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Old 02-23-2011, 06:58 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Why do cats want human company all the time?

This question has puzzled me for a long time!

My Prince and also several of my strays, they seem to always want to be next to me, and some of them follow me around the neighborhood, even for several hours. This when they're fed and watered and have had plenty of treats and also attention from me, so I don't know what else they want...? It can't be they want petting, because they won't let me touch them. (As for Prince, he always wants petting and/or my lap, which I also don't understand.)

Also, why is it so important to some or most cats to sleep with their humans, to the point of inventing all kinds of tricks / manipulations to get into the bed / bedroom?
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Old 02-23-2011, 07:35 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I don't think we'll ever know for sure, but I bet they want to be around us for the same reasons we want them around... companionship. Also when you're dealing with cats that have been left behind in the past, they can be extra clingy to their owners and want to make sure they're always with them and get as much attention from them as possible to make up for everything they've been missing out on. Blacky used to follow us on walks for years during the day even though we didn't want her to, but I think over time she's realised we'll be coming back so now she only chooses to follow us when she feels more comfortable, which is when it's getting dark outside.

As for cats and sleepings on beds... cats sleep most of their life away inside so why not sleep beside/on you when they get the chance? You're their favourite or only companion and you're warm. That you feed them might also play a part, but I don't often feed Blacky and she's still in my room every night since she likes me the most. My dad is just her feeder and my grandfather is just the occassional door opener, haha. I'm everything else.
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Old 02-23-2011, 07:36 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I know others will have their own opinion but from what I've researched and experienced this is my what I've come to believe.

I think that when we domesticate and socialize a cat we have kept them in a 'juvenile' state of mind. That is they are kept in a kitten like state. Yes they grow and mature, but they keep a kitten point of view. What do kittens long for? A mommy and litter mates. Well, and yummy food A house kitty wants a mama, and through human socialization we teach them to look to us for that role. That's one reason they long to sleep with us for example. What do kittens do? They want to cuddle with mommy and litter mates as they sleep. This is a natural role for them and creates bonding. Have you ever noticed that a cat tends to love the whole family, but picks one person above anyone else? That is their mommy and everyone else is beloved litter mates. What do kittens do with litter mates? They play and cuddle with them! Domesticated cats long to do this.

True ferals have been thrown into a world where they are not given the luxury of keeping this innocent mind frame. The are young, then they grow up into a survival and realistic state of mind. That is they are brought into an undomesticated and non-juvenile state of mind. They have to live, they must breed and continue the cycle, they must claim territory, etc. Adult cats of most all species (except lions) are solitary creatures when they reach an adult state. They have a mommy and litter mates, then they mature and leave to live a solitary life where they pick their own territory that is theirs alone. They never again long for a mom or litter mates. The only reason a lot of ferals don't live solitary lives is because of circumstance. Generally because there is a steady food source and limited places for them to go they tolerate living with each other. If a feral had a choice though it would be a solitary cat with it's own territory, a cat that only comes together with other cats for the purpose of mating. This is one reason why there is so much fighting in feral colonies. It is not natural for them and causes a lot of stress. Cats, when not in a juvenile state of mind, are not naturally pack animals. From small ones to big ones (once again, the only exception to this is lions). I encourage anyone if they are interested to look into this. It is fascinating! This is one reason why rehabilitation of adult ferals is such a long process, and doesn't always guarentee success. You are trying to rehabilitate them back into a juvenile role. A role that they have grown out of and most definitely never looked to humans to fulfill. This is why building trust with feral adults is so essential. You can not force yourself upon them.

So then you've got strays. Cats that were socialized and domesticated but then thrown into a world where they must fend for themselves. They search for their 'mama' but she isn't there. They are stuck in a confusing role of having one state of mind but being thrust into another. This is one reason why strays seem to have such a hard time and stick out like sore thumbs in a true feral colony. The quicker a stray can be picked up off the streets the better in my opinion. The longer they stay on the streets the more deep seeded their confusion seems to be. I have seen strays that were forced to live in feral situations for years. The psychological confusion is so evident in them. They think both like a feral and a domestic kitty, and they are trying to figure it out. For example it would be like growing up in New York City. Your social structure is one way and the world around you is one way. Then you wake up in a village in Africa. The social structure will not be anything the same, and the world around you will be different. You will learn to adapt and survive in your environment but the mindset you grew up in will always be a part of you and make you different then native born Africans. It will affect how you perceive things. Once again we rehabilitate them back into a juvenile state of mind in order to make them house pets. This would contribute to why some of your strays want to around you yet are nervous. They are battling trying to combine two worlds that don't really blend well. So then you work with them, slowly bringing them back into one mind set. It is harder the longer they've lived on the streets but a very possible rehabilitation. You are doing right by them by continuing to interact and work with them.

This is just my opinion based on my rescue work and research. I am more then okay if someone has a different thought and look forward to hearing them, I just wanted to share mine
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Old 02-23-2011, 07:50 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Wow Nicole, that was a really thoughtful post! It makes perfect sense to me.
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Old 02-23-2011, 07:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Excellent post, Nicole. You have insight. Abandoned and feral cats really do have a complex psychology.
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Old 02-23-2011, 07:57 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I've got a lot to learn about cats, but cat psychology is the most fascinating to me and something I enjoy studying. This dynamic that I wrote out is a quick synopsis of something that I've been putting a lot of study and thought into for a couple of years now. I got intrigued when we went to a camp when my sister got her service dog. Part of it was all about dog psychology and pack mentality, and how by understanding dogs we can better communicate with them and have a deeper relationship. That got me started on cats, and wondering what their psychology would say. It is still a young study with much to learn, but has been a lot of fun. I hope it was helpful This study has helped me rehabilitate a lot of animals.
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Old 02-23-2011, 08:45 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Well said Nicole.
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Old 02-23-2011, 08:50 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Really interesting post, Nicole. I've been having similar thoughts about my cat just based on observing her. She was a stray but picked up at six months, adopted by us at 9 months, and she has never been very kittenish. Although she was willing to accept us as play/litter mates quite quickly she doesn't seem to want a mother and doesn't knead at all. Is your research just for interest and personal application or are you studying/publishing it?
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Old 02-23-2011, 09:39 PM   #9 (permalink)
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It started out for personal interest, but after working at a shelter and interacting with adopters/people surrendering cats I am hoping to publish one day. I've found that cats are a very misunderstood animal, yet we invite them to live under our roofs. A lot of problems stem from a lack of understanding how they think. There are so many parts of their psychology I would love to publish and I believe would help people with their relationship with their pets.

For example, what is an unsocialized house cat? Not a feral, but a cat that hasn't been properly interacted with? It is a cat who isn't certain how it is supposed to interact with humans or what their relationship with a person entails. So we work on interacting with them. The problem is that many people try to do it from a human perspective. An unsocialized cat isn't familiar with 'people speak'. In fact a very socialized cat doesn't speak human either. Nor do most people talk 'cat'. When we socialize and bond with a cat we create a language together that both understand and allows us to bond. People do the same thing with other people who do not speak the same language. We don't keep speaking to someone in Spanish that speaks Chinese hoping they magically suddenly understand our Spanish words. We create and develop a way of understanding. We do this same sort of thing with our cats when we socialize them. They don't know human. What is different though is that we can learn to speak partial cat. Cat's are master communicators with their bodies. A flick of a tail can speak a thousand words. An unsocialized cat will see our actions through the language of cat.

Take just the act of approaching an unsocialized cat. Most people look them straight in the eye with a big grin on their face, extending their hand toward them to go in for a pat. A socialized cat knows that this is a human action that means attention is coming and reacts accordingly. But how does this look to the unsocialized cat? In the cat world cats do not stare at each other. The only time they do is when they are threatening another cat. A fixed stare is a challenge and done in the hopes of getting another cat to yield. How does the cat perceive our grin? A smile showing teeth is a friendly sign between humans. Cat's never show each other their teeth unless they are baring them in a challenge and threat. So from the cat's point of view this human is approaching them, staring at them with threat and baring their teeth in aggression. That cat is going to bolt away from you!

Instead an appropriate approach would be to come towards the cat slowly and calmly. If you are nervous the cat will sense it and think that there is a reason to be nervous. Turn your head to the side and do not stare at the cat. This would be considered polite in kitty language and will make you very non-threatening. Gingerly extend your hand to the cat. Let it decide what to do with it. If it shrinks away or scampers off then it wasn't interested yet, that's ok. If it smells it then fantastic! It showed a positive curiosity. I would then walk away. Keep coming back and doing this. The cat will develop more interest in your hand, then you can slowly start pushing the boundaries with touch. If you get whacked or the cat runs off that's fine. Just give them a break and try again. By approaching them understanding their point of view and building their trust by not forcing yourself upon the cat you are inviting them to you. A relationship is formed that is positive and will only get better from there.

I am hoping that if I can get my research eventually published then perhaps it can help people in some way, whether it's in helping understand their pet, building a relationship with a cat that needs some patience and nurturing, or in rescue efforts. Right now I am still learning and what not.

Hey if anyone wants to try something fun with their pet then try this. Catch your cats gaze for a moment. Give them a slow, long blink with both of your eyes then look away. Do they give them back in return? These are something I call 'friendly eyes'. They are cat lingo for saying "I feel friendly towards you and like you". Cats do this to each other, and you may have caught your cat doing it to you. If your cat doesn't do it back that's okay. Whenever you catch their gaze just do this. They will start doing it back to you. It will strengthen your bond and is like giving a cat a hug from across the room
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Old 02-24-2011, 01:08 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pawsitively Nicole View Post
Catch your cats gaze for a moment. Give them a slow, long blink with both of your eyes then look away. Do they give them back in return? These are something I call 'friendly eyes'. They are cat lingo for saying "I feel friendly towards you and like you"......It will strengthen your bond and is like giving a cat a hug from across the room
Since I've joined CF and read about eye kisses I do this with MowMow. I'll wink one eye or the other at him or do the slow blink. Each time he does it back for a few seconds and then trills and runs to me. It makes me laugh because it's explosive on his part. He gets *SO* excited.
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