How Do Cats Choose Their Companions?

What is it that makes a cat tick? I find this an interesting topic. It gets into the head of a cat. The fact that a cat can become very, very close to someone (a human, I mean) in a household and pretty much hate another person tells me that a lot more is going on inside the head of a cat than some people care to give credit for.

Cat Love

Cat Love – Emily and Cody. Photo by Tim Pearce, Los Gatos

You can have two nice people in a home, both of whom like cats. There is nothing hostile about them from the cat’s perspective as far as we can tell. There is nothing that is noticeable. And yet a cat will actively dislike one person and love the other. That is the sort of thing humans do.

What is also interesting is that a cat might not like the person who feeds them and basically cares from them as much as someone who is just there giving them the odd cuddle. I don’t think a cat’s preferences is just based past experiences (nurture). Obviously, if a cat has had a bad experience with a person, perhaps a previous owner, he might be wary if someone who looks, behaves, sounds or smells like that person. That is the simple reason why a cat loves one person and dislikes another. But is it just about that?

I don’t think it is because cats also pick their mates in the cat world too. Cat relatives (i.e. brother to sister etc.) usually or always get on and are close. Cats also make close friends with non-relative cats with whom they have no past history. How do they choose them?

The obvious answer is that they choose their friends in the same way we do: chemistry. Chemistry is the total package or bundle of a wide range of factors that add up to something that is likeable for a cat or person.

If a cat gets to like or love a human because the chemistry is right, it is an indication that cats are smarter and have a more complex personality than a lot of people give credit for and these people need to reassess their opinions about the domestic cat.

I think this is one of the problems with the way a lot of people relate to their cat. They just think, “it’s only a cat”. By this they mean the cat is “only an animal”. And by this they mean he or she has no real feelings, does not feel pain like humans, is a bit like an inanimate object and as a result the person can do what they like with the cat.

This attitude by millions and probably billions of people is clearly incorrect even just taking into consideration the way cats choose their close and loved companions.


Original photo on Flickr

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How Do Cats Choose Their Companions? — 4 Comments

  1. I have experienced a cat really liking me alot more than his caretaker simply because I connect with him more and empathise with him and can see his needs etc. His owner loves him dearly but just doesn’t understand him or empathise with him as he should so Jerry (the cat) just loves me because he craves some understanding. Jeff (his caretaker) was always amazed at how much Jerry loved me and would do all kinds of things with me he never did before and be much more affectionate towards me.

    Jeff just doesnt understand things on a more subtle level albeit that he loves Jerry very much, I would say he just doesnt know how to love Jerry how Jerry needs to be loved and I guess at some point the ‘he’s just a cat’ thing must therefore be a part of it. I am so sad for Jerry being locked up with a couple who dont know how to truly take care of him, I always tried to convince Jeff and his girlfriend that Jerry needed a buddy to play with and they thought about it but would back away on the idea when it came down to really doing it. Jerry was also front declawed, something I dont know if he came like that from the shelter or if the couple had anything to do with it. Very sad. And the moral of the story here is that they love him very much, but on their own terms.

    An outsider would see nothing wrong with them perhaps and not understand if the cat was unhappy or not very giving of himself to them. People just don’t truly give in a sense. They love because they want to love but in a sort of selfish way, but wont try harder if Jerry is not doing so well and just give up. I would honestly suggest they go out and buy a big teddy bear and cuddly that because they are not ready to have a cat in their home. Just my thoughts.

    Of course it being Canda in this case, perhaps Jerry would have been killed at the Toronto humane society if they hadnt taken him. Its a god awful ‘humane’ society to be honest with a lot of bad stories behind it. I had my kittens spayed there once and bad vibes were dripping off the walls in that place and that was before I knew anything about anything cat or rescue related.

    I didnt know it was a place of torture and killing then. If I did, I would never have set foot in that place. But I do remember such a bad vibein there I just wanted to run out of the place. Cats are all different and have different needs. People are the same. Thats why I think Michael is right, its to do with Chemistry and in that I would include a persons emotional and spiritual capabilities and sensitivities.

    • As usual I think you hit the nail on the head. You say, “I connect with him more and empathise with him..” and Jerry loved his cat “but on their own terms..” I seems that cats do choose on the chemistry between them and us. The chemistry is that they sense through all kinds of signals that we put out such as our voice, our demeanour, and perhaps something we don’t understand and they do, that we are friendly and “one of them”. It translates as empathy and understanding and the cat knows when we understand them. And I know it sounds like mumbo jumbo but I think cats do like certain people more than others. But, yes, a certain type of person is going to be liked by cats much more than other people. It is a person who gets into the head of a cat and loves ’em on their terms.

  2. I concur with you both. When my tortie, Sadie, passed at 17, I was inconsolable. When I returned to our no-kill shelter the following week, I was very sad with tear-filled eyes but I knew our shelter guests needed us so I went about cleaning cages, albeit very depressed.

    Whilst cleaning out a cage, I kept feeling a smack on my head. Looking up, a huge Maine Coon had her front paws/legs stretched outside the bars as far as could be. When I opened the cage, she retracted her claws and gently touched my tears with her paws, purred and heat butt me! This behavior was in amazement to the other volunteers since she wasn’t particularly friendly since she’d returned to the shelter 9.5 months after she was adopted out (second time returned).

    That was over a year ago and I cannot imagine life without my Abby. Although I wasn’t prepared to even entertain the idea of a new feline, Abby knew it was the right thing to do. Her previous human had become gravely ill and couldn’t care for her anymore and when she returned to the shelter, she was depressed!

    Who’d have thought two lonely souls could be joined by a smack in the head? Guess she was saying “C’mon Mom, smarten up! I’m right here!” Yes, cats do prefer to pick their humans and I’m so grateful they do!

    • Beautiful story. Cats pick people quickly. It is instinctive and it is in an instant. There is something going on which we don’t completely understand.

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