Does My Cat Think I’m His Mom? The Answer Might Surprise You…

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Cats are an integral part of the family, and you might wonder whether your pets see you as their mom. It’s unlikely that cats see people in the same way they would their feline birth mom, but it is possible that your cat sees you as a surrogate, and much of cats’ behavior and affection toward humans indicates that they see us as part of their social group.

Key Takeaways

It’s unlikely that cats see people in the same way they would their feline birth mom, but it is possible that cat sees their owners as a surrogate.

Cats know that they depend on us for food and affection, and they respond to the loving behaviors we show toward them.

Research has shown that cats interact with humans in the same way they do with other cats, suggesting that they see us as the same or at least part of their social group.

Do Cats Think Owners Are Their Parents?

Science has revealed that cats might view humans as very large, odd-looking cats.

We will never truly know what our feline family members think of us, but science and research can help us to understand our relationship with our pets a little better.

Feline behavior expert John Bradshaw has spoken often about his research into what cats think about humans. Cats show the exact same body language and behaviors toward us humans as they do toward other cats. In contrast, dogs interact completely differently with humans than they do with other dogs.

When a cat feels safe and comfortable with another cat they will rub around their face and body, just as they rub themselves around our legs.  This is a behavior that develops from their interactions within social groups in the wild. In their own family groups, a kitten will rub on its mother, while females rub on males.

Smaller cats will rub themselves on bigger cats. So there is some evidence of power dynamics here, which could be the same in the way they interact with us. We are bigger than our cats, and a female might be more likely to show this type of behavior toward us than a male cat.

Also Read: What Does It Mean When A Cat Rubs Against You?

Do Cats See Us As A Mother Figure?

Cats often bond closely with the person who feeds them and spends the most time with them.

John Bradshaw’s research and ideas might be the first evidence to suggest that cats might think of us mothers, as they treat those around them just like other cats and don’t see much difference between themselves and us.

Cats know that they depend on us for food and affection, and they respond to the loving behaviors we show toward them. As their caregivers, we provide food and shelter as well as love and affection. Cats recognize this, and if there is one person in the family that spends more time at home with the feline family members, the cats might form a particularly strong bond with them.

This is known as imprinting, and once it’s happened, your cat will show a preference for you as opposed to other people in the house. That person might be the one who feeds, plays with, and nurtures the cat, so they will reward us by offering us the same.

Vocalizations

If your cat is meowing at you, they are trying to communicate their needs and desires.

Any cat owner will know how intelligent these animals are, and they can prey on our emotions just like a human baby. Cats don’t meow at other cats, but they meow at us, and it triggers our emotions as it sounds just like a baby crying.

We immediately give our attention, therefore cats might often get their way! Vocalizations are an important way for our cats to let us know they need something from us, but they’re also a clever way of tapping into our natural maternal instincts and emotions. This does not mean that cats see us as moms, just that they take advantage of our maternal instincts to encourage us to meet their needs.

Also Read: 10 Reasons Your Cat Won’t Stop Meowing At Night

Body Language And Habits

Kneading and nibbling are behaviors cats use to gain and convey a feeling of contentment.

Several behaviors cats display toward us are developed from their interactions with their feline mom as kittens. Cats often knead us with their paws or lick and nibble us. This is a behavior used to obtain milk from their mom and has no use to them as adult cats, but scientists think they might knead humans as it reminds them of the comfort they had as a kitten nursing from their mom.

So, cats do treat us like their mom sometimes and gain comfort from the bond we have with them. Our feline family members depend on us for food, happiness, company, and security, and as they cannot talk they use their body language to communicate with us.

Also Read: How To Take Care Of A Kitten: The Complete Guide

What About Kittens?

Kittens that are separated from their mother too soon might look to humans for their comfort and warmth.

Once kittens are weaned, the mother cat will naturally distance them. Cats don’t maintain a close bond with their mom in the wild as they are generally solitary and territorial creatures.

But if a kitten is weaned too soon from its mom it might see us as a surrogate. Kittens will often want to be close to us to feel safe, warm, and secure. They also knead us and sometimes suck on our skin if they are not fully weaned. This is not necessarily them seeing us as their mom, but more them recognizing us as their caregiver and craving our care and security.

Also Read: Weaning Kittens: Tips For Successful Weaning

Do Cats Think Of Us As Their Family?

Cats consider their human family to be part of their social group.

Cats are unlikely to see us as their mom and more likely to treat us like surrogate moms, but they do treat us like part of their social group or family. We know that the behaviors cats show toward us mean they are likely to see us as the same as cats rather than treating us differently than they would other cats.

Signs that your cat recognizes you as family might include:

Also Read: Why Do Cats Show Their Bellies?

Final Thoughts

Many cat owners see themselves as their cat’s mom, but it’s unlikely that cats compare us to their birth mom.

Cat behavior is a fascinating subject and one we are still learning a lot about. As pet parents, we all see ourselves as our cat’s mom, but it’s unlikely they view humans the same way they do their birth mom. However, research has shown that cats interact with humans in the same way they do with other cats, suggesting that they see us as the same or at least part of their social group.

Cats do recognize us as their caregivers and will show us plenty of love and affection in return for us providing company, food, and safety. Many signs of affection from our feline family members are behaviors they learn and develop as kittens while bonded with their own mom, and are habits they continue into adulthood as a means of bonding with their human family.

Also Read: How To Have A Better Relationship With Your Cat

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my cat thinks I'm her mom?

There is no specific sign that your cat thinks you are her mom. But your cat will show affection for you by rubbing around you, lifting its tail, and purring to show they are bonded with you and to gain your attention.

Do cats see their owners as their mothers?

Cats don’t see us the same way they do their birth mothers. But we do know cats treat humans the same way they treat other cats. So, they recognize us as their caregivers in a similar way they would their feline mom.

How can you tell if a cat has imprinted on you?

Cats might develop a strong bond with a favorite person, known as imprinting. Your cat might show a preference for you, or show more affection by vocalizing, purring, and rubbing around you to demand your attention more than they do for other family members.

Is my cat imprinted on me?

Cats imprint on you if they develop a strong bond with you and consider you their favorite person. They will show more affectionate behavior toward you and demand more of your love and attention.

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About Dr. Holly Anne Hills BVMEDSCI MRCVS

Holly has worked as a small animal vet in several clinics across the UK and has taken short breaks to volunteer in India and the Caribbean working with street dogs. Her interests are in surgery, caring for geriatric patients, and client education. She writes behavior and nutrition articles for Cats.com.

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5 thoughts on “Does My Cat Think I’m His Mom? The Answer Might Surprise You…”

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  1. sandy parker

    my cat sleeps up on my head on my pillow, he is so special; i was recently widowed and he mourned my late husband for about 3 months; he is doing well again.

    Reply
    1. Cat

      Awhh that is so sweet of your cat, although I’m deeply sorry for the loss of your husband. My cat tries to sleep on my head on where I want to put my head on my pillow but it drives me bonkers so I don’t let him…but that never stops him from trying! Sounds like you have a very loving, special cat.

      Reply
  2. Cat

    Re: does my cat think I’m his mom? Although it seems studies and answers say that cats don’t, I kinda think my cat does think I’m his mom. Albeit perhaps his surrogate mom as some studies have noted. He cried the whole super short drive home when I adopted him at 3 months. I got him set up with litter and food and gave him his space so he slept on the couch. The next morning he came running into my bedroom excitedly and jumped on me … I felt like I knew what he was trying to tell me… that he was scared at first but that he then realized I was him mom and he gave me so much love and cuddles and was so happy. I’ll never forget that day!

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