I present three slightly different version of the answer to the question: How do cats see us?
Although we’re not sure how cats perceive us it is likely that they regard us as superior mother substitutes. They also see us as cats despite our much greater size and upright stance. They adapt their behaviour to interact with us to accommodate the size difference. For example they jump up onto furniture to interact with their owners. A cat might go on his hind legs in the merekat position when seeking to be stroked on his/her head.
It appears that domestic cats don’t see us as their mothers (but see below). This is suggested by the fact that they exchange grooming when they lick us and we stroke them. It is believed that they acknowledge us as being in some way superior perhaps due to our much larger size. This may trigger behaviour which would normally be seen towards a bigger or senior member in a feline family. Another reason might be because we control their food. This replicates how individual cats in a large feral colony can control access to food for the other cats.
The way the domestic and interacts with us has evolved over 10,000 years of domestication. As, compared to the dog, the domestication of the cat is still very much evolving, the cat’s relationship towards us is also changing gradually.
[The source of the above is Dr Bradshaw]
Cats like being stroked by us because it feels like the early days of their lives as kittens when they were repeatedly licked by their mothers. From the kitten’s perspective their mother feeds, protects and cleans them. The cat’s owner does this and conditions the adult cat to retain a kitten mentality towards his/her human owner/caretaker/guardian. Cats look upon humans as mother cats.
[Source: Dr Desmond Morris the distinguished, English zoologist and ethologist (study of animal behavior)]
The cat’s behavior towards us is similar to their behavior towards other cats and personally, therefore I have always felt that cats see us as cats and as friends but modified to accomodate the size and behavior differences together with their dependence on us.
I don’t believe domestic cats ask themselves questions about the weird size difference and starkly different appearance of their human companions. They just accept us as providers and companions although the word ‘companion’ is for human use. They will see us as ‘senior partners’ because of our size and because we provide the necessities of life such as security and food.
[The source of the above is Michael Broad]
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