By Camila De La Cruz
I love my cat. I wake up at 5:00 am just to feed him. My social media pages are full of his photos. But whenever I try to come close to take a picture, he always runs away. So, this raises the question. Does my cat love me back?
This question is much easier with dogs because there’s no doubt your dog loves you back. Dogs split from wolves and became their own species between 27,000 to 40,000 years ago and are now 100% domesticated animals. If the apocalypse comes, your dog will likely not survive if you or another human isn’t able to take care of it. Cats on the other hand are a completely different story.
Unlike dogs, we haven’t really domesticated cats yet. Rather, we’ve tamed them. Evidence shows that the start of cat domestication occurred in the Middle East around 10,000 years ago. Roaming around stores and chasing mice their ability to hunt rodents gained them God-like status as we see in Ancient Egypt. In addition to this fermented cats were placed in the homes of humans.
Today, although cats are spoiled with human affection, they are still very independent animals. Cats are more than happy to just be left alone for a few hours to sleep or to watch out the window. So, the cat doesn’t show affection the same way a dog does. Where your dog will jump with excitement when it’s time for a walk to the park, your cat may seem less than interested. Don’t take it personally, cats just show their affection in other catlike ways. Some cats lick their humans to clean them. Other cats may headbutt with their humans, which is where cat gently bump their heads on you to pass their scent onto you. Passing their scent is a way cats claim something as theirs, like their way of saying “hey, this human is mine now, don’t touch it”. It's also important to note that cats are very territorial animals, meaning that they mark their territorial boundaries and can be very protective of their environment and territories. This also explains why cats become stressed if you are moving house or changing the arrangement of your home. This is why small gestures like small headbutts can mean a lot more than you think. There are some gestures that your cat does that you may not notice are signs of affection, or possibly their way of saying “I love you”. For example, when a cat lies on their back exposing their stomach, this is often a sign that the cat feels safe as this posture is the most vulnerable position to show a predator. In other words, exposing their tummy means “I feel safe with you”.
The relationship between a cat and a human is beneficially mutual: the cat provides comfort and hunts rodents for humans, and humans provide food, shelter and care for cats. This means when I present my cat with love and affection by providing him food, water and cuddles, he should want to stay and give me company. Does this mean he loves me? Possibly. To this day, experts still struggle with this question, but most agree that if you love your cat and provide them with its needs, chances are your cat loves you the same.