When a kitten is first separated from its litter mama and siblings, + any associated humans, there is much for it to adapt and learn about. The owner is whiffed as they undertake the human stroking and petting ritual, in order to ascertain who that person is. The human scents that the cat smells will offer information about gender through testosterone and estrogen, and perhaps about dominant emotions from skin pheromones about its world is gained through scents and smells.
The new owner in effect becomes a ‘replacement litter mother’ or even a ‘replacement lead cat’ to the kitten, because all the normal functions of maternal behaviour are taken over by the human. These include:
- Exploring outside the ‘nest area’ (perhaps the bedroom).
- Providing the ‘kill’ (thanks to cat food manufacturers).
- Moving the kitten around.
- Protecting it from danger.
Eventually, the maturing cat would probably see its kind and non-aggressive owner as a ‘replacement mate’ and potentially, their human partners as ‘competitive males’ or ‘passive females’. This is likely to be the view from a cat’s point of view.
The cat’s brain does not include the equivalent of our frontal lobes. They cannot switch perspectives and see the world from our (intellectual and considerably elevated) viewpoint. They make simple decisions based on their own instinctive responses and learned experiences, such as:
- Are we humans part of their social structure or not?
- Are we a threat or not?
- Are we predator or prey?
They cannot ‘think’ that we are cats and/or they are humans. That ‘intelligent’ perception is far too complicated for cats, however apparently clever they may appear. Even though we are biped to their quadruped, owners probably represent ‘giant cats’ because of the way we interact with them and act as natural replacements.