This pseudo-philosophical question can only be answered if we first clarify the roles of human and cat in this relationship. You have to do that because cats are physically incapable of doing some things that humans cat do which allow humans to express their caring attitude towards their cats. Humans show that they care for their cat by keeping them safe, warm, well fed and loved through cuddles and play. That’s the human’s role.
The role of the domestic cat is to be a friendly, ever present and reliable companion. Nearly all domestic cats show they care for their humans by doing exactly that. Of course the motivation for the cat is not entirely altruistic. The cat is not being a friendly companion sitting on his human’s lap entirely for charitable purposes. He is doing it because it feels good and warm. But he’ll lick your hand and rub against you. These are signs of affection and companionship. Also, cats don’t consciously reflect on their behaviour and recognise it as a ‘caring’. It is instinctive affection.
Almost all cat owners have a cat for companionship. Their cat delivers on this informal contract. In their way, and without the range of methods to express caring that humans have, domestic cats show that they care for their humans.
There are a lot of stories concerning individual cats showing a strong bond with their owner. I remember a cat refusing to leave the burnt out apartment of his deceased owner. And a cat who lived on the grave of her deceased owner refusing to move for a couple of years. Were they grieving? They were at least showing that they cared about the relationship.
There are also stories of cats waking up their owner when a fire takes hold at night. And on other occasions domestic cats have forewarned of a natural disaster and ‘notified’ their owner!
I can call my cat and he’ll come to me. I can then ask him to jump on my lap and normally he will. He wants to be with me. He wants to touch my hand with his paw. He likes the contact. Are not these examples of a cat caring for his human companion? ‘Caring’ can be expressed in different ways. As mentioned the domestic cat has a limited range of ways to demonstrate caring. Demonstrating affection or friendship ticks the box I think.
The human to cat relationship is an interspecies relationship. There are many other examples of domestic cats being friendly and caring towards other species.
Do you have examples of your cat caring for you?