Cats are beloved pets, and owners around the globe claim they make their lives better. People love cats for several reasons, from their graceful beauty to how they make us feel. And it’s starting to appear as if science backs up what cat owners have known for a long time; being around a purring cat and getting sweet, loving headbutts benefit humans’ mental and physical health. Keep reading for 10 reasons humans love cats so much.
The 10 Reasons You Love Your Cat
1. They Help Us Feel Good
Hanging out with cats is entertaining and even good for human health. Studies show that petting a cat can have amazing health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and stress levels. It’s often easier to feel deeply connected with cats thanks to their unconditional love, which often makes it possible for people to reach out and make themselves vulnerable.
2. They Become Attached to Us Just Like Babies
Studies show that cats and kittens become attached to their caregivers, demonstrating attachment styles similar to those in human parents and babies. Kittens left alone for 2 minutes and reunited with their caregivers responded with the same behaviors seen in human babies in a similar experiment.
Like human babies, kittens can demonstrate secure, avoidant, ambivalent, or disorganized attachment styles. A study with adult cats resulted in similar findings! Attachment styles in cats appear to remain relatively stable over time, and once a pattern of human-feline behavior becomes established, it tends to remain the same.
3. They Like Us
A 2017 study used treat preference to evaluate where humans stand in the feline hierarchy of good things.1 Cats were allowed to choose what to engage with, their human, a toy that smelled intriguing, or food. When given a choice, most cats opted for cuddle time, followed by food. They consistently picked the same thing when offered the goodies on multiple occasions. Apparently, many cats like spending time with their humans more than eating treats or playing with toys.
4. They’re Good for Our Health
Cat ownership is linked to lower risks of serious heart problems, according to a 2009 study.2 Interestingly, the effect appeared to apply to past cat ownership, so having a cat at any point in one’s life appears to pay off! The exact mechanism underlying the relationship isn’t entirely clear. However, researchers suggest it may have something to do with the link between the stress reduction that often comes with being around animals and the role stress plays in cardiovascular health.
5. They Sometimes Respond to Us
Science proves what most of us already know; cats know their names. Scientists had cats listen to a series of four words or names to the point of boredom, then suddenly said the cats’ names to see if there was a response. About 50% of the cats responded to hearing their names. A similar experiment evaluated whether cats can tell the difference between their name and others who live in the same household—they absolutely can!
6. They Understand What We Mean
Cats are good at interpreting and responding to human gestures. A 2005 study examined whether cats could find food if their favorite human pointed toward it. The scientists determined that cats are perfectly capable of figuring out what we’re trying to tell them.
7. They Know Our Weak Points
While domestic cats (Felis catus) and the species’ closest truly wild relative (Felis silvestris) share similar builds and behaviors, housecats have adapted certain behaviors to manipulate humans. Scientists looked at human responses to domestic cat and wildcat vocalizations. Humans can tolerate hearing the sounds produced by housecats more than wild cats. Although cats have been “domesticated” for a much shorter period than dogs, kitties have made efficient and targeted adjustments to take advantage of human likes and dislikes.
8. They’re Skilled, Subtle Communicators
Cats tap into subtle skills to get humans to act like reasoned beings and whip out cat toys or cat food, including a specific purr. Cat owners can tell whether their cat is happy or demanding something based on subtle clues hidden in their companion’s vocalizations. People generally have less appreciation for demand purrs, in which cats somehow hide high-pitched cry-like sounds, which rest precisely in the same frequency range as those produced by human babies.
9. They Mirror Us
Cats rely on their human companions for help understanding how to navigate new situations! When presented with something scary, cats often look to their favorite person for guidance. And many cats develop personality traits in response to those of their owners. Neurotic owners, for example, often have cats who are perceived as badly behaved. Cat owners with conscientious personality types often describe their cats as being a bit “gregarious.”
10. They Respond to Our Emotions
While some cats may appear aloof, evidence suggests that kitties are far more sensitive than they’ve been given credit for. Studies indicate that cats can understand human emotions and respond to how their favorite people are doing. They often spend more time interacting with people who are feeling a bit down. However, cats appear less demonstrative than dogs in response to human behavior.
Humans love cats for many reasons, from the stress reduction we get when petting or cuddling our feline companions to the deep love that characterizes many human-cat bonds. Being around and petting cats is good for our mental and physical health. Cats and humans appear to form bonds similar to those of human babies and their parents. And many cats would rather spend time with their favorite people than snack on treats or play with toys!