Cats hating all of humankind. Cats plotting to kill their owners. Cats taking over the world. Cats are often portrayed in these villainous roles on TV, the Internet, and in movies. Some cat owners actually think their cat hates not only them, but the world, and they don’t know how to handle it.
If you are one of these cat owners, you are not alone. Some cats are not big on affection and dole it out miserly.
We have good news and bad news. The good news is, no, your cat does not actually hate you. But the bad news is that this doesn’t necessarily mean they love you in the way you hope.
To put it plainly, cats have not been domesticated long enough for the ones with nice, obedient traits to beat out the ones with sassy, jerk traits. Consider the evolutionary story. Animals that have higher fitness are the ones whose traits are most adaptive to the environment. In turn, those most adapted to their environment are most likely to survive, reproduce, and thereby pass their genes (and those successful traits) to the next generation.
Meeting the Demands of the Environment
During domestication, the demands of the environment in the natural, wild environment are different than those desirable in your human-centered household. Now, the environmental pressures favor cats whose traits make them obedient to human orders and do things like lick their owners, cuddle, or perhaps kill rodents around the farm. Cats have been domesticated for a much shorter time than dogs, whose current traits are so refined to a human-centered way of life, they’re known as “man’s best friend.”
You Don’t Own Me
Your cat doesn’t hate you. He just doesn’t quite understand that you are his owner. Technically, your cat sees you as an equal.
British anthrozoologist John Bradshaw explains in his book Cat Sense that cats have not evolved long enough as domesticated pets to realize that you are their owner. Even their seemingly affectionate behaviors, such as rubbing against your leg with their tail straight up and kneading your body are actually things they tend to do with other felines. A cat’s tail sticking straight up indicates caution; they are investigating your behavior and making sure you are not another hostile cat. Also, cats knead their mother’s bellies to keep the milk flowing for when they are hungry next.
Cats also may not respond to your calls of their name because they do not see it as an order. Studies have shown that your cat can distinguish your voice from others’, but that they do not respond to it in a way that is obedient. They have invested enough time into recognizing who you are, but do not technically take the right measures towards it. They just see it as a form of communication, but do not understand it means “come here” or “your dinner is ready.”
A Different Kind of Communication
Your cat’s way of communicating with you is different. And it’s not always what we would regard as good or appropriate. Instead of responding to your call by following your voice, for example, they have other ways of interacting with you. Animal behaviorists claim that your cat knocking glasses off the counter, urinating on furniture, and scratching the walls are all ways of sending you messages. It can be interpreted as a way to mark their territory and for them to let you know that you may have your specific cat hangouts, and they have theirs.
To make things more complicated, studies show that some cats hate being pet or cuddled. Researchers in England, Brazil and Austria have proven that cats that live in multi-feline households have lower stress levels due to the divided, reduced affection they receive from their owners. This means that, for certain cats, less petting actually reduces their stress.
Live as Equals
All in all, your cat does not hate you. In fact, in a weird, twisted way, your cat sees you as his equal. Do not get discouraged when your cat jumps off the couch when you start petting him or when he marks on your favorite area rug. Do not blame it on your cat scheming to take over the world, blame it on his ancestors. From an evolutionary perspective, it is normal that your cat doesn’t see you as his owner quite yet. Your little furball sees you as an equal, and no… not an equal accomplice to his future crimes against the world.