For fun, I did a Google search on “what do people most want to know about their cats.” I was expecting something like people wanting to know why their cat was peeing inappropriately, or why their cat was so picky about food, but the first page that came up was entitled, “What Do Cats Think About Us?” A lot of people apparently have a hard time reading cats – and it bothers them.
I can see why. Dogs and many humans wear their hearts on their sleeves. You always know where you stand with them. Their emotions are freely expressed. Cats, and a smaller percentage of people, tend to be more nuanced. You don’t always know what they are thinking. Sometimes you wonder if they even like you at all, or if they are just tolerating you. They never make it clear or say it outright. It’s almost like they are speaking a different language. And, in fact, they are.
Most humans, and all dogs, are social creatures. They need to be part of a group, and acceptance is important. For dogs, it’s wired into their survival instinct – in the wild, they need to be part of a pack and it’s crucial to have the leader’s approval. For us humans, part of growing up is finding our tribe, the group of people (not always family) that feel like home to us. Those who don’t have that wind up with an inner sense of insecurity, like a part of them is drifting and lost.
Cats – and some people – have no such concerns. Alone does not equate with loneliness. In fact, solitude can be a welcome relief from too much stimulation. Cats are comfortable in their own skin. They’re solitary hunters and they don’t need to work together to survive. Cooperation and a need for approval are not part of a cat’s vocabulary. That doesn’t mean they don’t love the people they live with. It just means that most cats don’t feel it’s necessary to lavish their people with attention – spending time in the same room is good enough sometimes.
Because cats are not hierarchal creatures, they don’t look up to us humans. Instead they see us as bigger cohabitants of the same space. They don’t need us for survival (at least that’s the way they see it, true or not!), so they accept and love us on their own terms. Summer quietly follows me around the house like a little shadow. I’ll turn around, and she’ll just be there. Binga flops next to me on the bed every night. Boodie leaves me her favorite toy on my pillow. All these are expressions of love, and while they are less obvious than what a dog offers, they are just as meaningful. Maybe even more so, because cats don’t see us as Master, but as Equal.
What do our cats think of us? It’s not that hard to figure out, if you are willing to learn the language.