Have you ever watched your feline friend lounging around, meowing at your feet or purring as your scratch that tickly spot behind their ear and wondered….what do cats think about all day?
I do! All the time! I am constantly fascinated by Yoda and what he thinks about the world. Whether he sees the trees as trees or just giant scratching posts. Whether he misses the friends we’ve made along our travels.
And most importantly, what he sees when he looks at me!
I’m sure I’m not alone when I meet my furball’s eyes and then think…what do cats really think about their owners?
So I created this blog to help us see through their eyes. Here, we consider some of the amazing new studies on cat psychology and behavior, so we can begin to understand more about how our cat thinks and what cats really see when they look at humans.
And the results are pretty mind-blowing. Did you know:
- Cats see the world very differently to us
- A cat’s eye structure means that their vision is more blurry & less colorful, but sharp at night.
- Cats think in a similar way we do
- They have a similar brain structure that allows them to interpret and react to stimulus in the same way we do.
- Cat’s live in the present, but remember the important things
- Their short term memory fades quickly, but repetition and significant experiences can embed some memories.
- Cats have to stay alert, but they can also get bored easily
- They may need to spend more time surveying their area than socializing with us, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need playtime.
- Cats see us as bigger versions of themselves
- Cats, unlike dogs, do not adapt their behavior around us. Instead they treat us like they would treat other cats.
- Cats treat us like their parents
- By rubbing and kneading, which is a behavior only seen in young kittens towards parental figure cats.
- They are able to communicate with and understand us
- Cats can follow pointing, understand their name, give greetings and know when we need a cuddle!
Incredible right? If you want to find out more about these cat psychology facts, then keep reading. And maybe share them with your fellow feline enthusiasts too!
Let’s start with what our cats actually see.
What Do Cats Think About You & the World?
A Cat Sees the World Differently
A cat’s see more blurry and less colorful, but sharp and clear at night.
If you’ve ever wanted to see the world from your cat’s perspective, then you need to check out the artist Nickolay Lamm. He took everything we know about how our kitty’s eyes work and applied them to pictures of different landscapes and architecture from around the world.
Now you really can see what your cat sees!
But why do they see the world so differently?
- Cats are short sighted – Anything further than around 20 feet away is a blur for our kitties. This is ideal for catching prey and locking onto fast moving objects, like a fly taking off from a wall! But it also means that approaching a cat slowly from a distance is always a great idea. This way you won’t unexpectedly spook them.
- Cats are partially color blind – Kitties really only see blues and yellows, with some green too. So a vibrant toy in these colours might be more likely to get their attention.
- Our kitties have some serious night vision goggles – Our amazing furballs can see 6 – 8x better in dim light than we can! So if you’ve ever wondered how they are doing those midnight zoomies, it might not seem all that different to midday for them…
However, while we may see the world differently from our furry sidekicks, that doesn’t mean we don’t think in similar ways. In fact…
Cats Think Like We Do
Our kitties have a similar brain structure to us, according to experts.
We both have a frontal lobe, surrounded by lots of other cortexes, that are connected in the same way too. This means that they use their senses (sight, sound, taste, smell & touch) to process the world around them like we do.
Therefore, it’s likely they think in similar ways too. So the way we might coo over a delicious slab of brownie (yum!) could be very similar to how our kitties purr when we prepare their meal.
Cats also have both a short-term and long-term memory, like us, but use them in different ways…
Cats Live Mostly in the Present
Behavioral experts believe that cats have a limited concept of time, and studies have found that their short-term memory is limited to somewhere between 60 seconds and 24 hours. So if Yoda looks at me like he’s lost his new toy…he probably has!
And this is actually something we love about our kitties right?
Cats are so present, care-free and entirely content with their lot in life. They aren’t spending their days worrying about the past or anxious about the future.
Yoda is probably just thinking about what he can see going on outside the window, or whether it’s time to come and lie on my keypad…!
Our kitties can access the past, though. They just do it in a different way than we do…
Cats Remember What’s Important
Repetition helps cats to remember things for longer, cementing concepts into their longer-term memory. But these tend to be more “adaptive” than “episodic”.
For example, instead of remembering an episode of Friends they watched with us last night, they are more likely to remember things that help them in day-to-day life.
Like how to use a litter tray, what time they are likely to be fed, and when they can find you in bed for a morning snuggle!
Researchers have also found that owners frequently witness our kitties having strong memories of anything that hugely affected them. Like our cats hiding from a noise that once scared them or running away to their old home after a house move.
Or, take the countless stories of cats traveling thousands of miles to find their owners after being separated. These just show that if we make a positive impact on our feline best friends’ lives – they aren’t likely to forget it in a hurry!
So what is your cat really thinking when they look out the window?
While they might not be reminiscing about the past, they may well jump for joy to see you heading back to greet them.
Cats Stay Alert But Are Prone to Boredom
Cats are both a predator and a prey species, which means that they need to spend a lot of time surveying their area in order to feel happy and secure.
That’s why cat trees are such a great addition to any feline-friendly household.
While some kitties seem to adore their alone time, that doesn’t always mean they don’t need some extra attention too.
Boredom is a real thing for most animals, even though it’s only just starting to be properly studied. Some also believe this is why cats have learned to meow, do funny things with cardboard boxes, and also why they sit on our keyboards!
Taking measures to combat boredom in our animal companions may range from giving them extra time & attention, to interesting toys and food puzzles to help them hone those special hunting instincts.
Now we understand more about the way our furry friends think, and how they see the world around them….what about how cats see humans?
To Our Cats, Humans Are Just…Big Cats!
Research has shown that cats don’t treat us the same way dogs do, as they understand us differently:
- When a dog plays or interacts with a human, they will adapt and change their behavior
- When a cat interacts with a human, their behavior is the same as when they interact with other cats
So putting their tails up in the air when we approach, rubbing around our legs, sitting on our laps and giving us a good groom – all these actions are exactly what cats do to each other!
Although we must seem very big and clumsy to them, it appears they still have a huge amount of respect for us. In fact…
Cats See Us As Their Parents
In a family group, kittens and smaller cats will rub on larger parental figures, including their mothers. Mothers and other adult cats, however, don’t usually return the favor. Which is super interesting!
By rubbing around our legs when they greet us, and kneading our bodies as they would for milk as a baby, our kitties are treating us like a mother or father figure.
Isn’t that cute!
Cats Actively Listen and Communicate With Us
Do you ever feel like your kitty is trying to talk to you? Or that they understand every word you say?
Then you aren’t wrong – there’s plenty of evidence that our furry friends pay a lot of attention to what we do and say.
- Cats can discriminate their name from other words, even when someone they have never met is calling them.
- You kitty can follow where you are pointing, and understand that there might be something there they need to investigate.
- Our furry friends have adapted their purrs to attract our attention and communicate their emotions.
Plus, have you heard of the “slow blink” smile? That narrowing of the eyes thing your kitty sometimes does? That’s them trying to speak to you too!
In one study, researchers found that:
- Cats were more likely to slow blink at their owners if their owners had slowed blinked at them.
- Our feline friends were more likely to slow blink at strangers who slow blinked at them.
- They also preferred to approach someone after they had slow blinked at them.
Isn’t that adorable? Next time you see your kitty, give it a try!
As well as having their own complex emotions to share, our cats are attuned to our emotions too.
Experts agree that our kitties totally understand we have emotions and are sensitive to our moods. So many times, Yoda has seemed to sense when I need a hug and will rub or nudge his head against me.
But there’s so much still to learn…
Cats, who used to be solitary hunters, have only been living with humans for a short amount of time. (Ok, a few thousand years might feel like a long time, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not that long!)
There’s still so much we don’t understand about how our cats think and behave, and about how they view the world.
But what we’ve discovered in this blog can be super useful, as it can help us in providing our kitties with the best love and care possible!
Or maybe it’s knowing that those little eye smiles, that rub against the legs or that purry cuddle session is their way of showing you just how much you mean to them too!
Is there anything you noticed about your furry kitty that makes more sense now? Are there other cat psychology subjects you’d love us to dive into? Let us know!
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