Cats, like dogs, respond to visual clues. We know that! People who understand cats get under the skin of their cat. They get into the head of their cat and vice versa. There is communication. It is subtle. It is not conventional but effective nonetheless.
You don’t need to formally train your cat to understand you. It happens over time. Perhaps that is a form of training. I prefer to think of it as your cat getting to know you and your behavior. This allows your cat to read you.
It does depend, though, on how close and involved one is with one’s cat. I have this feeling, although I can’t verify it, that a good sized section of cat caretakers do not really connect with their cat thoroughly enough to receive the maximum pleasure from the relationship.
It could be said that over about 10,000 years of domestication the domestic cat has, today, hardwired programming in his/her DNA that allows him to understand human behavior to a certain extent.
I believe a close relationship with an intimate understanding between cat and person is important to the success of the partnership. So what sort of actions does your cat read in your behavior? Does your cat read you and know what is coming up?
- knows when I am about to sit in the armchair. He likes using the armchair too. We share it but he moves off to the top of the backrest when I approach. He knows what I am about to do and accommodates me. I don’t say anything. When I am done, he moves back to the armchair, grooms himself and has a snooze.
- knows when he can come over to me in bed and snuggle up to me. He can read that because he knows that when I take up a certain position in the bed it is the right time to come. He also knows that he’ll receive some cuddles. I can also read him because I know when he is ready to come to me. This is quite an advanced form of non-vocal communication. It is based on patterns of behavior for sure but it more than that. It is reading your behavior as a form of communication.
- understands that if he vocalizes in a certain way, I will respond. I will engage in communicating with him. This would seem to be a way of reading my behavior too. He has an understanding of what makes me tick, what gets my attention.
We know that cats can mimic the cry of a baby by modifying their meow slightly. That skill must have come through an understanding of human behavior and knowing what makes us tick. It must have come from observing people parenting their babies and recognizing that the cry gets attention.
The meow has developed as a cat to human form of communication. Adult domestic cats don’t meow to each other.
In conclusion, we should not underestimate the cat’s cognitive abilities. Over the forthcoming millenia, if humankind are still around in the future, the domestic cat will continue to develop skills that makes his relationship with people more effective and beneficial to both parties. Our cats will surprise us.