It is useful to remind ourselves that humans are super-predators and much larger than domestic cats, who we all know are predators themselves. It is unnatural for predators of different species to live together.
From the cat’s perspective they are living with a huge predator which presents a potential barrier to the human/cat relationship. This is overcome by thousands of years of domestication and the fact that each individual domestic cat has been socialized to live with humans and learns our behavior.
It helps us to understand the relationship that we have with domestic cats if we remind ourselves that we are probably regarded by domestic cats are friendly predators.
Do cats know that hugs and kisses are a sign of affection?
Knowing this helps us to formulate an answer to the question: “Do cats know that hugs and kisses are a sign of affection?”
When a domestic cat is fully socialized and friends with their owner they should, in my opinion, understand that when they are petted and kissed that these are signs of affection. It may be silly to even think about that because we can see the expression on our cat’s face which is usually a sign of contentment when we cuddle them. Although you will often see cat expressions and body language which indicate tolerance rather than enjoyment of hugs and kisses.
It depends upon the individual cat. Domestic cats do not understand instinctively that human hugs and kisses are signs of affection. It is a learned process.
The human is described as a unique super-predator and the human’s activities prove it. For example humans take out adult fish populations at 14 times the rate that marine animals do and in contrast to wildlife humans focus heavily on killing adult prey rather than juveniles. We do this because we have the technology to kill.
We can kill without creating a situation which is dangerous to us whereas when, for example, a mountain lion attack large prey he or she may be killed in the act. This is why cheetahs are particularly careful about being injured when hunting prey because if they become injured they lose their speed if they lose their speed they die of starvation.
Not long ago there was an article on the subject of whether domestic cats like being petted and the conclusion was that they don’t necessarily like it. Once again it depends upon the individual cat. It’s possible that many cat owners overdo petting, hugs and kisses et cetera.
However, not only are domestic cats socialised to humans, they also learn by association that kisses and hugs mean something. They learn that it is our sign of infection. It is a reassuring sign for a cat which helps to create a calm environment which they like. Domestic cats learn through routines that our behaviors are safe and they learn to like them.
My Cat Likes To Be Picked Up
For example, when I come into the house and my cat greets me he now looks up at me and requests that I pick him up. I do this gently while respecting him and I don’t put my face up to his because he won’t like it but he does like being picked up and spoken to. This is a behavior which I have inadvertently trained him to like. Afterwards I almost invariably give him a treat so he has learned that being picked up and gently cuddled leads to a reward.
To return to the title of this article, we should remind ourselves that from a cat’s point of view we are quite intimidating and the most dangerous predator on the planet. Therefore we have an obligation to make sure we overcome that default barrier to a friendly relationship.