Why the bad rap for cats?
Updated: Jul 8
Why do we have the perception that cats are unfriendly?
Sometimes in our cat sitting visits, we'll come across a cat who wants to snuggle and bond with us right away, while other instances will have a cat who shows aggression and hissing. Cats aren't always in a loving mood, but isn't that the same with dogs, and people, too?
When our team arrives for pet sitting, we can typically be sure of a dog's behavior towards us right away. They'll love us or hate us, and usually, it's the former. Yet despite the thousands of years that domesticated cats have kept us company, people still haven't learned how to read them the same way as dogs, so they suffer something of a bad reputation. The independence of cats often comes across as a lack of care for their human family for anything other than food.
Of course, plenty of cat owners disagree with this idea. The bond between cat and human can be close and loyal, with cats finely attuned to their owner's emotions and quick to provide affection when needed. So then the question still remains of why people think cats are incapable of love, and if their opinions are justified.
It's worth considering that the domestication process for cats was far different than dogs, with a different dynamic than seen with "man's best friend." Dogs had a very balanced relationship with our ancestors, trading hunting and protection for food, shelter, and care.
Cats, on the other hand, didn't really need their human companions for food, adept at hunting on their own (and encouraged to do so as a means of controlling rodent populations) and their small stature made finding shelter easy. Their relationship with humans seemed more based on convenience than need, and perhaps that could explain why their bond never grew quite as close.
Yet cats remain a popular animal companion, growing more so as our society becomes busier with longer work hours and more expectations when it comes to college.
“Because they are so self-determined and can take care of themselves, cats are becoming more and more popular...but whether the lifestyle suits them is another question. Humans are expecting cats to be like us and like dogs. And they aren’t.” Karen Hiestand of International Cat Care.
Dogs and cats alike communicate through body language but in very different methods. Dogs, in addition to body language, also tend to vocalize themselves more in the form of barking, whining, and growling, making their communication that much easier to understand.
Knowing a cat's unique body language is important not only for understanding them, but building a positive relationship. Their body language tends to be more subtle than our canine friends, however, and so most people have more difficulty reading it.
Hiestand suggests that a happy cat is a friendly one, most of the time. Ensuring your cat is comfortable and well cared for is the first step to creating a social bond, but pet owners (or pet sitters) shouldn't expect instant results. Cats can be slow to love but are typically loyal once a relationship is formed. Be patient, kind, and don't try to force it— after all, cats haven't been bossed around for centuries, and they aren't about to start now.
Why do we think cats are unfriendly? (n.d.). Retrieved July 08, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20191024-why-do-we-think-cats-are-unfriendly?utm_source=pocket-newtab