeping your kitty happy in your home. It’s important that their happiness is not only achieved by nourishment, but also by providing them with security, comfort, and affectionate attention.

Signs That Your Cat Loves You

No matter how different cats are, they still share the same physical cues. It seems that the domestication of cats somewhat extended their social repertoire. Cats aren’t born attached to humans, but thanks to their domestication period they are more inclined to trust people during their young years.

Purring

According to Karen McComb, Professor Of Animal Behavior & Cognition, “In the domestic cat, many signals given when interacting with humans seem to originate from the period of dependency on the mother.” It seems that purring is such a signal, which is first observed in kittens when they’re nursing.

Purring is oftentimes a signal of content, it can occur when being stroked, talked to, and during feeding time. Karen McComb states that cats will purr to get their owners to do what they want. Perhaps recognizing your cats purr is the first step to understanding what they need.

Of course, many cats use their voices to make us know how they feel. It can be an exciting chittering sound after seeing a bird. Or a thrilling chirp when they want you to follow them to their food bowls or if they want to play. Cats can show their anger by hissing and growling and they can signal pain or distress by loud howling.

Take a moment to enjoy the purring of this furry companion snuggling with his owner in bed:

A straight tail

A cat’s tail can reveal a lot about their mood. It’s believed that the tail-up signal was evolved during domestication. It’s the way kittens greet their mothers. While the Wildcats don’t use this signal to communicate with other adult cats and certainly not humans, the domesticated cats do.

So, don’t forget to pay attention to your cat’s tail. A swaying or twitching tail could possibly mean that they’re annoyed, so perhaps you should take it as a sign to stop whatever you’re doing to them. But if you’re met with a straight-up tail then reciprocate their greeting with some sweet-talk.

Your Cat Is Following You Around

While your cat’s tail can show you a range of feline emotions, having a cat as a tail of your own is another sign that your cat loves you. It’s quite common to have your cat following you around the house, or at least I hope it’s normal cause I have two watching my every step. But all jokes aside it seems that we’re more than just food providers to our cats. Cat’s become attached to us because we also provide safety.

Kristyn R. Vitale, Ph.D., a researcher and educator in human-animal interaction state that, “The current data support the hypothesis that cats show a similar capacity for the formation of secure and insecure attachments towards human caregivers previously demonstrated in children.”

This means that your cat might be healthily attached to you or it could be overly attached. For instance, if your cat comes to greet you at the door by flopping down before you for a few strokes and then leaves, it’s a sign of a healthy attachment. If on the other hand, your cat won’t leave your side for hours after you’ve returned, it could be a sign of an overly attached kitty.

A cat could become overly attached because they were prematurely separated from their mother. In that case, they see their owner as a mother figure. This behavior is not something to worry about unless you find signs of extreme stress in your kitty. Urination outside of the litterbox, excessive meowing, and the extreme loss of hair could be signs of stressful over-attachment. A trip to the vet should help eliminate any other possible health issues.

Body Language

Cats are not dogs. Not only do they look different, but they also have different love-signals. Cats use more subtle means to show their human that they love them. If you’re careful enough, you’ll realize that cats use their whole body to show how they feel. From the tips of their ears to the twitch of their tail, cats are constantly showing us how they feel.

If you’ve ever seen cats fighting or being scared, their whole body becomes tense. When they feel safe, their muscles are relaxed, they blink slowly, and their ears don’t twitch uncontrollably. Cats will also rub their faces, they might knead and bite as well, which is completely normal behavior, a leftover from their nursing days.

Another sign of their trust and affection is when your cat shows you their belly. In the wild, their belly is their most vulnerable spot and so if they let you rub it could only mean one thing. You’re the one. If you’re wondering why your cat scratches you after you’ve rubbed their belly, then perhaps you should pay attention to their ears. If they’re pulled back and your cat’s face is tense, it’s a clear signal that they’ve had enough of belly loving.

How Can You Become Your Cat’s Favorite Human

Now that you know your kitty’s mysterious ways you should have no difficulty recognizing if you and your cat are true soulmates. But if you’re a new cat parent, or you’re still quite not sure on which stage your relationship is, then don’t worry! There are a couple of steps you could take and some things you could avoid in order to create that bond or ensure that it’s super strong.

Things to do

1. Give Them Time

This advice is good both for new cat parents and old. Instead of forcing an encounter with our kitties, we should wait for them to make the first step.

Cats take time to trust and a way to show them that they’re safe is to squat down to their level. Slowly show them your index finger and let them smell you. If your cat starts rubbing their face against your hand then they’re inviting you to pet them.

2. Discover Your Cat’s Personality

Cats may seem aloof and distant to some, but cat owners know the extent of a feline companion’s love. To create a true connection with your kitty and before jumping to hasty conclusions on how much they love you, you should first study their personality.

Each kitty has a personal way of signaling their affection to their owner. Some cats are playful and very active. They might demand a lot of attention and this might be perceived as love by some. Don’t get me wrong it surely is, but a more discreet kitty with subtle signs might also love you just as strongly.

Sometimes the simple fact that your kitty is willing to share the same room with you while they’re asleep might be the highest compliment. Cats that feel content and happy tend to sleep close to their owners, that might be the foot of the bed, next to their head, or in their own bed placed close to yours.

So, before you begin to over-pet your kitty or not see the signs that they want to play, make sure that you’re meeting each other’s expectations. Compromise is key so make sure you’re putting the right kind of effort into creating an everlasting bond.

3. Show Them Your Love

There are many ways in which you could show your cat that you love them. Being the one who feeds them and cleans their litterbox is one of the basic signals. A treat here and there as a reward for good behavior is also a great way of showing your appreciation. It can also be as simple as taking some time out of your day to enjoy some fun feline-friendly activities!

Creating the perfect environment in your house for a kitty is also an excellent way to ensure they feel safe and comfortable. A cat tree by the window is a brilliant idea, as well as a few toys to keep them occupied, like these super interactive cat toys for active kitties that you can see on Amazon.

Most importantly don’t forget to pet your kitty and cuddle with them. As long as your kitty purrs and shows signs of enjoyment give them a good cuddling session, a massage, or some thorough grooming.

4. Play With Them

According to The Human Society of the United States, teaching your kitten how to play nice is as important as play itself.

But why is play so important for your cat and how is it linked to their happiness?

Well John Bradshaw, the director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol in England, talked about the act of play in cats. He explains that “The research that we’ve done suggests that it’s almost indistinguishable, that everything that a cat does when it’s playing seems to be a part of its normal hunting behavior.”

So, in order for your kitty to have a healthy and stress-free life, their hunting instincts should be satisfied. While you do that make sure that you’re safe from accidental scratches, by setting boundaries. The benefits of playing with your cat lay in creating a connection between you and it also helps with your kitty’s exercise.

5. Keep Things Clean

Cats are famous for their cleanliness whether it’s their freshly licked coat or freshly laid out sheets. One of the ways in which we can provide our cats with secure “microenvironments” is to create a safe space. This safety consists of fresh food, water, scratching posts, toys, and of course clean litterboxes.

6. Positive Reinforcement

Some studies suggest that “positive reinforcement training with cats is a useful tool for improving the human-animal bond, treating behavior problems, and teaching novel tasks.”

So, it’s very important that you establish a relationship with your kitty through positive training. This includes rewarding their behavior with treats and vocal affirmation. This way you’ll be spending a lot of time with your kitty in a stress-free environment, which will help strengthen your bond.

Things not to do

4. Read the room

It’s important to treat cats like you’d treat a human individual- at least in some ways. While good attention will take you a long way it’s also important to remember that cats enjoy some solo-time.

Constantly pressuring your kitty to sit on your lap or waking them up because you want to cuddle might have the opposite effect. If you’re always in your cat’s face, you might find your kitty avoiding you and your signs of affection. There are ways to help your kitty appreciate cuddles without testing their limits.

2. Shouting

If you’re a cat-oner or if you’re thinking of getting a kitty then you know or you must be prepared for behaviors that you might not like. Some cats might scratch your couch; others will jump on kitchen counters.

And while there are many ways of dealing with them, shouting shouldn’t be one of them. If your initial response is to raise your voice or squirt a water bottle at them, it will most probably bring zero results.

Dr. Buffington says that “Your cat isn’t ignoring you. He just doesn’t know how to connect your negative reinforcement with his behavior.” According to his studies, wild cats had little need for reading social cues in the first place. So, try to avoid aggressive responses and instead use positive reinforcement to get your point across.

3. Don’t be jealous

In case your kitty has a soft spot for another member of the family the wisest decision would be to accept their decision. If you want to create closeness between you and your housecat then you could try and spend more time with them. But remember not to pressure your kitty cause that might make them more distant.

Lastly, cats have many needs and while they might tend to seek the attention of their favorite human, they could prefer you for the time you spend playing with them, or for simply putting fresh food into their bowl. Not all connections are the same and a kitty can love more than one family member.

What Does It Mean When A Cat Chooses You

So, what does it truly mean to be a cat’s chosen companion? Well, cats rely on their instincts to survive in the wilderness, but even as domestic cats they hold on to this principle. In a sense choosing a favorite person might be connected to that instinct. As owners, we’re the ones that can offer them safety and comfort and all the free rubs in the world. 

We could be our cat’s favorite person simply for providing for them their basic needs and playing with them. Some cats choose their favorites on the base of the scent. Transmission of scent signals by grooming and rubbing offered peace among the colonies of the first domesticated cats. 

So, at the end of the day cats choose their favorite person, based on their specific circumstances, resources, and of course personality.

Closing thoughts

Who knew that cats could be such complex creatures?

Well, most cat parents do, and we take great pride in being their chosen ones!

Becoming a cat’s safe space could take time and patience or it could be love at first sight. Either way, we still have to work on our relationships with our feline companions to keep the flame ablaze.

Are you your cat’s favorite human and what do you do to keep your bond strong? Let us know your cat’s unique process of choosing you as their human.

Marina Titova

Marina was cat-struck 8 years ago. It was early autumn when Dante, her grey cat, found her and adopted her. They’ve been inseparable ever since. Dante has been a great cat-teacher and BetterWithCats.net seemed like the perfect place to share his cat-knowledge.

Recent Posts