Why do we think cats are unfriendly?

“Mostly, it’s just human misunderstanding of the species,” says Karen Hiestand, a vet and trustee of International Cat Care. “Dogs and humans are very similar and have lived together a long time. In a way it has been co-evolution. With cats, it is way more recent. They come from a solitary ancestor that isn’t a social species.”

The African wildcat we domesticated our housecats from, Felis lybica, tends to lead a solitary life, mostly meeting when it is time to mate. “Cats are the only asocial animal that’s been domesticated. Every other animal we’ve domesticated has a social bond with other members of its species.”

Given that cats are such an outlier among the animals we live with, it’s no wonder that we might have been getting their signals wrong.

“Because they are so self-determined and can take care of themselves, cats are becoming more and more popular,” Hiestand says. “But whether the lifestyle suits them is another question. Humans are expecting cats to be like us and like dogs. And they aren’t.”

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