Thursday 28 September 2023

Do cats actually love their owners?

I think you've got to start this discussion with a definition of the word "love". And I think most people would agree that it means an intense affection for another. Although this is a very elastic definition. What I mean is that love is a very personal emotion. Different people have different depths of emotion for their significant other when they say that they love them.

And bearing in mind that the term is elastic and that the word "love" normally applies to the affections that a human has for another, it is impossible to come to any other conclusion that a domestic cat can love their owner, in their way, depending upon whether their owner loves them and treats them in a way commensurate with that love.

Love is a two-way street. A person can love another if that person doesn't reciprocate but it won't last. It'll fizzle out eventually. So, love feeds on the love of another. It is entirely mutual as I see it. The love of one magnifies the love of the other and vice versa.

So, taking that introduction into cat ownership, in the best examples, the cat owner loves their cat deeply. They care for them beautifully. They provide a beautiful, enriched feline environment for their cat which is thoroughly enjoyed. The caregiver feeds the best quality cat food and they spend hours together in play and cuddling.

Under that scenario, a cat will love their owner. I think it's impossible to come to any other conclusion. It has to be said, though, that we do not know what is in the mind of a domestic cat. At least we don't know what is in that mind accurately. We can guess through their body language and their vocalisations. But nobody has yet has actually truly read the mind of a domestic cat.

This mutual love between human caregiver and domestic cat is supported, I believe, by the fact that in this relationship the owner is a surrogate mother to an adult cat who feels like a kitten. That's because their every need is provided for. It's just like a cat mother is looking after their kitten.

This is a useful point to make because it supports what I have just said. A kitten is going to have a close connection with their mother and there will be a mutual love bond between them. That's exactly what the cat owner and their cat should replicate.

You can go further than that when the owner is imprinted on the brain of the cat that they are their true mother. This is when the owner has raised a newborn kitten and become imprinted on that kitten has a feline mother not a surrogate mother. And this imprinted mentality will be there for the rest of the cat's life. Under these circumstances there will be a special and super-close relationship of mother and offspring.

I think everybody would agree that the mother-to-offspring relationship is bonded by love and it doesn't matter what species of animal we are talking about.

But I have to return to the beginning and say that the word love is elastic. We don't know how cats feel except that we do know they feel contentment and pain. They are sentient animals. They indicate very strongly to us that they love being around us if we are good cat caregivers. 

They like to sleep on us and next to us. They like to lick us in a friendly example of allogrooming. They like our emotional warmth and our physical warmth. They like the way we smell. They greet us at the front door and they are thoroughly connected to us.

These are all the ingredients of mutual affection which when deep enough qualifies as love.

The above section of this article was straight out of my head. That's me, Michael. I would like briefly to refer to the words of Dr. John Bradshaw who is a renowned cat behaviourist and who wrote the book Cat Sense. I'm referring to his book.

He says that domestic cats don't automatically love people. "Cat are not born to love people. It is something they have to learn when they are kittens-they do not automatically love other cats [either]."

In that statement Dr. Bradshaw is stating that cats have the potential to love people. He therefore supports what I have said above.

But the whole process of learning to love a person starts off with being socialised. Unless a domestic cat is socialised at an early age, they will probably never totally lose their inherent fear of humans. They will lose 99% of it if and when they are socialised later as adults but it is far better that they are socialised when they are newborn kittens. They lose the fear of people and then building on that they are able to love people especially their provider, their caregiver.

The video maker things cats can love their owners:

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