Why do cats prefer certain people?

by Elisa Black-Taylor

Annabelle is now my cat

Annabelle is now my cat. Click on thumbnails below to enlarge

Annabelle is now my cat Furby and cat friend Marley Jasper & Tom chose Laura

This article is discussion about why cats prefer certain people and the sometimes unpredictable decisions a cat will make on who (s)he chooses as that special someone in her life.

I'm sure most of you have experienced this. You've wanted a cat for a long time and paid a visit to the local shelter. Or perhaps one just wandered into your life from out of nowhere. You shower your new baby with love and affection. You feed it the best food, buy the toys you think kitty will enjoy, and basically become a servant for your new cat.

Then it happens. Your cat goes over to your spouse/roommate/child and makes itself at home on THEIR lap. This person who may even push the cat off the bed or lap and refuse to have anything to do with your kitty is now your cat's new best friend.

I want to tell the readers here who have had this happen that you are not alone. Please tell your own story at the end of this article. I've been hearing of many cases such as this over the past few months and want to assure you that it's unlikely anything you've done. It just happens.

My daughter and I are going through this with our deaf cat Annabelle. Laura was so excited about adopting a white deaf cat. She wanted her as her own personal cat to nurture and sleep with. Which Annabelle did for the first few weeks. Then without warning Annabelle decided she wanted to sleep with me. She also sits on the sofa arm by my side whenever I'm in the living room. Her cat carrier is now on my bed since she made her decision to make me her human. Annabelle sleeps in her carrier until I get out of bed, then she follows me to the living room.

Laura has cats who are partial to her. Tom and Jasper are the main ones. And of course Lola. Even Furby seems undecided these days on which of us he prefers. Lola and Jasper even go with Laura when she visits family in another town and leaves me with a cat colony to manage single-handed.

Furby also has a new lady friend named Marley whom he enjoys sleeping beside.

I could read up on cat psychology until I'm blue in the face and never truly understand the reason a cat will choose one person over another. Let's face it. Only the cat knows the answer to this dilemma.

One article I read suggested male cats prefer women and female cats prefer men. Which may be true to an extent except in my household there's only my daughter and myself. Most of my cats have never even met a man except for the vet.

We even share our home to a few cats who don't care for human company at all. These cats sleep with the other cats and seem happy with that situation. Every so often one of these cats will come over for a head rub. Otherwise, they choose other cats as their companions rather than a human.

In the past I was very partial to male cats. They always seemed to enjoy sleeping in my lap more than the females. Now I have as many female lap cats as I do males. I don't know if cats have changed over the years or if I'm the one who changed.

Cats also get a little vengeful toward those who discipline them or have to give them pills. They will often go to another person in the household as if to say "Ha, I'm not going to have anything to do with you until I decide to forgive you." Which can take from a few hours to several days.

I'm not going to suggest to the readers here to buy more treats, toys or cat furniture. Apparently cat's don't determine who they want to spend time with by the money spent on them. Cats, by nature, are independent and have their own secret philosophy.

Please share how your cats choose their favorite people in your household. I think we'll all find ourselves on the ignored end of a cat relationship.


P.S. From Michael (Admin). It seems to me that as cats have their own personalities it is not impossible to say that the domestic cat has preferences for certain people just like humans. It's probably a combination of factors such as voice, smell, demeanour etc..Then there is the obvious factor: familiarity. Cats get to know us and vice versa. A relationship grows and then friends of the person who is close to the cat become favourites of the cat too because the cat knows that these people are friendly and non-threatening.

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Why do cats prefer certain people?

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Jul 28, 2011
their choice, not mine
by: Rebecca

I love stories where I read it and think "yes! that's me too".
I adore cats, always have, we had a family cat when I was 8 then moved overseas - I pestered my mother non-stop for 4 years until she let me adopt one from a family friend. Phillip, on the other hand, had bad experiences with cats and was a self-confessed Dog Man. Until he met my Pixel. Over 15 years they grew really close - she was always MY girl but she loved him and he grew to love her. That did it. Now as far as cats are concerned He's Da Man... cats that fear strangers come to HIM for a headrub. Our 2 special boys, Boofycat was all HIS, and Basil - although he adores me - leaps off me and runs to Phill as soon as he appears.
And my brother... was not going to adopt a new cat, likes neighbours' cats as you get all the purrs and no reponsibility. Until "puss" decided she was going to live with him. And give birth on his porch. She's now re-named Snuff, spayed, flea'd, wormed, vaccinated, and finally fat & happy. Totally ignores her previous people and her several offspring!

Jul 27, 2011 puzzles
by: Vandita

I have had this happen to me, not once but twice!! My brother found a little kitten last year and brought him home, he said he would drop him off at the SPCA the next day, of course I wouldn't let him do that, SPCA put animals to sleep within 2 days or sometimes 24 hours. I begged my mother to let me keep Pookie, I got the permission but there was something up, even though I held Pookie, hugged and kissed him, he didn't return any affection. In fact he loves my mother more then he loves anyone else, he always follows her around the house, sleeps on the sofa beside her, as soon as he sees her he runs off after her, of course I was a little upset but he doesn't care whether I am upset or not!! Norris is another case. When he was a kitten he had diarrhea and no one wanted to hold him, he always jumped on my lap for a snuggle but somehow after he got better he took to my sister! Was I frustrated? Yes, after showing him love and affection he started following her!! But now he is getting back on track 😉 he's 6 now and he sometimes sleeps with me on my bed, he jumps on my lap and starts drooling. I know we will never be able to solve this mystery, only they know why they behave like this. Cats are the BIGGEST puzzle ever!!

Jul 27, 2011 A Tough Call
by: Alex Hamilton

I feed all 7 cats, I'm here at home most days. But whatever calico cats I have at the time (2 at the moment), they just can't get enough of my husband. Maybe partly because, of course, they're female. But he can pick up and carry these two around all day, and they'll never let me get away with that! I had a Russian blue that really didn't care for either of us, just wanted to be near you. And then one day, she was having tooth problems, and I accidentally pulled it out (it was very loose). After that moment, she never left my side. I guess it's the situation, the smell, and just some attraction that only the cats can determine.

Jul 27, 2011 Good Question
by: Michael

This is a very good question and an important one but I don't see it asked that much.

I don't know the answer. All we can do is guess. But that said the attraction between people is about "chemistry" and that is pretty vague too.

I think it must be a combination of factors. One might be smell. Our body odor is a factor I am sure. Cats have a great sense of smell, much better than ours. A lot of what they do is based on how something smells.

Individual cats will prefer certain smells. Another factor is probably how we handle and interact with a cat. All cats will have a preference as to how they are handled and how we interact with them, generally. We don't know those preferences. We get to learn about them but we can't ask and get a precise answer as to what they are.

So by pure chance someone will do the right thing and become a friend.

As I said I am guessing and it would make a nice research project for some scientists.


Why do cats prefer certain people? — 16 Comments

  1. My husband and I adopted a female cat from a local shelter. She chose him by jumping on him and digging into his shirt. She has been a daddy’s girl from day one.
    My male cat will have nothing to do with my husband. It seems he has chosen me, I guess. He cuddles with me and sleeps in the bed with me.

    • Sounds typical. I proves cats choose us and that they very definitely have preferences when it comes to their human companion. Thanks Lisa.

  2. My cat Calie loves me because I love her, but especially because I’m her hero. She hates to be chased and so naturally the other cats do it. Einstein in particular, and so she goes to great lengths to avoid it and him. At night she curls up near my face in bed, purrs and licks my hand; she always seeks me out and stays near because I’ll protect her. All I have to do is make eye contact with the others and they know to leave her alone. I love being her hero.

  3. I have four foster kid’s three boys and a girl I got a kitten from the moment she got her she had attitude she’s not mean but loves my eight year old boy only she sleeps with him waits for him by the door at about the time he gets home from school. He can pet her however but if any body else pets her the tail starts going and she growls but never bites just moves away from the person.I live in the country and she is a great hunter of mice which is why I got her but I think it’s so funny how much she only loves my little boy

    • Hello Phyllis. I found your comment very interesting. It certainly goes to prove that cats prefer certain people, at least sometimes. There is clearly something about your boy which she likes. It may be the scent that he gives off in combination with his behaviour in general including the sound that he makes. But to choose him amongst others and to reject the others is very interesting. The bottom line is that cats (just like us) people prefer certain people and other cats. Cats are individuals with their own preferences just like people.

  4. My boyfriend and I have had two cats and both have preferred to sleep by me and follow me around. The first girl we had (who sadly was hit by a car) was mostly fed by me and looked after by me as I was more used to cats so it made sense, but Sora (who we have now) is fed by my partner and I give her any tablets/flea treatments etc. I’m also the one who tells her off while my boyfriend always plays with her yet she tends to favor me (though she likes both of us, she just always cuddles me.) Don’t know why, but I guess cats just choose who they feel more comfortable with.

    • Sometimes the reason why a cat prefers someone is not that clear. There may be some hidden reasons which don’t stand out like the person’s scent and if the cat is a rescue cat adopted from a shelter for example the cat may have memories which color his/her preferences. A person’s voice and general demeanour also play a role. Thanks for sharing Caitlin.

  5. I’ve seen or experienced all of those behaviors with my cats. Bandit knew that my Aunt Laverne was afraid of cats. He’d stalk her and playfully grab her ankle every chance he got. A year later Bandit became friends with this man who took an interest in my mom after my dad died. I couldn’t stand the man. Bandit loved him and couldn’t get enough of him when he came to visit. Two months later they had a severe falling out. The man apparently became physically abusive with my mother. I still don’t know exactly what he did but it must have been bad enough for Bandit to change his opinion of him in a split second. He attacked the man, jumped on his back with his claws out and rode him screaming out the front door. Years ago my cats ignored me when I came back from the hospital that time. I knew that I didn’t smell the same, but they did seem genuinely angry that I left them for a week.

  6. I first saw our cat walking through the back yard. I called to him and he came over to see me. Ever since we met he has favored me over my wife. All the other cats we have had liked my wife best. Our cat Frank has always liked me best.

    • Thanks David for sharing your experience. I’ll think about this a while to see if I can come up with my own ideas on it.

  7. Allow me to add to the discussion with something from “Why Does My Cat Do That?,” an interesting book about our feline friends that attempts to explain the unexplainable: cats don’t like being stared at. A cat lover will focus their attention on Kitty the moment s/he enters the room. A person who’s not fond of cats will ignore Kitty; therefore, Kitty naturally goes to the person who’s NOT unnerving him with a stare-down. Interesting . . . perhaps? It makes sense, sort of, but then how can we ever really know what’s going on in that little furry head?

    • Thanks Judy. You describe a classic reason why cats go to strangers who don’t like cats. There may be some truth in it but it is only part of the story in my opinion. Confident cats will sometimes approach strangers whether they are being stare at or not.

  8. lol I stole my moms cat not literally I wake up with her in front of my face she walks in my room like she owns it and she wont sleep with anyone but me and if im gone she sleeps in the laundry basket outside my room my mom jokes saying sushi is your cat now thanks a lot for stealing my cat

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