Written by: Mary Shull
Are you a cat owner? If so, you will probably say yes, cats love their owners. If not, you may say, “What! A cat is an animal. They don’t experience love!” But ask any pet owner and you can bet the answer will be “Yes, my pet loves me!”
Studies have shown that animals know pain and fear. All have the “fight or flight” instinct that is hardwired in the body, similar to humans. But cats also have learned to manipulate their owners through sound or “cries.” Certain cries draw certain responses from the owner. It’s just a matter of the cat learning which one benefits them for their particular need or want. Once learned, that cry is used over and over. Cats not only communicate verbally but also with their body. Ever notice your cat rubbing up against your legs, wagging their tail, or kneading with their paws/claws? How about a cat’s ears? We’ve learned that when they’re flattened back against the head, the cat feels threatened. All of these are bodily signs that owners eventually learn to interpret.
So, does a cat know how to love? Scientific studies cannot prove this, so basically it’s up to humans to determine the answer individually. Maybe we should ask ourselves, “What is love?” Wikipedia defines love as “an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. Love is a virtue representing all of ‘human’ kindness, compassion, and affection; and the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.” So for instance, when a cat has kittens; does the concern and care she shows for her babies constitute love? When a cat jumps in our lap and curls up for a nap, does the cat just want a comfortable place to lie down? When a cat rubs against our legs or purrs when we pet them, does that mean we’ve been manipulated?
Being a cat owner for many years, I can only answer these questions with what I believe and that is “YES,” cats know love and cats show love. I believe it is definitely different than human love, but it is a form of love as we know it. Cats show affection and cats bond with their owners which is a form of personal attachment. As pet owners, we should be grateful that cats have this capacity and that we are able to share this and enjoy the happiness it brings.