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Do cats believe they own us?

Many cat owners get the feeling that their furry feline friends think they are the ones in charge. Cats often exhibit entitled, superior behavior that suggests they believe humans exist to serve them. Where does this feline attitude come from? Do cats really think they own their human caretakers?

The domestication of cats

Cats were first domesticated around 10,000 years ago in the Near East. Unlike dogs, they were not bred by humans for any practical purpose like herding, hunting, or protection. Instead, cats likely domesticated themselves by realizing there were rodents to hunt and food scraps to eat around human settlements. So while dogs evolved to follow human commands, cats did not. They remained largely independent and continued hunting for their own benefit rather than to serve humans.

This independent origin means that compared to dogs, domestic cats have undergone relatively little genetic change from their wildcat ancestors. They still have strong prey drive, marking behaviors, and other innate wild tendencies. Their natural behavior is to hunt and survive for themselves, not obey human orders. So while dogs have been bred for obedience, cats have not, which influences how they view their relationship with humans.

Cats domesticated themselves

The fact that cats domesticated themselves means they chose to live with humans because it benefited them, not because humans selectively bred them to be companions or workers. They decided to move in with humans for food and shelter, not because humans demanded it of them. So cats entered into the relationship on their own terms, without owing anything to the humans they lived with.

This contrasts with dogs, who were brought into domestication by humans seeking to breed them for specific tasks like herding, hunting, guarding, and obeying commands. Dogs evolved expressly to serve human needs. But cats just happened to realize they could get certain benefits from humans. The relationship developed not out of any human authority over cats, but out of cats’ decision that they could get something they wanted from humans.

Cats retain independence

The fact that cats domesticated themselves also means they have retained much more behavioral and genetic independence compared to dogs. They still exhibit natural behaviors like hunting mice, climbing trees, defending territories, and grooming themselves. Unlike dogs, very little of their behavior or physical needs are dependent on humans.

In fact, cats can easily survive and thrive outdoors without any direct human care. Feral cat colonies are full of cats finding food, shelter, and mates on their own. Pet cats could also survive independently if needed, which is generally not true of dogs. Cats remain self-sufficient animals who just find it convenient to coexist with humans, not dependent creatures who rely on human care for survival.

Cats train their humans

While humans certainly provide food, water, and shelter for pet cats, some researchers believe cats have learned how to “train” their humans to provide the care they want. With behaviors like purring, rubbing, meowing, and staring intently, cats condition their owners to respond in ways that benefit them. For example, a cat might meow insistently at 5am until their owner wakes up and feeds them.

This allows cats to essentially train humans to provide the food, affection, play, and accommodations they desire, on the cats’ own terms. While humans think they own the cat, the cat has actually trained the human to serve its needs. Through learned behaviors, cats ensure their independent needs are met by the humans in their home.

Cats make demands, not requests

Cats frequently make direct demands of their human caretakers, rather than making polite requests. A cat will jump on the kitchen counter or claw furniture if it wants attention. It will wake up its owner in the middle of the night because it is hungry. The cat expects the human to respond to its demands, rather than asking nicely.

This entitled, demanding behavior also suggests the cat sees itself as the one in charge. Unlike dogs who obey “sit,” “stay,” and “come” commands, cats simply make demands and expect results. They do not make suggestions for their humans, they make expectations that they assume will be obeyed.

Cats act like they own the home

Cats exhibit territorial behaviors that indicate they believe they are the true owners of the home. A cat will often claim certain pieces of furniture, beds, windowsills, or household spaces as its own. It will defend its territory from other pets and unfamiliar people. Cats also mark their territory by rubbing, scratching, and urine spraying.

These behaviors suggest that cats consider the home to be their territory, not something owned by their human caretakers. The humans may think they allow the cat to live there, but the cat acts as if the reverse is true – that it is allowing the humans to stay in its home.

Cats expect priority

Cats expect to be made top priority in the home and will protest if they are not. They want to be fed, cleaned, and given affection before anything else happens in the human schedule. Cats will interrupt activities like reading, working, or sleeping to demand human attention when they want it.

This expectation to be the constant center of attention gives cats an entitled air, as if they know they are the most important creatures in the home and expect to be treated that way. Dogs are generally just happy for any affection when the human has time, but cats are more demanding about being top priority.

Some key differences between cats and dogs

Trait Cats Dogs
Domestication Domesticated themselves around human settlements Bred by humans to be companions and workers
Genetic change from wild ancestors Relatively little Extensive changes selected for by humans
Reason for domestication Access to food, shelter Human demand for animal laborers/companions
Innate behavior Still exhibits strong prey drive and wild tendencies Heavily influenced by human selective breeding
Independence from humans Can easily survive outdoors without human care Struggles to survive independently outdoors
Training “Trains” humans to meet its needs Humans train them to follow commands
Communication style Makes demands of humans Obeys human commands


While definitive scientific proof is lacking, many cat behaviors support the idea that cats consider themselves to be in charge of their relationship with humans. Unlike dogs who were bred specifically to obey human directions, cats retain independence and natural wild behaviors that suggest they believe humans are there to meet their needs, not the other way around.

From domesticating themselves to making demands instead of requests, cats act like superior beings expecting to be served by the humans who live with them. While humans may officially own their pet cats, the cats certainly don’t seem to think so based on their entitled attitudes and expectation of priority. So while cats may not truly comprehend the full concept of ownership, their behaviors suggest that in their minds, they own their human caretakers.