Does my cat only like me for the food? © Dan Bright

Does my cat only like me for the food?

Our feline friends might not see us as overgrown tin openers after all.

Would it be so bad if this were the case? Acquiring nutrition is, after all, the daily struggle that all life on Earth faces. In fact, food is what first brought humans and cats together. Chemical analysis of the bones of 5,300-year-old cats from China has shown that these ancient felines were rodent-hunters that lived within grain stores. In essence, we gave them shelter and they took care of the pests.

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As time passed, in Western cultures at least, house cats became selected for cuddles as well as their claws. And, from this point onwards, something deeper than cupboard love appears to have emerged.

Just as with dogs, domestication of cats has unlocked a suite of kittenish behaviours. These include grooming, play-fighting and bringing home half-dead mice for a spot of impromptu playtime. These behaviours are about more than food – they’re about family.

In September 2019, scientists announced that cats appear to display traits of the “secure attachment” seen in dogs, where the presence of a human caregiver prompts behaviours signalling security and calmness.

There’s even separate evidence that cats, upon receiving a stroke, get a sudden dose of brain hormones like we humans receive when around our loved ones. So perhaps now, canines have a rival in pursuit of the title of being humankind’s best friend.

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