A person asked: “Is it normal for a cat to imprint on you? My cat will not leave my side and must sleep with me or she meows all night. She was feral.”
In terms of a domestic cat’s behaviour, I think that a close attachment by a cat to her human guardian is very similar to a cat who has been imprinted with the notion that their human companion is their mother.
“Imprinting” is a technical term in the realm of psychology. As I understand it, in kittens, it occurs when a newborn kitten sees her mother and as a result attaches herself to the parent as her mother. Imprinting creates the kitten-to-parent relationship.
It might happen in the kitten-to-human relationship if and when a person attends the birth of a kitten and the kitten attaches to that person as her mother. Or the imprinting takes place quite soon after birth. It will be a special form of attachment as offspring to parent.
There are other examples of different species imprinting. For instance in one video a duck had imprinted a dog as her parent.
But as I stated at the beginning of the page, if a kitten does not experience imprinting but nonetheless forms a very close bond with her human companion her behavior will mirror that of an imprinted cat because cats see us as surrogate mothers anyway.
Therefore in answering the person’s question in the first paragraph, imprinting is definitely not normal for cat owners but close attachment between cat and person is and therefore the cat behaves in a way which might give the impression that imprinting has taken place. For me, in a good human-to-cat relationship, there is a fine difference. What do you think?