Mutuality is the sharing of feelings and action in a relationship between two or more parties. Love between two people is based on mutuality. The first reason why your cat loves you is because you love your cat. It’s the same in the human-human relationship. I am one of those who believe that there can be ‘chemistry‘ (by which I mean genuine love as we know it) in the cat-human relationship and indeed in the cat-cat relationship. Domestic cats have, of course, the ability to feel deep affection for another sentient being. If you don’t love your cat it won’t be reciprocated. The more you love your cat the more she/he will love you. Often the human starts the relationship but not always.
Sometimes a stray cat will come up to you or your home and inveigle their way into your life demanding that you love them and you will. Sometimes a relationship begins by the cat demanding all the things that she needs: food, water, security, warmth and companionship. You might willingly provide it and the seeds of a love relationship begins.
2. Food and water
A subset of the reason why cats love us because we provide them with food and water. This is one way traffic. We are acting as their provider and indeed their mother. We are like a surrogate mother to them which, it is said, keeps them acting like kittens most of their adult life. This is a functional aspect of the love relationship between domestic cat and their human guardian.
3. Security and safety
This is part of the same functionality of the relationship. We provide them with a den, our home, which they can return to if they are allowed outside or in which they live their entire lives if they are full-time indoor cats. It’s a place of safety or should be if the cat caretaker does a proper job of looking after their cat.
This is another subset, but domestic cats particularly like warmth because they’ve inherited this trait from their wild cat ancestor which lives in warm climates. Our cats love to sit on our laps or cuddle up with us on our beds or they’ll spend time in the airing cupboard (the place where the boiler is). We provide this warmth, it makes them happy and it helps them to feel comfortable with us and have affection for us.
There is an underlying functionality to the relationship which is one-sided in terms of making life nicer for our cats but in return our cat provides us with much happiness, companionship and entertainment. It’s not a payment but the natural outcome of a loving relationship. At the root of it is mutuality: we love our cats and they reciprocate.
I’ve made the reasonable presumption that domestic cats have the ability to love us. Love is a very elastic emotion and it is a human construct. It’s a word that really relates to the human-to-human relationship but it is reasonable to say that cats love us or have a deep affection for us provided, of course, we do our bit in the relationship.
Wild cat ancestor
In this discussion I have to touch on the domestic cat’s wild cat ancestor, the North African Wildcat, because all the traits that our domestic cats have comes from this wild cat species. The African wildcat is a solitary creature. They meet up with females to mate and procreate. That’s about it, so clearly 10,000 years of domestication and a close relationship between domestic cat and human has resulted in a cat with a different personality. Domestic cats are or can be sociable and they are no longer essentially solitary by nature (depending on the individual cat concerned – they need to be socialised).
I have to briefly touch on interspecies relationships generally. Domestic cats can also be “in love” (have a deep affection for) other species of animal such as dogs, squirrels, deer, horses (very common). We must not forget these other species of animal. They are equally important.