Growing up as a kid, I have always wanted to understand better, the inexplicable (at least how it seemed to me at that time) relationship between humans and cats. This quest prompted me to start compiling as much information as possible about the mysterious situation and also led me to get my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cats for me to be able to have a first-hand study of the relationship.
My research led me to discover the word “cat imprinting” for the first time. I know to a lot of people, this may seem like jargon. In this guide, you will learn everything you have to know about the terminology, as well as the signs your cat has imprinted on you.
What does imprinting means for a cat?
Imprinting for cats means that they have bonded pretty well with their owner and as their owner, they are emotionally connected to you. Although unlike dogs, cats are considered to be aloof and are more concerned with what they can get from you (treat and food) rather than building a bond with you, once they have an imprint on you, they will be more friendly and in some rare cases may consider you as their parent.
Can a cat imprint on a human?
Yes, a cat can imprint on a human. Although before a cat can imprint on a human, it takes time, because this little feline is untrusting and would be reluctant to build a special bond with you as your canine companion would readily do.
When they finally trust you, they become more comfortable around you and would often rub on you as a friendly gesture just as they do with their parent or other cats they see as trusted figures. This is a good sign that your cat has imprinted on you.
Do kittens imprint on humans?
Yes, kittens imprint on humans. In most situations, kittens often imprint on their parents as they spend most of their first few weeks or months with their mother who breastfeeds them.
During this stage, they depend on their mother for everything (care and protection).
When you also raise a kitten, there is a great chance that they are going to imprint on you if they see you as a symbol of protection and depend on you mostly for their daily need. Although their breed is also a deciding factor in determining how fast they imprint on you.
1. They follow you everywhere
If a kitten is not separated from his mother, you can hardly see them staying in one place alone without their mother. They are always around them playing or sucking breasts.
Therefore, if a kitten considers you as its mother, the first thing you would notice is that they enjoy following you everywhere. Hence, if you notice that your kitten is always around you, know that it considers you a mother and will always rely on you for safety and comfort.
2. Slowly blinks around you
This is one of the solo ways kittens communicate their affections to humans, but it is quite unfortunate that not everyone reads meaning into it or understands what this sign means.
When your kitten stares at you and you noticed him slowly blinking afterward, it means your cat feels completely safe around you. Cats do not trust easily and would not close their eyes around any creature they consider to be a threat.
Therefore, if you observe that they close their eyes a lot around you, it might be a good sign that they already consider you friendly and maybe their mother.
3. Enjoys sitting on your lap
When your cat fully trusts you and feels comfortable around you, one of the ways they communicate that to you as their owner is by sitting on your lap. Although at first, kittens especially the ones raised by their mother may seem rather offish. When you finally earn their trust, they become obsessed with being around you and seek comfort in you.
That is when you see them sitting on your laps in the living room or while laying in bed. You should appreciate their trust by rubbing their head down to the back because trust is not something they give away easily.
4. They knead on you
Kneading, also known as making biscuits is something cats, in general, enjoy doing whenever they are happy or comfortable. It is something they do when they are breastfed by their mother and would often choose soft surfaces for their to knead spots for example your cushion, bedsheet, or your carpet.
When these little creatures are excited about their presence around you, one of the ways they show their excitement is by kneading on your lap. When they do this, do not chase them away because their nails are hurting you, just put a thick blanket on your lap and let your little tom have its moment.
5. They become verbal with you
When I said they become verbal with you, I didn’t mean they will come right to you and tell you good morning. No! You might pass out on hearing such a vocal sound. Instead of scaring the shit out of you, they purr at you to express contentment.
Therefore, if a kitten considers you as its mother, purring is something you will experience often because it is what they do to express that they are happy, safe, and feels relaxed around you.
6. They rub against you
As a cat owner, I am sure you have experienced this almost a hundred times already as they tend to do this quite often to gain your attention. However, to a cat, it might mean something more than that.
When cats rub against their owner, they leave a scent-like pheromone to establish ownership just like how wild cats mark territories in the woods.
They leave this scent on you as a warning to other cats to stay away from you. So, if a kitten sees you as its mother, they will rub on you often just to tell intruders that they are not ready to share your affection with them.
7. They visit you while you are sleeping
When your kitten considers you as his mother, he will always want to be around you even if you are sleeping.
While in bed, they will come to check on you, snuggle with you, or come to wake you up anytime they are awake before you. Although this most times, this may annoy you, you should understand that they are only checking on you as a form of reciprocating your affection towards them.
8. They are comfortable showing you their belly
The belly is a sensitive part of cats, and as a result, they are often protective of it and would never reveal it to you unless they believe they trust you and that their safety is guaranteed.
Therefore, if they show you their belly often, it could be because they consider you as their mother and trust you with their body. Generally, the belly pose is a show of affection.
Do cats imprint on one person?
Yes, cats can imprint on one person. There are different ways in which cat imprinting can occur, they can either imprint on one person or several members of a household.
Just like people choose their favorite person, cats can also imprint on a particular person they consider their favorite. Most time this happens, it is mostly because they feel more comfortable around that person.
Do cats have a favorite person?
Yes, cats do have a favorite person. Although cats might not have the ability to decide what they eat, when they take their bath or sleep, however, they can choose their favorite among the member of the household. Most times, you will always see them around this person.
How to know if you are your cat’s favorite person
- They headbutt you a lot to show you how much they love you.
- They twitch their tail at the tip whenever they are with you or curl their tail around your leg.
- They show you their belly quite often
- They purr at you a lot when you are around them.
- They come to you with gifts. Although they may not come to you with fancy gifts like flowers or a teddy bear, they come to you with their kill. It may be dead bugs, mice, frogs, or trash.
- They nibble you a lot. Although this may be misconstrued by many as an attack, however, they are just gentle bite to the leg or hand and does not mean they are offensive. Rather, they are mere friendly gestures to whoever they consider to be their favorite.
- They follow you around. Another way to know if your little feline fancies you is that he will always want to be in your company. They will always be following you around wherever you go.
- They enjoy licking you. If your cat licks your hair or ear a lot, it is a positive signal that they consider you as a close companion of theirs and would lick these sensitive parts of you as an expression of affection.
Why does my cat follow me everywhere?
If you keep just one cat, it may follow you around because it considers you to be its closest companion. Most people also see their pets as their companions, so your cat may also have similar feelings toward you.
Although your cat may not be able to tell you verbally what they desire at a particular time, they do this through gestures and actions. If your cat is following you and it is accompanied by a meowing sound especially while you are in the kitchen or around dinner time, then it is likely because he is hungry.
Your cat may follow you not because they need something from you, but because they are curious about what you are doing at a particular time. They may want to find out what you do in that room you always restrict them from going to.
Although this might have been the number 4 on this list, most times when your cat follows you around, they want your attention. So when next you notice they are following you around, just call their name or pat them to show them that you are aware of their presence.
5. Separation anxiety
Separation anxiety occurs when cats are separated from their owner for a long time. As you raise your cat, they become attached to you and live to be in your presence.
Therefore, when you leave them for a long time and return, they may follow you around for the fear that they may not see you again.
6. Major change
Cats are very sensitive pets and are always aware of happenings within their environment. Hence, when slight or major changes occur, for example, there’s a newborn baby, changing premises, or someone in the family dies, this may affect their normal psychology and as a result, become scared. They may follow you around for protection.
7. They are bored
In the wild, cats are always doing something, either they are hunting for prey or playing with other cats. An indoor cat does not have access to this kind of lifestyle and being an indoor cat does not mean they do not have such instincts.
They may start to follow you around because they do not have anything to do. Create games and activities that will keep them engaged to secure private moments for yourself.
8. They consider you as their patent
It is normal for kittens to follow their mother wherever they go to learn all the skills necessary for survival.
When you own a cat as a pet, they rely on you for every like shelter, food, and protection that they would have gotten naturally from their mother. They depend on you, they may start to see you as their parent and follow you around.
Why does my cat sleep on me?
1. They trust you
If all of a sudden, you notice that your cat is fond of laying on you, it is a way for them to show you that they love you and that they have finally trusted you.
Trusting people or other creatures is not something that cats will do easily. It develops with time and during this time, they are usually distant. So if out of the blue, they decide to sleep on you, it means you have earned their trust.
2. They are cold
During cold seasons, especially during winter, kittens seek shelter under their moms for warmth. However, if they are alone and you have earned their trust, they are likely to lay on you for your body heat so that they can keep warm through the cold day.
3. You relocated
Cats are very smart, change is one thing they always find difficult to adapt to. If you move to another place, at first, it will be hard for them to familiarize themselves with the new environment, and becomes very protective because they will be scared.
In this kind of situation, your cat may sleep on you because it only recognizes you and would love to spend most of his time with you.
4. It senses your emotion
Apart from having an excellent sense of smell, another special skill of cats I’m general is that they can sense emotions. If you had a long day at work and feel physically and emotionally tired, your cat can sense this emotion and may decide to sleep on you as a way of expressing that they understand your plight and that they very much care.
5. You are pregnant
Just as your feline friend can sense your emotion, they can also sense it when you are pregnant. In fact, at a certain stage during pregnancy, cats can feel the heartbeat of your fetus.
Apart from this, they will also notice any changes in your behavior due to pregnancy — mood swings, morning sickness, and many more. This may cause them to be protective of you and the baby and may lay on you to provide comfort.
6. Your feline is pregnant
When your cat becomes pregnant, their maternal instinct kicks in, and when this happens, they tend to be more affectionate. Asides from that, because during pregnancy their needs usually multiply, they may come to sleep on you all of a sudden to get your attention.
7. Your cat sees you like a cat
This might sound funny, but for real, your cat may start to see you as its mother. This happens a lot when your cat has imprinted on you.
When a cat looks up to you for all its daily needs like shelter, protection, and food, with time, they build a strong bond with you that could lead them to see you as a mother cat.
8. You just got a new pet
Even though cats may be reluctant to show their affection, that may change after you brought home a new pet. Your cat keeping distance from you does not mean they do not recognize the attention you are giving them, they just are not ready to show you.
If you bring in a new cat, they feel will threaten and because of the fear of losing your affection to other pets, they may come to sleep on you to leave their scent on you as a warning to that new pet to keep off.
What does it mean when your cat sleeps on you?
The above reasons have detailed what it means for your cat to sleep on you. However, in general, if your cat enjoys sleeping on you, it is a show of affection and a way of telling you that they appreciate your care.
Why do cats sleep between your legs?
1. They feel safe between your legs
Apart from the attention and companionship of their owners what cats are also concerned about is their comfort, which is why they are often selective when it comes to where they lay their heads at night.
This is not surprising though as it is an instinct of theirs to do so. If they feel comfortable between your legs, the last thing they can be worried about is sleeping there because they already trust you.
2. They need to warm up
Although cats are shrouded in thick fur which even becomes thicker during winter, that still does not make them 100% resilient to cold. They get cold as well. For cats under the care of their mother, they can just go under them for the body heat they require to warm up.
As humans, we also emit body heat, this part of the body emits most of the body heat. Your cat may know this and may decide to sleep there for the much-needed warmth.
3. Establishing ownership
One of the most common ways cats establish their territory is by wrapping their tails around your leg leaving behind scented pheromones as a way of telling any other creature to stay away from you.
Another way of establishing ownership is by laying between your legs. This is an attitude cats exhibit mostly when they have other pets. They may become jealous of the affection you are giving to other pets and believe staying closer to you will boost your affection towards them.
4. When they get stressed out
Cats may look tough, but certain things scare them off which may cause them to stress out a lot.
Your cat may become stressed out because it feels threatened by other pets in the house or they hear a loud storm from outside. When they experience this, the next thing they do will be to go straight to where they can be comforted and feel safe which in most cases will be you their owner. They may come to sleep between your legs because they feel they will feel relaxed in that position.
5. They fancy the scent you wear
Cats have a great sense of smell, they can pick up scents from miles away, talkless of a scent they are perceiving close to them.
If you use a certain cologne or perfume or you use a particular soap constantly, with time, they become accustomed to your scent, and if they find it attractive, they will always try as much as possible to stay close to you to enjoy the scent.
Sleeping between your legs may provide them with the perfect spot to perceive the scent.
Why does my cat sleep with me and not my husband?
If your cat prefers to sleep with you and not your husband, the straightforward answer is that he has chosen you as his favorite person and wouldn’t hesitate to ignore your husband for your love. However, that may not be the case in some instances. Other reasons include;
- You don’t move as much as your husband does while sleeping.
- Your bed is warmer
- Your feline has grown fond of you
- It has become a habit.
Why is my cat obsessed with me?
If your cat is obsessed with you, it is most likely because they have become so fond of you that they cannot tolerate being away from you for a long time.
Another reason why your cat may become so obsessive about you is that they are afraid that you might pass their affection to another animal you keep as a pet. They will always want to be around you so that they can remain at the center of your care.
Why is my cat so attached to me?
1. Your cat loves you
If your cat is attached to you, it is majorly because they love you, and staying close to you is one sure way for them to secure that love.
2. Your cat is lonely
As a cat owner, even if you are a very busy person, you will still create some time for your cat to take care of their needs. These moments are special to cats and are enough to build a strong bond with you.
Therefore, when you embark on a journey leaving them for a long time, they will become attached to you on your return and find it difficult to leave your presence.
When it comes to marking territories, cats are almost as possessive as dogs and would do anything to keep you from giving attention to other animals you keep as pets. One of the ways they ensure that they reviewed most of your affection is by attaching themselves to you all the time.
4. Your cat is cold
Cats are always constantly searching for warmth and wouldn’t hesitate to take a nap where they see one. Most times, cats keep themselves warm with the body heat we emit. And this is one of the reasons they may want to attach themselves to you.
5. Your cat is afraid
Certain situations scare cats off and anytime this happens, they recoil back to where they consider a refuge or safe spot. Distrusting cats most times use their bed as a safe spot.
For a cat who has built trust and a healthy relationship with its owner, they consider its owner as their haven where they can relieve their fear, and consequently, they may become attached to you.
How to tell if a cat is comfortable with you
1. They knead in your presence
Kneading comes naturally to cats and it is something they enjoy doing on soft surfaces most times when they are happy. If your cat kneads on your skin instead of surfaces like blankets or couches, they are telling you directly that they feel comfortable around you.
2. They enjoy sleeping in your bed
When cats ate not comfortable around someone, they keep their distance.
When they trust you and become comfortable around you, they tend to become obsessive about your attention and would often leave their bed to come and sleep with you on yours.
3. They show you affection
Affection to cats is very expensive and it is not something they throw around just for anybody to catch. They carefully select the right person for their affection.
Most often, they choose someone they feel comfortable around. So if you see signs like rubbing their heads against you, or they rub against your leg, it is a show of affection which means they are comfortable with you.
4. Your cat grooms you
It is an instinct of cats to groom one another as a way of relieving each others stress. If your cat feels comfortable around you, they will walk up to you, and lick you with the intention that you get them comfortable.
5. They purr around you
When cats purr, it means they feel relaxed, happy, and comfortable. Therefore, when they purr anytime you are around, it means they are comfortable around you.
Why does my cat touch my face?
1. Your cat wants your attention
If your cat keeps touching your face anytime you hold him, there’s a high possibility that he so much needs your attention and he feels that touching you on your sensitive part to get you to do what they need.
Although not all cats would need attention every time, if your cat is an attention seeker, just accept him for who he is and never chastise him for needing you.
2. It is a show of affection
There are different ways cats reciprocate their owner’s affection towards them, touching their face is one of these methods, and if your cat exhibits a similar habit toward you, it is merely a show of affection.
When this becomes aggressive, for example, you end up having marks on your face, then you might need to contact a pet behaviorist.
3. Putting your trust to test
For your cat to allow you to pick him up without any protest from him, means you’ve earned his trust to a certain extent.
They may also want to test how much you trust them with your sensitive part too. Although there are lots of reservations surrounding this theory, so you might not fully trust your cat with your face. After all, they’ve got sharp nails in those paws.
4. Unintentional contact
Interestingly, not every action that is carried out by cats is deliberate, some could be unintentional. A good example of this is when a cat stretches and rests its paw on your face while they relax after stretching. There are chances that this is what is happening in your situation.
Why is my cat licking me?
1. Show of affection
Most times, when a cat licks you, it is seen as a grooming mechanism, it can also mean a show of affection. Mother cats lick their kittens to produce a familiar group scent. Therefore, when they lick you, they are trying to identify with you as a form of showing affection towards you.
2. It marks territory
Generally, cats whether domesticated or wild, are very possessive. They do not like sharing what they consider theirs with any other cats or animals. So, if they lick you, they are trying to leave their scent on you to warn intruders that you have been taken.
3. They taste something nice on your skin
It is not every time that licking translates to affection or a show of happiness. Sometimes, it may be that your feline friend picks up a taste on your skin and he is licking it because he found it to be tasty. This may happen when you spill a drink or food on your cheek while eating. It may be that they come to lick the food residue and just move on.
4. Your cat want your attention
When your cat licks you, it may also mean that they need your attention at that very moment. They may need you to feed them, pat them, or just want you to play with them. So when next your cat licks you, just try and figure out his immediate want and get it done.
How to tell if a cat loves you
1. Blinks at you slowly
Instinctively, making eye contact with some animals is an impending danger, when it comes to cats, the reverse is the case. When your feline companion is fond of making eye contact with you and blinks afterward, it means they identify with you and love you. You can also wink back to show them you understand their feeling.
Headbutting is a social behavior exhibited by a mother cat toward its kitten to familiarize their family scent with them. If a cat considers you as its own, you will get rubbed on or get head bumped every time as a show of affection. They do this to claim you as their own.
3. Tail language
It is not every time that cats communicate vocally with their natural meow sound, they can also communicate none verbally with their tail.
When they feel contented or happy they show you affection by raising their tail, wagging it back and forth, and making sure it touches you anytime they are sitting next to you. They do this most times to show you how much they love you.
4. Your cat greet you at the door
Although cats are very reluctant to show their love most times, when they finally get comfortable with you, they use every opportunity to tell you how much they love and miss you. You may have noticed them waiting for you by the door after arriving at work a couple of times, this is one-way cats show that they love you.
5. They sleep close to you
Of course, no one will feel comfortable sleeping next to someone they feel threatened in their presence. This is typical behavior of cats.
The cat will never sleep close to you until they trust you 100%. Once they trust you, it is then they may decide to walk up to your bed to sleep next to you as a show of love.
The unique literary talents of Dr. A. Barton are well known throughout the veterinary profession. He is a regular contributor to the New York City Veterinarian and his professional articles have also appeared in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Journal of Small Animal Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Cornell Veterinarian and Philadelphia Medicine. He is the only veterinarian ever to have had an article published in the human medical publication, What’s New.