Cats often get a bad reputation for being less friendly than dogs. This is because they don’t show their love and emotions as clearly as dogs do, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t feel just as much.
There have been studies done into the relationship between humans and cats, with very interesting results. The Current Biology study showed that cats form attachments with their humans similar to those of dogs and babies.
Using the basis of a 1970s study that investigated parent-child relationships, they discovered 64% of the study cats had secure attachments to their owners. This is a similar percentage to the levels of attachment found in babies and dogs.
Signs of Attachment
Secure attachment is when there is a bond of trust between the cat and the owner, and it feels comfortable and confident enough to explore their environment.
If your cat is secure they will likely greet you when you arrive in the room and then return to whatever they were doing.
Insecure attachment often presents as anxiety and fear. Your cat may fidget a lot, twitch their tails, licking their lips excessively and they may steer clear of their owners.
Signs of Happiness and Contentment
If your cat is purring a lot when around you this is a sign that they are happy. This is the best way that they can vocalize their love for you and an easy way to tell how they are feeling.
Cats’ stomachs are very vulnerable areas of their bodies. If they expose this to you, this is an indicator that they trust you. Cats are unlikely to want a belly rub, but if your cat enjoys them, go for it!
They are often just trying to communicate that they know you won’t hurt them, so seeing your cat’s stomach is a big deal!
Slow blinking is another way that cats show their love for humans. If your cat looks at you and slowly blinks you may assume they have something in their eyes, but they are just saying that they love you. Do it back and see how they respond.
Cats carry most of their pheromones in their heads. This means that when cats headbutt or rub their heads on you, they are marking you with their pheromones. This is essentially giving you a mark that they can recognise, similar to marking their territory.
Once a cat has rubbed their head on you they have marked you as a safe space, a strong indicator that they feel comfortable and secure in your company.
Cats ‘kneading’ you with their paws is another way that they show their love, although this can be uncomfortable if done on exposed skin or through thin clothing! This is a behaviour often expressed by kittens on their mother and is widely renowned as a sign of affection.
So Are Cats Protective?
Cats are naturally very predatory and territorial animals and will fight to protect themselves on instinct.
If they form an attachment to you, they are likely to protect you as they would one of their own kittens.
What Have Cats Done to Protect Their Owners?
A tabby cat in California came to their 4-year-old owner’s rescue. The child was attacked by a neighbouring dog while out playing on his bike. The cat immediately jumped at the dog and began to swipe, forcing it to retreat.
Cats have also been known to alert their owners to danger and potential intruders. Some growl until their owner is aware of the situation and can even be known to attack if the threat gets too close.
Cats can help when you are unconscious too. There are reports of people who have collapsed from carbon monoxide poisoning that are then licked awake by their cats in an attempt to save them.
Another report is of a woman in a diabetic coma who was licked back to consciousness to call for help.
Cats are also highly perceptive. They will hear and smell if there are dangers and will try to neutralize the threat before allowing their humans close. A good example of this is snakes.
Many people comment that their cats will find and kill snakes in the home before allowing their humans into the room where they were.
There has also been a report of a stray cat, Masha, who wrapped her body around a baby that had been abandoned outside. She used her body heat to keep him warm and alive, even following the boy to the ambulance once paramedics arrived.
Cats have also been known to smell cancer and alert their humans to the area of the body that they have concern about by dragging their paws.
How to Notice If Your Cat is Getting Defensive
Look at their eyes – are they dilated? Are their ears relaxed and neutral, or are they pointed? Both of these are easy indicators that your cat has become protective and is getting ready to stand their ground.
A crouched stance could indicate they are preparing to pounce, and this may be combined with them exposing their teeth and claws. This is to warn off potential predators, by showing they are ready to attack.
Quick tail movements and an arched back are also common suggestions that your cat is defensive. They usually do these things to make themselves appear larger and more intimidating.
Any audible signs of distress, such as hissing, growling, and defensive screeches also show your cat is trying to scare off what they consider to be a threat.
If your cat begins biting or scratching, this could be a precursor to a more serious attack. They will normally only exhibit this behaviour when they are scared or threatened.
If there is no threat nearby, we suggest calmly walking away from your cat until they calm themselves down. This is because any positive reaction, whether you are praising or consoling them, will reinforce in their minds that this aggression is a desired quality.