When it comes to emotion, cats seem harder to read than dogs. Because of this, we humans have a tough time trying to ascertain what our pet felines actually think about us, since they can be so aloof and mysterious. Cat behavior expert John Bradshaw (University of Bristol) revealed many of his findings about how cats view humans, based on their other connected behaviors in his book Cat Sense. The basic summary of his work concludes that felines neither connect with nor understand humans with the same perspective as canines do. In an interview with the National Geographic, Bradshaw discussed the below observations.
How do cats view us? Bradshaw’s years of observation led him to believe that while dogs see us differently than other dogs, cats seem to treat us the same as they do other cats. Winston Churchill famously made the observation that “Dogs look up to us, cats look down to us, and pigs treat us as equals.” It would appear that while humorous, this statement is actually wrong. Cats obviously know we are bigger (and clumsier than they –we can’t jump up a fence, or land on our feet when we fall, etc.) but they do not adapt their behavior toward us as they would toward another species.
While cats know we are a different kind of creature, being that we look, feel, smell and behave in a way that is unique from them, they view and treat us as they would other cats. They put their tails up in the air when they approach us, they sit beside us, rub our legs, and even lick and groom us in a similar way that they do to other cats. Cats knead us with their paws, the way they do to their mothers, they rub their heads on each other, and lick us the way a queen does with her kindle.
Though dogs are also similarly affectionate (also licking and nuzzling us), they respond to humans in a way that they do not respond to other canines. Dogs engage with dogs in an unbridled, yet oddly calculated way (assessing who is the “top dog” amongst them) in comparison with the way they play with, obey, and socialize with other humans (whether their owner or not). Dogs regard us in a much more “pack mentality” than a cat would, and see us as an authoritative/provider type role.
Cats gravitate towards people who can benefit them, and avoid those who are not as advantageous. This is reflective of the way they view other cats, avoiding the trouble makers, or those they are simply not interested in, and being drawn towards those that offer them some kind of benefit or use.