By Langley Cornwell
In households with multiple humans, the family cat often chooses one favorite person. What exactly are the criteria? How and why do they choose that particular individual over all the others?
I ask this because before we got our cat, I was not a “cat person.” It was a learned behavior though; as a child, my dad was extremely allergic to cats so we simply could not have one. I begged for a cat for years. I wished for a pill that could cure my dad of his cat allergies. After a long time of torturing my parents, I finally realized we could never have a cat, so I let it go. And in the process, I worked on developing an indifference towards cats. I loaded my life with dogs and figured I was simply a “dog person.”
Life has a funny way of throwing you plot twists. I met my husband, an avowed “cat person,” and I’m sure you can guess what happened next. After we were married, we went to the shelter for a dog. We did come home with a dog that day, but we also adopted a cat. We still laugh about how I laid out all the new rules for sharing my house with a cat, a creature I knew nothing about. I proclaimed that the cat would not be allowed on the furniture. I swore the cat would never touch paw to our kitchen counters. And by no means was the cat allowed on our bed, especially when we were trying to sleep.
The cat is now at the top of the Cornwell hierarchy which includes me, my husband and two big, strong dogs. Our cat rules the household, and has us all trained to do his bidding. On top of all that, he’s picked me to be his favorite human. This cat loves me, and the feeling is quite mutual. He’s my cat and I’m most definitely his person.
But let’s get back to my original question: how do cats pick who it is that they’re going to bond the strongest with? Why didn’t our cat pick my husband, who gets up first in the morning to feed the pets their CANIDAE meals and make sure everyone has what they need to start the day? After all, he’s the “cat person.” It stands to reason he’d be our cat’s chosen one, right?
It seems that cats gravitate towards the human that learns to communicate with them the best. Cats are crafty, and they will modify their means of communication to get what they want from the people in their household. The person who understands what the cat wants and complies most often will likely win the favor.
Because every cat is different, this will mean different things to different cats. There is no specific road map to follow. For instance, a skittish, shy kitty will probably gravitate towards the person who makes him feel most secure. Cats who love to play usually pick the person who dangles the feather teaser the most. But like everything with cats, it’s not so black-and-white. It basically boils down to the fact that the cat picks his favorite human based on who interacts with him the way he wants to be interacted with. If your interactions with your cat involve welcomed physical interactions and reciprocal devotion, then you will probably become their favorite human.
Most friendly, well-adjusted cats will show affection to other people in the household as well, but studies indicate that they form a more profound connection with their specific chosen human. If that human proves worthy, then that’s that.
About those ground rules I mentioned earlier? Well, the cat makes himself at home on any and every surface of the house, including furniture and, sigh, countertops. What’s more, he sleeps right on top of me every night.
How about your cat? Has he or she selected a favorite human? Do you have a theory about why the cat picked that person?
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell