There’s science behind your inexplicably close relationship with your cat

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Cats are the most commonly own pet across all continents on the planets and have been with us for literal thousands of years. Yet, as deep as our bond may be, much about them can seem like a mystery to us. So, what do we know about the human-cat relationship, how we formed it, and how to best maintain it?

Are cats still wild?

As independent and as individual as they can be, there has long been speculation that cats enjoy a more equal relationship with humans, rather than one of being owned. Indeed, genetically, domesticated cats have more in common with wild varieties when compared to dogs and wolves (or African wild dogs for that matter). Cats were domesticated and bred, with those with increased reward-seeking and fear resisting traits becoming a lot more common. As such, modern cats certainly tolerate, love, and bond with us more than their ancestors, but there’s still a lot of that wilderness in them.

Why cats meow

Another way that the human bond has largely shaped modern cats is in how they communicate. One of the most interesting aspects of cats is that they mostly meow to humans. Kittens meow to their parents to let them know they’re hungry but, as adults, most of their inter-cat communication is non-verbal. On the other hand, cats have a range of vocalizations with humans, expressing greetings, excitement, love, hunger, displeasure, and more.

Food and mood

As top amongst the building blocks of life and on the top of the hierarchy of needs, it should be no surprise that changes in diet result in changes in temperament and mood as well. Domesticated cats became domesticated because being fed by humans who wanted that bond (and wanted skilled pest hunters) made them more likely to survive. Food still plays a large governing role over their relationship with us, right down to their mood, with more balanced, nutritious meals like those at likely to improve their energy, friendliness, and overall contentment with their human.

Pets or pack members?

Like dogs, cats are, in some respects, pack animals. However, the way a dog treats a human and how cats treat a human family are different. Cats are not as dependent on humans as dogs are, able to clean and feed themselves when given the freedom to. However, this means that cats aren’t hardwired to express affection for protection, safety, and food as much as gods are. When they do come up for a kiss or boop you with their nose, it’s because they want to, not because they’re programmed that way.

Our influence on our pets

Cats don’t become dependent like dogs or human children and enjoy a more reciprocal relationship. However, they do come to resemble their owners in some ways, particularly in their schedule. Cats who have a smaller space, with a more indoor lifestyle tend to adopt the eating, sleeping, and activity patterns of their owners. Meanwhile, cats that live in larger homes and spend more time outdoors have been found to become more nocturnal.

There’s no denying that cats have a fascinating, deep relationship with humans and one that may be based more on mutual love and care than many initially thought. That bond is definitely there but, with a cat, you earn it.

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