Celebrating International Cat Day 2022: Why felines friends will always have our hearts
Cats are a source of fascination and delight, and humans just can’t seem to get enough of their antics and moods.
Since the earliest days of the Internet, ‘Cats’ has ranked one of its most used search terms. Meanwhile, videos about Cats dominate YouTube, accounting for more than 26 billion views, and are some of the most viral content going on sites like Instagram, Reddit and Buzzfeed. (Leading many to conclude that cats have indeed “won” the Internet.)
The Internet is also great at making global celebrities out of cats, such as Japanese moggie Motimaru, who in 2021 was awarded a Guinness Book of World Record for the most views for a cat on YouTube, having no less than 619,586,260 views on his channel, ‘Motimaru’s diary’.
But what’s the big deal with cats? Why do people love them so much?
In celebration of International Cat Day 2022, we attempt to explain the cat-loving phenomenon and uncover the truth behind the age-old phrase: dogs drool and cats rule.
We’re hardwired to think cats are cute
With their large round eyes and delicate noses, their big round faces and fluffy bodies, falling for cats is nothing less than a natural psychological response. According to the BBC, this is because humans have an innate nurturing instinct, which compels us to take care of our own offspring. However, this instinct is so potent that we have similar feelings for anything that resembles miniature humans, e.g. cats.
“People are also animals, and our infants and young children – like the infants and young of most species – have certain consistent traits,” adds professor David Barash, of the University of Washington. Thus the blueprint for cute, which includes large eyes, a small nose and mouth, a rounded body and a certain amount of playfulness, can be applied to nearly any creature.
It’s little wonder then that cat owners, as well as dog owners, will refer to their pets as “fur babies”. Cuteness, it turns out, is a universal language.
We love a challenge
Anyone who has ever owned a cat knows that they can be extremely loving, but they will make you work for it.
Compared with the flagrant friendliness and outright expressiveness of dogs, cats are more subtle creatures who dole out their affection in more nuanced ways.
However, many cat owners find the inscrutable nature of cats to be part of their charm. There’s a hint of mystery about their needs and wants, and uncovering your cat’s secrets is something that takes time.
Cat experts will tell you that to gain a cat’s affection, it’s all about establishing trust. Establishing a routine for daily care such as feeding will help a new owner to bond with a cat. It’s also about observing what your cat likes and dislikes, and showing that you’re paying attention. This could be by singing to them, giving them a particular toy or scratching them in just the right place.
Cats are pros at communication
From purring to meowing to ‘non-verbal’ cues, cats are great at getting their message across. Cats give us small cues throughout the day, if we only pay attention. This could include arching their back, moving their tail slowly side to side (which implies they are concentrating) or closing their eyes half way to indicate that they are relaxed and comfortable.
Cats can also understand human commands, with the ability to comprehend somewhere between 20 to 40 words. Some cats may even be able to understand as many as 50 words, including their names. There may be a bit of grey area here however, since cats’ ability to understand meaning is based on distinguishing words and associating them with certain objects or situations. It’s fair to say that cats are great at observing human body language, tone of voice and vocalization, and are able to connect these cues to situations and actions.
Cats love us back
It’s official. Science has proved that cats really do love us, despite their reputation for being aloof.
The idea that cats really do actually love their humans — or at the very least, see them as parents or caregivers — was the conclusion of Oregon State University researchers following recent research on kitten behaviour. In the study, which was modelled after previous research on dogs and babies, more than half of cats (64%) demonstrated a “secure attachment style” to their caregiver, exhibiting behaviour consistent with distress when their human left the room and displaying a reduced stress response upon their return.
So there you have it. The cat-human relationship is one which is attributable to our innate attraction to all things cute, and built on real communication and feelings of love.
Little wonder these amazing creatures will always have a place in our hearts.