cat manipulation techniques
Behavioral Problems

How Cats Manipulate Humans

It’s no secret that cats use clever manipulation techniques. Felines are clever and crafty, and always find a way to get what they want from humans. You are a cat’s facilities manager, not their master. Even the sweetest, most domesticated housecat will be keen to remind you who is in control.

How do cats manipulate humans? Meowing is the most common way for cats to get a reaction. Felines do not meow at each other, reserving the sound for humans. Cats have mastered a particular meowing sound that mimics the cry of a human infant. This generates a primal, instinctive reaction from owners, especially females.

Cats have further manipulative techniques than just meowing, however. Some pets combine their meows with purring to confuse the human brain. Others use physicality and body language to express displeasure at human activity, encouraging people to make the right adjustments.

Why Would a Cat Manipulate a Human?

Cats manipulate humans to ensure that we’ll do what they want.

This may seem wholly unnecessary. We bring cats into our homes as pets, and make them part of the family. Surely felines realize that we bend over backward for them already?

This may be so, but cats like to feel like they are in control. As it stands, they rely on humans. This means that your cat considers it their duty to train you for the job.

Your pet wants you to behave in a way that benefits them. They cannot do so by offering treats or petting, though. This means that they resort to more sneaky and manipulative measures.

How cats manipulate humans

Cats live for routine. They like to know what is going to happen, and when. If they can get you into a schedule, they’re considerably more comfortable.

You’ll be thinking that you control your cat’s schedule. Do you, though? Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Does your cat wake up you at the same time every morning?
  • Does your cat demand to be fed at the same time every day?
  • Does your cat expect playtime straight after food, or as soon as you get home?

You may have instigated these rituals, but it’s your cat that ensures they’re maintained. If you deviate from the schedule, you’ll know about it.

In addition to this, your cat does not necessarily recognize you as a different species. Mother Nature Network claims that they see you as a fellow feline.

When you watch cats interact, you’ll see that they use very particular body language cues. This is demonstrating how they’re feeling, and garnering an appropriate reaction.

Humans cannot always read these signals accurately. Moreso, we cannot replicate them. Humans do not have tails, and we walk on two legs. Equally, we use verbal cues far more than cats. As a result, cats will use whatever tricks they have in their arsenal to get a reaction.

This is also a survival instinct. If your cat has your wrapped around their metaphorical little finger, you won’t hurt them. Cats don’t know this, though. We have to remember how big we look to them.

Consider your cat controlling you as a compliment. Some people consider felines to be aloof and indifferent to humans. According to Behavioral Processes, it’s scientifically inaccurate.

The study found that cats love human interaction. Many felines find it more pleasurable than eating. Cats are food-focused, so don’t take that lightly.

Don’t feel bad if you realize that your cat is manipulating you. Felines are expert puppet masters, and can bring even the smartest people under their spell.

How Intelligent are Cats?

You may be feeling a bit silly that your cat is manipulating you so brazenly. After all, you’re surely smarter than them? How are they managing to trick you?

It’s hard to know precisely how smart cats are. Each pet will be different anyway. Besides, cats are not interested in our silly tests. As Slate explains, felines are wholly uncooperative.

Cats have small brains, due to their diminutive stature. But the average cat has 300 million neurons in their brain. That’s twice as many as a dog, and almost any other mammal.

If you’re interested in learning about your cat’s intelligence, Pet Central have a basic test. Overall, IQ doesn’t matter. Your cat does not need to be Albert Einstein to get you dancing to their tune.

Cats know and care about what is important to them. This means they’ll influence humans into delivering their wants and needs.

cats’ behavior with humans

Do Cats Manipulate Humans by Meowing?

The meow is arguably the most common way for a cat to manipulate its owner. Cats do not meow at each other; they use language cues, or unmistakable hisses or growls. They reserve meowing for humans.

There are many and varied types of cat meow:

  • A short, sharp chirping meow is your cat saying hello.
  • A low, growling meow is a warning to back off. This is commonly heard when a cat fears being disturbed while eating.
  • A guttural, moaning meow is a sound of pleasure. This is often heard during play, when a cat captures their ‘prey.’
  • An elongated, increasingly urgent meow is your cat’s way of demanding something. This is the manipulative meow that requires our focus.

When a cat is hungry, thirsty, or wants to be let out, they’ll tell you politely. At least, they will do so once. Felines are not famed for their patience, however.

If you cat feels that you are ignoring them, they’ll escalate the sound. They’ll emit a series of long, increasingly high-pitched meows until their needs are met.

Does this noise go right through you? Does it drive you crazy, and feel like you’ll do anything to make it stop? If so, your cat is achieving its aim. This meow is a tool of pure manipulation, as your pet knows humans cannot ignore it.

You may be wondering how cats have learned this trick. The answer is through years of evolution – and imitation.

Cats have lived with humans for long enough to learn our quirks and foibles. They have discovered that non-verbal human infants make a particular noise that always gets a response.

Felines are born imitators, and have thus developed their own equivalent. They can’t voice their wants or needs, so they’ll do the next best thing. If it’s good enough for a baby that dominates human attention, it’s good enough for them!

Some cats also combine a purr and meow at the same time. This is arguably the ultimate act of manipulation.

Do Cats Purr on Purpose?

Purring is another weapon in the feline armory for controlling humans. Most of the time, cats purr as they know it will gain a reaction.

As Scientific American explains, a cat’s purr has healing qualities. Science shows that the vibrations generated by purring heal bones. This applies to the feline themselves, and any human they’re sitting beside.

Holding a purring cat close to you also reduces human stress levels. This is beneficial for both of you. You will feel calmer, and your cat will pick up on that. This, in turn, keeps your pet relaxed and happy.

Naturally, cats being cats, they can turn this their advantage. Your pet knows you’ll sit up and take notice if they’re purring.

If your cat wants some lap time and you’re busy, they’ll try to get your attention. This will typically start small. They’ll rub against your legs, or start bunting you with their head.

If you ignore this and continue your everyday activities, your cat will step it up. They’ll likely crawl into your lap, and start purring. The impact of this will be almost immediate.

You’ll start to feel better, and instinctively begin stroking and petting your cat. You’re enjoying the purring sensation, and they’re enjoying the attention. Everybody wins.

do cats purr on purpose?

Your cat knows that just as long as they keep purring, you’ll keep petting. We all want our cats to be happy, after all. Your cat will stick around until they’ve had enough.

If the purring stops, however, it’s time for you to stop. Excessive petting can overstimulate cats. This will hurt, and they’ll react with scratching or biting.

Some may consider this to be another form of cat manipulation. It can look like your cat is dictating when you may and may not show them affection.

This is true, but only to an extent. Remember, overstimulation is painful for a cat. They’re no longer experiencing pleasure, but discomfort.

This brings us back to what we discussed earlier. Your cat trusts and loves you, but you are bigger and stronger than them. They will always have this in the back of their mind. These reactions are a reminder that cats can defend themselves if they must.

There is one notable exception to purring for pleasure. Some cats also purr to control pain. Purring steadies their breathing, and acts as a self-soothing technique.

If your cat purrs and seems uncomfortable, they may be trying to tell you something. It may be worth booking a veterinary appointment to be on the safe side.

Do Cats Manipulate Humans by Misbehaving?

Some people are convinced that their cat manipulates them by enacting vengeance when they’re annoyed.

Unwanted behaviors are not a result of your cat holding grudges. A bite or scratch is an act of self-defense.

Everyday actions that are misinterpreted as acts of petty vengeance include:

  • Eliminating outside the litter box
  • Refusing affection, such as petting
  • Hiding from humans
  • Knocking things off tables
  • Hiding or damaging personal belongings

It’s easy to assume that your cat is acting this way to send a message. Your cat’s brain is not wired this way, though. They are not saying, “do what I want, or I’ll misbehave again.”

What is more likely is that your cat is stressed. Sometimes, they will know that they have broken a house rule. Maybe they knocked a glass off a table.

When a cat does this, they may fear reprisals. That will result in them hiding, and potentially having a bathroom-related accident.

Some cats also develop separation anxiety. When their owners are away, they grow extremely stressed. Again, all the behaviors listed could then apply. Your cat is not punishing you for leaving them, and manipulating you into staying home.

Equally, your cat may hide after biting or scratching upon becoming overstimulated. It’s easy to take this personally. Your cat isn’t sulking, though.

They need some time alone to restore their mental and physical equilibrium. Once they’re ready, they’ll rejoin you and act as though nothing happened.

Does My Cat Want to Dominate Me?

One final behavior to be wary of is attempted dominance. It’s rare for a cat to try to dominate a human. Our size discrepancy deters them. It can happen, though.

There are some crucial differences between manipulation and dominance:

  • A manipulative cat knows their place. They act the way they do to convince humans to help them out.
  • A dominant cat considers themselves to be lord or lady of the manor. They demand that humans do their bidding, at their leisure.

Classic signs of dominant feline behavior toward humans include:

  • Spraying and urinating all over the house. This is marking all possessions as theirs.
  • Refusing to use a cat flap, instead insisting that a human gets up to let them in or out. This is your cat announcing that they rule the roost.
  • Blocking your path when walking. This is a cat declaring that they decide whether you can enter or leave a room. It’s their house, after all.
  • Biting and clawing from nowhere, and other acts of unprovoked aggression.

If you have a dominant cat, they will need to be trained. Mercola offers advice on how to remind your cat who is in charge.

A little feline manipulation is to be expected. It’s even amusing, once you realize what they’re trying to achieve. Dominance, however, is potentially dangerous and must be nipped in the bud.

Are Some People Easier for Cats to Manipulate?

The stereotype of the ‘crazy cat lady’ is commonplace, but there is some truth to it.

According to Seeker, cats attach themselves more to human females than males. As a result, they are more likely to convince a woman to do their bidding.

This comes down to the nurturing instincts found in a human female. As we have discussed, cats imitate the sound of a crying baby. This will impact more on a woman’s natural maternal drives. Cats know this, and react accordingly.

Are we saying that cats cannot manipulate men? Of course not. Most feline pets will choose a favorite person in their home. This is just as likely to be a male as a female.

In fact, it could be considered more likely. If somebody is slightly more immune to a cat’s control techniques, it will not go unnoticed.

Cats like to have their needs met on their own terms. This means that they prefer people that respond to them upon invitation.

Your cat may notice that human females are faster to react when they want something. That leaves them more likely to approach the family matriarch than the patriarch.

However, a human that’s ambivalent to cats but still pliable to training is hugely appealing. This will inspire a feline to tailor their manipulation techniques to the person in question.

Interestingly, studies have found that cats will rarely attempt to manipulate a stranger. A feline must have some degree of bond with a human before meowing and purring.

This leads us to believe that a cat knows when they can push their luck. Perhaps more pertinently, it suggests that cats like to slowly but surely wear their humans down.

Given enough time, a cat can get anybody to do their bidding. This will usually be a result of a loud, elongated meow. Over time, your cat will also use subtler tactics. Eventually, one look from big, wide eyes will likely do the trick.

Anybody with an ounce of empathy is prone to being controlled by their cat. It’s not a character failing, or a sign of weakness. It’s proof that your pet is lucky to live in such a welcoming environment.

If your cat is manipulating you, laugh it off. It’s part of the dynamic between humans and felines. As long as both parties are happy, there is no harm being done.