Cats have a long-held reputation of being cold and detached in their mannerisms toward humans. For this reason, many are surprised to discover that cats bond with their owners. Depending on when you brought the cat home, it may even see you as its parent.
Cats often view their owners as parental figures, and hand-raised kittens will see you as a mother figure. That’s because your cat depends on you for comfort and security. Even if it’s intelligent enough to understand that you’re not a biological parent, it will certainly view you as an adoptive parent.
Cats will imprint on whoever cares for them the most, providing for their social and physical needs. You’ll know the cat views you as a parent when it kneads on you, follows you around, and meows for your attention. Even curling its tail around your legs and blinking slowly are habits reserved for trusted, alpha-humans.
While cats appear to be solitary pets, they can form bonds of attachment to their owners.
This connection closely resembles the way that babies attach to their parents. This means they can recognize their owners and experience affection towards them, although they express this in unusual ways.
Some indicators of owner attachment in cats include:
- Proximity seeking (the desire to be around their owners)
- Distress during periods of separation
Young kittens require a period of socialization to develop an attachment to their owners. However, once an attachment has been established, it remains stable over time.
Cats retain certain juvenile traits well into adulthood. As such, there is a high likelihood that the attachments they develop in their formative years are present even in adulthood.
If your kitten thought of you as its parent when it was young, it will continue to as an adult.
Your cat certainly doesn’t think you are its biological mother. Cats are intelligent enough to recognize the difference between species and tell you are not a cat due to obvious physical differences.
However, it can still show a level of affection to its human owner that is similar to the way it would treat its mother. So, just because your cat appears aloof around you, that won’t mean it doesn’t look up to you as a mother figure.
When cats are young, they follow their mothers everywhere because they depend on them for protection and behavioral training. Following their human owners around is a continuation of this behavior in adulthood.
In essence, your cat feels safe and secure around you. As such, it wants to be with you all the time because it knows you will meet its needs just like a biological mother would.
Most social behaviors in cats are thought to have started out as mother-kitten behavior. The ancestors of cats were likely solitary animals, so any friendly behavior between cats would have been exclusive to mothers and their kittens.
As cats learned to recognize their mothers as caregivers, they carried this perception into their relationship with their owners. This explains why cats exhibit attachment-related behavior toward humans.
Signs Your Cat Think Your Its Mom
While cats don’t see their owners as their biological mothers, they can still bond with them.
Here are signs that your cat looks up to you as a mother figure, if not its proper mom:
Cats learn to respond to the loving behaviors of their owners. If their human owners provide them with food, attention, and nurturing, cats are more likely to respond with affection.
Cats have learned to take advantage of human emotions just as human babies do to get their needs met.
Normally, cats do not meow with other cats. Instead, they make these childlike vocalizations and meows to provoke loving emotions and behaviors from us alone.
In their kitten stage of life, they learn to knead around their mothers’ belly to improve the flow of milk from her teats.
While they don’t do this as adults, they will often knead around their owners’ stomachs (or soft blankets) to remind themselves of the comforts of a nurturing mother. This is yet another sign that cats regard us as their mother figures.
According to Frontiers in Veterinary Science, cats don’t differentiate humans from other cats regarding social behavior. Cats often use the same body and facial signals when communicating with their owners.
For instance, cats will raise their tail when greeting their owners after a short absence. It’s also common for cats to rub themselves around their owner’s body to get their attention. These social cues are strong indicators that cats probably see us as their family.
As stated, cats are capable of developing emotional attachments to their owners. Current Biology found that cats exhibit both secure and insecure attachment just like humans do.
While their aloof demeanor may make it hard to read cat behavior, certain tell-tale signs can help you recognize your cat’s attachment to you. These include:
When a cat engages in headbutting, this indicates attachment and love towards its owner. Therefore, by rubbing its head against you, your cat identifies you as one of its friends.
Headbutting is also used by cats to mark territory. As such, when your cat rubs its face against your body, it spreads its scent on you and marks you as its favorite person.
A cat’s tail conveys crucial information about its mood.
If the tail is erect and bushy with the hairs standing upright, it indicates that it feels frightened or threatened. On the other hand, an erect, swishing tail signifies that your cat is excited or happy to be in your presence.
Similarly, when your cat wraps its tail around your leg, this communicates friendship and affection.
Cats show their bellies to creatures they feel safe around. Therefore, if your cat rolls over and stretches on the floor to reveal its underbelly, this is a definite sign that you have earned their trust.
However, cats sometimes expose their bellies as a submissive or defensive act when they feel threatened. Therefore, if you barely know the cat, you should be careful about stroking its belly in that position.
Purring signals that your cat loves you. In general, felines reserve their purrs to people they feel affection for. They don’t even purr with other cats, except for their young ones.
If your cat brings you a dead rat, mouse, or frog, then chances are, your cat feels at home with you.
Most people often consider this gesture by cats as a planned gift for their owners. However, your cat is more likely to bring these things to your home because it feels secure.
A less common display of affection is soft bites and nibbles. Cats will sometimes bite their owners gently as a sign of love. This is different from a real bite since it does not hurt the recipient.
If your cat insists on following you to the bathroom or hopping onto your bed with you, it’s probably hopelessly attached to you.
Being followed around by your cat cat even when it’s not close to mealtime is an indication that it enjoys your company and wants to have more of it.
Some animals engage in certain grooming behaviors to show affection, and cats are no different. When your cat displays grooming behaviors such as licking your face and ears, this signals that it cares for you.
One of the clearest signs that your cat loves you is being happy to nap on your chest or lap.
Given their natural “hunter” instinct, cats do not like to feel vulnerable, more so when they are napping. Therefore, by sleeping on top of you, your cat communicates that it trusts you and feels safe in your presence.
Cats interpret eye contact with strangers, whether human or feline, as threatening. So, if your cat is happy to maintain eye contact with you, chances are, it has accepted you as its favorite person.
Cats don’t understand what kisses are, so they likely don’t interpret kisses as a sign of love the way humans do. With that said, your cat can appreciate kisses from their owners as indicative of attention.
Cats love human attention, and touch is especially important for them. Your cat will probably swallow up all the positive reinforcement you direct its way. These can be through physical cues such as kissing, stroking, and rubbing.
Most cats love their owners just as much as we love them, and they don’t shy away from showing it. However, how cats show their affection towards humans is different from how humans display their love for each other.
For example, cats commonly express their love by purring, rolling around on the floor, kneading, and napping on their owner’s body. You can also tell your cat loves you if it wraps its tails around your arms or legs and brings you gifts, such as dead frogs, mice, and rats.
Cats imprint on people that have learned their language and are willing (and able) to meet their needs. In other words, when your cat imprints on you, it recognizes you as its primary caregiver who is tasked to provide it with food, safety, and comfort.
Cats also imprint on humans that treat them well, thus picking them out as their favorite person. When you consistently treat your cat well over time, it learns that you care about it. This prompts it to reciprocate the loving behavior that you direct towards it.
Here are signs that indicate your cat has imprinted on you:
One of the surest signs that your cat has successfully imprinted on its owner is following you around. If your cat always sneaks into the bathroom with you or follows you into the kitchen, you probably have a strong bond.
This might even consider you a mother figure. As kittens, cats learn to follow their mother everywhere since this trains them to rely on her for provision, safety, and security. Most cats retain this behavior in adulthood and will follow their owners around because they know their needs will be met.
Grooming is second nature to cats, as they learn these behaviors from their mothers at an early age.
Mother cats usually groom their kittens by licking their fur as a sign of affection and care. This behavior is usually replicated among kitten siblings and often extends to their human owners in adulthood.
Therefore, if your cat licks you when it is calm, it is essentially identifying you as its favorite person.
Cats normally close their eyes when in the presence of a creature they trust and feel safe with. So, when your cat greets you with a slow blink, this is a sign that it does not feel threatened by you.
Cats are wired to imprint on humans who provide them with food safety and security. If you treat your cat well over time, the chances are that it’ll regard you as its parent and naturally imprint on you.
On average, it takes between 8-12 months for a cat to develop an emotional bond with its owner. You can do certain things to bond with your pet and encourage it to imprint on you.
Once you bring a new cat home, you need to socialize with it right from the beginning to build trust.
Make time to interact with your cat through cuddling, playing, and calling it by its name. Doing so regularly trains your cat to see you as a reliable source of wholesome interaction and helps put it at ease around you.
To forge a relationship of trust with your cat, it is critical to recognize the meaning behind its communication cues. Your cat will display certain behaviors to communicate its needs and moods.
For instance, it may meow at the door to express a desire to be let out or jump on your lap after some stroking. Learning how to read and understand these cues allows you to respond better to your cat’s needs, thus making it feel safe and comfortable in your presence.
While cats love playing with their owners, they also know when it’s time to retreat for some rest and alone time.
You want to be wary about playing with your cat so much that it ends up panting due to fatigue. If your cat needs some private time to recharge after a period of active play, allow it to relax by itself to replenish its energy reserves before resuming interaction.
Cats tend to prefer one human over others based on how well they communicate and meet their needs. It’s important to be attuned to your cat’s communication cues if you wish to develop a strong relationship with it and become its favorite person or parent-like figure.