One of the most popular questions to ask when you first meet someone is whether they are a cat or dog person. This seems like a bit of an odd question because most people either like both, or they like neither.
In reality, it isn’t a strange question at all. The question really means, “if you had to choose a single pet, would it be a cat or a dog?” The answer to this could theoretically give insight into how the person relates to others.
The perception is that dogs are easy to form relationships with, and more generally outgoing than cats are. Dog people are perceived as more extroverted and active, whereas cat people are considered to be more introverted and tend to be homebodies.
In reality, there are many dog people who love their dog because he is able to be affectionate even when they don’t know how, and many cat people love the challenge inherent in winning a cat over.
For those who work to win a cat over, they often will say that they are the cat’s favorite. That begs the question: can a cat have a favorite person?
Dogs are instinctive pack animals. As part of the domestication process, dogs were made to perceive humans like other dogs. They specifically seek out groups of people and bond with them.
Cats, on the other hand, tend to be more solitary. While there are wild cats like lions that form extended groups, for the most part, cats in the wild live fairly solitary lives, competing for food and territory, rather than living cooperatively.
This naturally competitive streak means that domesticated cats don’t bond in the same way as dogs, and they don’t show that bonding in the same way as dogs.
Feral dogs, even as adults can often be made into pets fairly easily by giving them treats and showing affection. Feral cats, on the other hand, are typically never able to be what humans would consider a “pet”.
If cats are not social, then how are some people able to have what appear to be loving relationships with their cats?
Basically, any domesticated cat that bonds with humans has a bit of arrested development. Their behaviors are trapped in the kitten phase when cats are dependent on their mothers to provide for them.
If you doubt that adult cats are really just overgrown kittens, think about the behaviors that we have bred into cats. Meowing is a fine example of a kitten behavior.
Cats in the wild would have no real reason to meow in the way a house cat does. Meows exist as the cat equivalent of a baby crying, to tell their mother they need something. Your cat meows at you for food or attention, because that is what a kitten does to its mother.
The kneading action cats do in your lap while you pet them is the exact same action a kitten does while nursing on its mother to stimulate milk production. It is a response to comfort and safety.
The question of whether or not a human can be a cat’s favorite person is one that can’t ever have a definitive answer unless we figure out how to make a cat speak. The only thing we have are clues.
Often cats raised by a single person will prefer that person. Does that mean that is their favorite? Perhaps not in the traditional sense. If one person is the constant source of food, and a cat figures out that showing that person “affection” gets them food, it may be that the cat uses those behaviors on that person to get the reward.
It could be that a cat that only goes to one person only trusts that person not to hurt them. It could be that the cat sees that person as their mother. There really is no way to know.
So what does this mean? If we can’t know if we are our cat’s favorite, all we can really do is continue to love them as members of our families. Regardless of whether any one person is their favorite, they will show that love back!