How cats choose their owners

Introduction to how cats choose their owners

The bond between cats and their humans is indeed a special one, often described as “purr-fect.” Cats are known for their selective affection, and it’s a common belief that they choose their human companions based on certain criteria. Here’s what research and observations suggest about how cats may choose their humans:

Handling and Early Experiences

Handling and early experiences play a crucial role in the development of a cat’s behavior and their relationship with humans. Gentle and positive handling, especially during the early stages of a cat’s life, can lead to a more sociable and less fearful adult cat. Here are some key points about how handling and early experiences affect cats:

Gentle Handling: Cats that are handled gently and positively, particularly during veterinary visits, tend to remain calm and may even show affection towards the handlers.

Early Socialization: Kittens that are well-socialized during their early weeks, typically between 2 to 7 weeks of age, are more likely to grow up confident and comfortable around humans.

Negative Experiences: If a cat’s early handling experiences are negative, it can lead to challenges in future interactions, making the cat more likely to be fearful or aggressive.

Stress Reduction: Using feline-friendly handling techniques can reduce stress for cats in various situations, such as during vet visits, which can improve their overall well-being.

Understanding a cat’s body language and responding appropriately to their needs can significantly enhance the bond between cats and their human companions. It’s important for cat owners and caregivers to educate themselves on these aspects to ensure a happy and healthy relationship with their feline friends.

Communication and Voice

Cats use a variety of vocalizations and body language to communicate, not only with each other but also with humans. Understanding these signals can greatly enhance the relationship between a cat and its owner.Cats may be drawn to people who communicate with them in a gentle, calm voice. They are sensitive to tone and may respond more positively to a softer voice. Here’s an overview of how cats use their voice and body to communicate:


Meow or Miaow: This is the most common sound cats make, and it can vary in intensity, length, and frequency. Cats often use meows to communicate with humans rather than other cats, especially for solicitation—like greeting, seeking attention, or indicating hunger.

Purr: A purr is a low-pitched murmur sound that cats make when they’re content or even when they’re in pain. It’s produced during both inhalation and exhalation and can vary in volume depending on the cat’s emotional state.
Body Language

Tail Movements: A cat’s tail can express a wide range of emotions. For example, a tail held high usually indicates a friendly and confident cat, while a tail tucked between the legs suggests fear or submission.

Facial Expressions: Cats communicate a lot through their eyes, ears, and whiskers. Dilated pupils and ears held back can signal fear, while slow blinking and a relaxed gaze are signs of trust and affection.

Posture: The way a cat holds its body can tell you a lot about its mood. An arched back and puffed-up fur often mean a cat feels threatened, while a relaxed posture with forward-facing ears indicates contentment.

Understanding these vocal and physical cues can help cat owners respond better to their pets’ needs and emotions, fostering a stronger bond between them. It’s fascinating to observe and learn from these subtle forms of feline communication.

Building Trust

Building trust with a cat is a gradual process that requires patience, understanding, and consistency. Here are some steps to help you build a strong bond of trust with your feline companion:

Respect Their Space: Allow your cat to have its own safe spots and don’t force interactions. Cats value their independence and will approach you when they’re ready.

Consistent Routine: Cats thrive on routine, so try to keep feeding, play, and cuddle times consistent. This predictability helps cats feel secure.

Positive Reinforcement: Use treats and praise to encourage desired behaviors. Positive associations can strengthen your bond.

Patience: Understand that building trust takes time. Some cats may take longer than others to feel comfortable around you.

Non-Threatening Body Language: Be mindful of your body language. Avoid direct eye contact and try to make yourself smaller by sitting or crouching down to appear less intimidating.

Let the Cat Come to You: Don’t force affection. Cats are curious and will often initiate contact when they feel it’s safe to do so.

Observe and Respond: Pay attention to your cat’s body language and vocalizations. Responding appropriately to their cues shows that you understand and respect their communication.

Play and Engagement: Engage in interactive play that mimics hunting behaviors. This not only provides exercise but also builds trust through shared activities.

Remember, every cat is different, and what works for one may not work for another. The key is to be observant, gentle, and patient as you learn about your cat’s unique personality and preferences.

Food and Care

Food and care are essential aspects of cat ownership, ensuring the health and happiness of your feline friend.

Here’s a summary of what you need to know:


Nutritional Needs: Cats are obligate carnivores, requiring nutrients found only in animal products. They need a diet high in protein, moderate in fat, and low in carbohydrates.

Commercial Cat Food: Available as dry, semi-moist, and canned, each type offers different levels of water content, protein, caloric density, and palatability.

Feeding Frequency: Most cats don’t eat just one meal a day. They can be “free-fed” or have multiple meals, with the total calorie intake being the most important factor.

Age-Specific Diets: Kittens, adult cats, and senior cats have different dietary needs. For example, kittens require high amounts of protein and calcium, while senior cats may need diets tailored to their health conditions.


Hydration: Cats should always have access to clean, fresh water to prevent health issues.
Grooming: While cats groom themselves, they also need help to keep their coat and skin healthy.
Housing: Providing a safe and comfortable environment is crucial for a cat’s well-being.
Litter Box Maintenance: Regular cleaning of the litter box is important for hygiene and to encourage proper use.
Health Maintenance: Regular veterinary check-ups, vaccinations, and preventive treatments are vital to keep your cat healthy.

Proper food and care not only contribute to the physical health of cats but also to their emotional well-being, as a well-cared-for cat is more likely to be a happy and affectionate companion.

Scent and Appearance

Cats have a remarkable ability to use their senses to navigate the world, and this includes how they perceive and choose their human companions. Here’s what research suggests about how cats use scent and appearance to identify and select their humans:


Cats have a powerful sense of smell and can recognize the unique scent of their owners. A study found that cats could distinguish their owner’s smell from that of strangers, indicating that scent plays a significant role in how they recognize and bond with humans.

The Jacobson’s organ in their noses enhances their ability to detect pheromones and other chemicals, which helps them communicate and navigate their environment1.


While cats are long-sighted and may not see human faces in great detail, they can recognize people based on their overall appearance and movements.

Cats may not rely on facial recognition as much as other animals, but they can still distinguish between individuals through their unique body language and the way they interact with the cat.

Understanding these aspects of feline perception can help cat owners create a more inviting and familiar environment for their pets. By being aware of the importance of scent and consistent, gentle interactions, humans can foster a stronger bond with their feline friends.

Quality Time

Spending quality time with your cat is an essential part of pet ownership, fostering a deep bond and ensuring your cat’s emotional well-being. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your time together:
Playtime: Engage in interactive play with toys that stimulate your cat’s natural hunting instincts.

This can include toys like feathers on a string, laser pointers, or even a simple crumpled piece of paper. Aim for at least 30 minutes of playtime a day, divided into short sessions to match your cat’s attention span.

Mealtime: Sharing mealtime can be a bonding experience. If your cat has set mealtimes, try to be present and use this time to interact. For free feeders, consider having small treat sessions to create positive associations.

Relaxation: Cats are experts at relaxation, and simply sitting with your cat while you read or watch TV can be comforting for them. Petting or having your cat on your lap during these times can be very enjoyable for both of you.

Training: Yes, cats can be trained! Using positive reinforcement techniques, you can teach your cat tricks or good behaviors, which can be a fun way to spend time together and mentally stimulate your cat.
Remember, every cat is unique, so it’s important to pay attention to your cat’s preferences and adjust your activities accordingly. Some cats may enjoy more active play, while others might prefer quiet cuddle time. The key is to be consistent and make these interactions a regular part of your routine.

Comfort and Safety

Cats may choose someone who provides a comfortable and safe environment. Feeling secure with a person can lead to a cat choosing them as their preferred companion. Comfort and safety are fundamental to a cat’s well-being and are closely linked to their behavior and health. Here are some steps to ensure your cat feels comfortable and safe in your home:

Create a Safe Space: Provide a cozy bed or hiding place where your cat can retreat and feel secure. Cats need a space where they can escape to when they feel overwhelmed or just need some quiet time.

Routine: Cats are creatures of habit and thrive on routine. Feeding, play, and cuddle times should be consistent to help your cat feel secure.

Enrichment: Keep your cat mentally stimulated with toys, scratching posts, and interactive playtime. This helps prevent boredom and stress-related behavioral issues.

Controlled Introductions: If you have other pets or there are new people in the house, introduce them to your cat gradually. This helps prevent anxiety and territorial behavior.
Pheromones: Consider using pheromone diffusers or sprays that can help calm cats and make them feel more secure in their environment.

Safe Outdoor Access: If your cat goes outside, ensure they have a safe shelter and access to shade and water. It’s also important to keep them protected from predators and traffic.

Personality Compatibility

Personality compatibility in cats is a fascinating aspect of their behavior, and it plays a significant role in the relationships they form with humans and other animals. Here’s an overview based on the latest insights:

Feline-ality: This is a system developed by the ASPCA to assess a cat’s personality and match them with potential adopters. Cats are evaluated on their behavior and interests, and their profiles are used to find the best human match. The personalities are color-coded as green, orange, or purple, each representing different traits and behaviors.

The Feline Five: Researchers have identified five main personality traits in cats, known as the ‘Feline Five’: neuroticism, extraversion, dominance, impulsivity, and tolerance. Each cat has these traits to varying degrees, and understanding them can help improve the cat’s well-being and the quality of life.

Compatibility with Humans: Just like humans, cats have different personalities. Some may be outgoing and playful, while others are shy and reserved. When cats interact with humans, they often look for cues to determine if they are compatible.

This can include how a person handles the cat, their energy level, and even how they respect the cat’s space and autonomy.

Understanding a cat’s personality can help create a more harmonious living situation, whether you’re looking to adopt a new feline friend or want to better understand the cat you already have. It’s also beneficial for multi-cat households to ensure that the personalities of the cats are compatible, reducing the likelihood of conflict.

It’s important to note that every cat is unique, and their preferences can vary widely. Some cats may be more sociable and easily bond with multiple people, while others may be more selective.

Additionally, cats can love more than one person, and being a cat’s favorite is considered an honor among cat enthusiasts.

If you’re looking to strengthen your bond with a cat or are curious about their behavior, remember that patience, understanding, and respect for their independence are key. Cats are complex creatures, and the way they choose their humans is a blend of instinct, experience, and personal preference.

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