HomeCat Behavior“Love” is not in the cat’s vocabulary


“Love” is not in the cat’s vocabulary — 38 Comments

  1. Although I have used the word love and many of its synonyms, the actual meanings elude me.
    I think my relationships with my cats are, for the most part, mutual appreciation and pleasurable times. I understand those terms.

  2. I went out to the back garden with my cat just now and filled the birdbath after putting another stone underneath the leaning side, while a bluejay was swooping on him–no fledglings in the nest, just a bluejay genetically ready to swoop on anything that looks like ‘prey.’ πŸ˜‰ (Shrimpie’s just fine, hiding underneath the underbrush. πŸ™‚

  3. (The cat hairs on the laptop screen aren’t even Shrimp’s! πŸ™‚

    My kitten is asleep right now. (He’s five yrs old today!) My bebe is sleeping with one ear cocked. He knows that i am about to pounce on him….he loves this game. sorry, he adores this game I guess…
    POUNCE! πŸ˜‰

    • Happy birthday Shrimpi x
      Our boyz love us and Jozef has a protective love of me, he sits on my foot between me and any stranger who comes to our door, why would he want to protect me if he doesn’t love me?
      Babz and I have a love/respect relationship with Walter and Jozef, give and take, we give them everything we can which cats desire and they give us the pleasure of their company and purrs and butties.
      Getting down on the floor to a cat’s world is a good way of understanding how our world looks to them.
      Maybe we humans use the word ‘love’ too lightly, when I was young I longed to have a boyfriend and to be loved, until my late mother pointed out ‘be careful you aren’t in love with love one day’

      • Ruthie, I gave my bebe a kiss from you and Michael. He simply looked up at me with eyes, and said, “Mom, I adore you!” Thank you, for caring so much, Ruth. I try to not get too sentimental πŸ™‚ Now, I have to go take care of my daughter’s goldfish. They are not Koi, but they’re endearing, if ever a goldfish could be. πŸ˜‰

              • I think all my parent’s goldfish came from fairs. Little Guy grew to be over a foot in length from swimming in the fountain in their yard in the summers. They also had Pete and Rerun and one named Clarence. Of course, not all fish at fairs are as lucky as the ones who came to live with my parents.

                Years ago department stores even gave out baby chicks around Easter time. When my mom was little they took home a rooster and named him Peep. He lived with their cats, acting like a cat in many ways– except that he could peck people’s toes. In the summer Grandma would open the back door, looking for any sign of Peep. Then my mom and her sisters would run screaming toward the lake as the rooster would suddenly appear and give chase. Once they got in the water they were safe– until they had to come out! Peep’s story did not have a happy ending. My grandparents ran a boat rental and Peep chasing customers around and pecking their toes was simply not acceptable. Hilarious at times, but not good business practice. Luckily, this was before the times when everybody sues everybody else over the slightest thing.

                It’s good that we are moving past the day when animals could be seen as prizes, as a gift with purchase, instead of as living, breathing creatures.

              • Baby, I want you to know this much. You are the most wonderful, as we all are here, on PoC/Michael. ! Your/our Cats are the best, aren’t they! Love You, and your cc’s. I just wish that I could take my van Morison, and get the out of here, I -we love all of our cats, don’ we. Convictions run strong, within our midst.

      • I have a family member who married because she was in love with the idea of being married. She has suffered a lot of soul crushing abuse. So often women and men end up in those situations and still say, “But he(she) loves me!” There is really not an understanding of what love is. Love is loving actions, not a feeling. If a person does not do loving things, they don’t have love.

        • Love is loving actions

          Yes, yes, yes…I have always said this. You can show your love through behavior not words. Good, decent, supportive behavior over years = love. All the rest is froth, words. Actions speak louder than words. Far too many people don’t know what love is and that affects their relationships with people and cats. The human is desperate. It is sad.

          • we are all correct withour actions, and sometimes, even with our words? I know that your family on pictures-of-cats.org is.

            But! (I have good dreams and bad dreams about this ‘desperation’ that you speak of. I believe that almost all animals suffer it; I don’t know that the human does, when given an animal to love and nurture. [did i misunderstand? When are all the birthdays? Could we post this–I think that een though we can’t afford to donate monies, we can still take care of each other. πŸ™‚

  4. I’m lookin at Shrimp right now–he wants to go outside–he’s at the front door. He can’t meow, so what does he do? He sneezes, and I, as he has me positively reinforced, I say “Bless You, Shrimpster!” and then I get up off the couch and let him out, not before saying to him, “Shrimptaro, you stay close!” Then I can’t help myself, I open the door again, and say, “Shrimpie, I love you!”

    • You sound a lot like me with Monty, him asking to go out, me talking to him a lot… Once I accidentally butt dialed Pastor on my cell phone and he heard me talking to Monty, saying all kinds of silly things. Luckily, he is a cat person himself, so he didn’t think, “She’s nuts. I think I need to look for a new organist.”

  5. Then let’s no longer use it in our vocabulary, Michael. πŸ™‚

    Let’s, when we speak [can’t tell mew what to think,] let’s use “adore.”

      • Adore contains the concept of praise, and I think we write much in praise of our cats. Sometimes I sing Monty’s praises. I’ll sing “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…” Sometimes I change the words to be specifically about him. He just looks at me like I’ve gone nuts. He listens for him name sung over and over to the tune of “Good Night Ladies” because I used to use that as a way to call him to be fed. What is the point of singing if it doesn’t indicate food is about to be given?

        I think sometimes it isn’t that our cats don’t love us, but it is that they cannot always understand our way of expressing love and we do not always perceive it when they are showing love to us. We either write it off as instinctive behavior, nothing more, or we just don’t hear the message. Until coming to PoC I didn’t know the significance of the slow blink. Could not the slow blink be a cat’s way of saying, “I love you?”

        Cats are self centered by nature, but so is a two year old human, yet we assume that two year old humans love their parents and siblings. If a two year old human can be capable of love (to me there is doubt about that one) cats certainly can. I think a cat is more capable of love than many humans. No cat can be corrupt and evil– only humans can be twisted in such a way as to be devoid of love. Animals know more of love than humans, because they always do only what they were created to do, they never defy the God of love who made them. We are the blind and cold hearted ones who don’t perceive that animals can love, but believe that we can.

  6. p.s. I wrote my comment above not having read previous comments. For some reason, whatever way I got to the article didn’t show previous comments.

    I see them now, and am reading with interest. What an articulate and thoughtful series of comments.

  7. Great article, Michael. Very thought-provoking. And, I agree with your thesis. I think one has to get to a certain age (whatever that might be) to allow oneself a dispassionate view of “love”, at least as applies to human interactions.

    For the sake of thought, I will turn the thesis around a bit. While I know that my cat doesn’t “love me”, and I accept your words in that regard, it would be hard for me to say “I like my cat” instead of “I love my cat.” Maybe there is another choice apart from the like/love dichotomy for what a human feels for a cat, but it doesn’t come readily to mind.

    I have said before that kitties can be heart breakers. Losing a cat through cat death has for me called out a totally different kind of grief than what I’ve experienced losing a human. Grief is real in both instances, but it is different in feeling and dimension. Part of this may be because we only intuit what a cat is thinking or feeling, whereas with humans, we do have the history of verbal communication, for better or ill.

    Even though I know my cat doesn’t love me, I love my cat. Is it human folly to feel that I love my cat?

    • I agree there is something that is better than “love” in the sense Westerners use the word. Perhaps it is a deep affection and a binding friendship in which both parties support each other. It is not glossed up and it is very practical. People should have the same sort of friendship towards their cats that their cats have towards them. That avoids anthropomorphizing your cat.

  8. It is not unusual, I think, for an atheist or agnostic to not believe in love. The Bible says that God is love, so that is how I define it. Love is Christ on the cross.

    George Herbert’s poems are all about love. He was an English poet of the Reformation. When I think about love, I think about his poems. I recently found out he died at age 39, so I am having a bit of a midlife crisis, because I’ve been feeling that my best creative work is ahead of me! I’m already older than Herbert was when he died. Hmm….

    “Blest be the God of love,
    Who gave me eyes, and light, and power this day,
    Both to be busie, and to play.
    But much more blest be God above,

    Who gave me sight alone,
    Which to himself he did denie:
    For when he sees my saies, I dy;
    But I have got his sonne, and he hath none.

    My God, thou art all love.
    Not one poor minute scapes thy breast,
    But brings a favour from above;
    And in this love, more then in bed, I rest.”
    George Herbert (from poem “Even-song”)

    Herbert wrote at a time before spellings were standardized, but I prefer the versions of his poems where they use his spellings instead of modernizing them. Sometimes I wish we could still spell things how we feel like they should be spelled. There are some words I would change.

    So I do believe in love, and even though Monty can’t show me love in the way I would like, I believe that he is a gift from a God who loves us both.

    The truth is I don’t show Monty love as I should either. How often do I neglect to play with him because I feel tired or have something I’d rather do? I could give him more attention than I do, I could even give him more outside time than I do. I want to hug him, but he doesn’t want hugs. He wants playtime, outside time or foot petting. I get tired of standing on one leg holding onto the door frame rubbing him with my foot. I want to lie down. If I were more loving I would give him more foot petting, even in the middle of the night. He loves middle of the night foot petting.

    • What kind of love is there in the phrase “God is Love”. I am sure it is not romantic love as Sarah Hartwell so wisely described the Westerner’s version of the meaning of the word. It is a much more altruistic unconditional love I suspect.

          • But what about the mamma cat who rescued her kittens from a burning building, getting burned herself in the process? I also saw a film of two birds, one dying, the other his mate, bringing him food, trying to get him to move, and finally wailing her grief. And in that movie about penguins, narrated by Morgan Freeman, two penguins accidentally crack the egg containing their offspring and they both wail their grief, knowing that egg will never hatch. Elephants have also been seen to mourn their dead. There are many incidents of dogs risking danger to themselves when their human was in trouble. So I think animals absolutely do love just as much as humans. We are not above them, alone in having a concept of love. When I hug Monty and he gives that sudden loud purr, could that not be because he loves me and can perceive through that hug that I love him? He isn’t one for hugs, but he still purrs. Then he starts asking to be put down. But why the purr when he doesn’t even like hugs? His ecstasy from foot petting can be explained as scent exchange, nothing more. But a cat who doesn’t like to be held, purrs upon being picked up. I think that is his way of saying, “I love you, Mom. Now let me go, I’m busy.”

            • Monty’s Mother, I have never seen any one individual suffer more than we have, sweetheart, you just keep doing what you do, b/c you are our favorite, our little kitten, here. Bless your heart.

            • But what about the mamma cat who rescued her kittens from a burning building, getting burned herself in the process?

              Is this true love and is true love about survival and support for survival over a lifetime? There cannot be anything better. True love is far more practical than the dressed up version that Westerners think it is. The Western version is froth.

  9. It can be a little frustrating realizing our cats don’t love us in the way we would like. Monty will come up to me when I am eating and stare up at me. I enjoy the attention from him. I like it when he wants to be with me. But he doesn’t do that when I don’t have food. He wants something and he knows how to suck up to me. He gives me attention when he wants food or outside time. He enjoys being petted on a limited basis and he goes crazy for being rubbed with your foot. I don’t know what that is all about. Scent exchange probably. Today I never saw him at all except when he got hungry. I never did find out where he was. Probably somewhere in the basement because it is cooler down there.

  10. Modern westerners too often associate love with “romantic love,” (the “falling in and out of love” stuff) but that’s just one of many forms of love. The Greeks had separate words for familial-love, friendship-love, romantic desire and worshipping-love. Then there’s maternal love and material love and a whole complex of feelings that get bundled up into one four letter word. I think of love as an attachment where I would feel an emptiness or sense of loss if that individual went missing from my life.

    When my cats groom me, or choose to stay close to me, it is their way of showing I am their companion. That display of acceptance/affection is enough for me.

    • Good point. Thanks Sarah. I am referring to that “romantic love” that most of us think love is. As Marc says the problem is defining “love”. It is impossible. I just feel that if cats could discuss our usual version of love they would find it odd. Close companionship is love really. A long lasting close friendship that is practical develops into what I would call “real love”. I am waffling…I’d better stick to cats.

  11. Well I don’t know if cats feel love the same way as people do because I’m only half cat/half woman lol but mother cats love their kittens in that they protect them and feed them and isn’t that just the same as a human mother loving her baby?
    Cats don’t love their sexual partners, but they follow their instinct to mate and create new life, in a way that’s the same as humans, most want to create new human life with the person they love.
    I think cats do love their human caretakers, Walter and Jozef look into Barbara’s face and into my face, at times, their eyes wide with what looks like love.
    Cats brains are very similar to humans brains so I think they do have similar emotions, yes cats live in reality and they just live for the moment instead of planning ahead like we do, they don’t dread something which might happen like we do and that’s a lesson we could learn because we’d be better off too living for the moment.
    It’s frightening that cats are much more sensible than people yet their fate is in the hands of whoever has power over them.

    • I think love is more a state of mind or vision than anything – love is when you see beauty. We love it because we usually don’t and we lost that a long time ago. Animals are in a constant state whereby their surroundings are alive and more vibrant in my opinion – therefore it might be said they love when they like, and it’s as arbitrary as that. When they like something I mean. We humans fall in and out of love with things and people because we are emotional roller coasters lost in our trivial lives whilst searching for meaning. Animals have more simple needs, to survive.

      Beyond that any pleasure they experience could or could not be described as love – as you say, it’s a human thing, not an animal thing but the real question is “what is love” – I don’t think we can advance with the p[premise of the article without agreeing on said question’s answer first. Personally I am with the ‘beauty lies in the eye of the beholder’ mentality – your reality is what you make it, if you are a loving person then the day is beautiful, so is the tree as are the people you work with and live with.

      Love should not be reserved for the one person you are supposed to love. – this idea just signals our loss of ourselves – that inside ourselves we humans have become ugly and only able to experience beauty when we are in love with another person who can flood our senses for a relatively short period of time in some senses. But if we spent more time with nature and made an effort to be and do the right things according to our intuition then we would be more beautiful inside and more able to be open and love ourselves and that which is around us.

      It’s too complicated to make it simple. I believe animals are beautiful inside. That is my general answer to a very general question. Survival might not be beautful but I still believe animals are as I said. For example the other animals know when the lions have eaten and they walk past without feeling threatened. If the lions could each grass I don’t think they’d kill for food – it’s just what I think. Instinct is one thing which exists in relation to other things withing the self of an animal. Fear, etc….

      It’s a complex issue but animals are infact innocent and that affords them a clear vision of beauty and vibrance of the lands they call home. Humans can walk through a forest and not smell or see a damn thing because they are worried about something else – inside themselves, totally unconnected. Love is about connectedness to everything. That is why humans find it so amazing – actually they should never have lost it in the first place.

      I could go on and on with this one πŸ™‚

      But my answer is a question: What are the symptoms of ‘love’ and can we be certain those do not exist within animals?

      • the real question is “what is love”

        As usual you are correct. Independently I did think the same question.

        When I rather simplistically say cats don’t know the meaning of the word “love”, neither do humans πŸ™‚ So, the article is rather pointless.

        I wrote it when looking at Charlie. We are very close but I felt that his attitude to life is more practical, real and less sentimental. Humans need a crutch to live and the concept of “love” adds some magic to what is dull living. Cats don’t need that crutch. Living is not boring to a cat. They don’t need magic. Much better than us.

        As you say, animals are beautiful inside because they have a purer mentality. They live in the moment, every moment. I think humans are too intelligent (in a crude way). It causes problems and will cause our downfall. The Planet of the Apes will come true one day.

        God, I wish I was a cat in a good home.

        My title opens up a lot of questions that are to do with us I feel. It is complicated.

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