If you have a cat, you may think that you are the father of your cat. After all, you feed your cat, snuggle it up and probably even talk to it.
Your cat, however, sees things a little differently.
According to Dr. John Bradshaw, your feline friend probably thinks of you not as a father, but as "a larger, non-hostile cat."
Bradshaw, a biologist at the University of Bristol in England, has studied the behavior of cats for 30 years, and constantly finds new insights into the ways in which cats interact with humans. To begin with, it is always on your terms.
He referred to the latest research, which focuses on how a cat responds to its name. Researchers led by Atsuko Saito, a cognitive biologist at Sophia University in Tokyo, found evidence that they can distinguish their names from words that sound similar, but their response is subtle.
The researchers visited several places, from homes to a cat café, to judge the responses of the cats. In all scenarios, cats responded to their own name more openly than random names or other cat names, but, openly, we mean that they moved their heads, ears or tail.
"Cats are as good as dogs to learn, they just are not so interested in showing their owners what they have learned," Bradshaw told Nature in an article about the Japanese study.
It supports what Bradshaw has been preaching for years. In his book "Cat Sense," Bradshaw says that the starting point for him is that cats are basically wild animals.
Unlike dogs, which have been bred for specific purposes, cats essentially domesticated themselves.
When humans began to cultivate the land, the cats moved to attack the rodents attracted to the crops. They made useful and attractive companions, so we kept them close.
But cats have remained relatively wild because 85 percent of cats breed with wild mountain cats.
Domestic cats are more closely related to their wild relatives than dogs (Photo: Elliotte Rusty Harold / Shutterstock)
The population of domestic cats is maintained through sterilization and castration, which is why most of the cats available for mating are those that live outside of our homes.
This means that our cats' interactions with us are driven by instinct rather than by learned behaviors.
When your cat kneaded your lap or other surface, it is a behavior designed for a mother's womb that keeps milk flowing.
When your cat greets you with its tail erect, this is a friendly sign reserved to greet a non-hostile cat. Bradshaw describes this behavior as "probably the clearest way cats show their affection for us."
Rubbing against your legs and grooming is another way your feline treats you like a cat. If you have several cats, you probably have witnessed these shared behaviors among your pets.
And when your feline friend brings you a dead rodent or a half-eaten insect, it's not a gift or an attempt to feed you.
Your cat simply wants a safe place to eat his death. When he bites his capture, he realizes that the food you give him tastes better, so he leaves behind the remains of the prey.
So, even if you consider yourself the father of your cat, it looks more like a big, friendly cat that is generous enough to share canned food.
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was originally published in January 2014.
Your cat thinks you are a much larger cat with good taste in food.
Dr. John Bradshaw decodes the behavior of the cat and explains what the cats really think of us.