Do Cats Know They’re the Cutest Creatures On Earth?


Cats are known to be incredibly cute and captivating creatures. Their soft fur, squeaky meows, and playful antics never fail to melt our hearts. But do cats actually know how adorable they are? In this article, we’ll explore whether felines understand their own cuteness and charm.

We’ll look at cats’ grooming habits, vanity, attention-seeking behaviors, and emotional intelligence to understand how they perceive themselves. Research shows cats have some capacity for self-awareness, so they may recognize the positive response their cuteness elicits in humans. However, the extent to which cats comprehend their own physical appeal remains a mystery.

While cats can certainly learn cuteness gets them rewards, it’s unclear if they can fully grasp abstract concepts like “beauty”. What is clear is that cats bring tremendous joy to their owners with their endearing looks and actions. Even if they don’t realize it themselves, these furballs seem perfectly designed to melt human hearts.

Cats’ Self-Grooming Behavior

Cats are fastidious groomers and spend a significant portion of their day cleaning and grooming themselves. According to North Road Veterinary Clinic, most cats spend 30-50% of their waking hours grooming. This grooming serves several purposes – it helps cats remove loose hair, distribute skin oils, stimulate blood flow, and relax. It is also thought to be soothing and calming for cats.

Grooming involves licking their fur to distribute saliva over their coat. The saliva acts as a cleaning agent to keep the coat dirt-free. Cats methodically lick their bodies from head to tail, ensuring that no part goes ungroomed. Their scratchy tongue helps remove knots and tangles. Cats especially focus on cleaning their paws and face, which can collect dirt and debris throughout the day.

Excessive grooming can sometimes indicate a medical issue like skin irritation or parasites. But in general, the significant time cats devote to grooming daily is perfectly normal behavior essential to their health and cleanliness, according to veterinary experts like Cornell University.

Cats Love Looking at Themselves

Cats often spend time gazing at their own reflection in mirrors. This may seem like vanity, but it’s likely just curiosity or even confusion about the “other cat” in the mirror.
Research shows that cats do not actually recognize themselves in a mirror. When presented with a mirror test, cats will treat their reflection like a stranger, and may become aggressive or avoidant (1). This is different from humans and some other animals like chimpanzees that can recognize their own reflection.

So when cats stare intently at mirrors for long periods, they are not admiring their own beauty. More likely, they are just intrigued by the moving image and trying to understand it. Some cats may even think it is another cat on the other side of the glass and attempt to interact through the mirror. But evidence suggests they do not have a sense of self-recognition or consciousness of their own appearance.

Cats Strut and Show Off

Cats certainly seem to parade around proudly, as if they know they look good. Cat owners often observe their feline friends strutting confidently and showing off their sleek coats, luxuriant tails, and graceful movements. According to psychology researcher Dr. John Bradshaw, some cats do exhibit “showing off” behaviors to guardians as a way of bonding and soliciting petting or treats 1. When cats slowly walk by, tail held high, they are exhibiting natural territorial behaviors 2 – though owners may interpret this as their cat modeling for them. Ultimately, while cats cannot comprehend abstract concepts like beauty and aesthetics, their confident strutting and showing off behaviors suggest they take pride in their appearance.

Cats Seek Our Attention

Cats thrive on attention and interaction with their owners. When a cat wants some affection, they will often meow loudly or rub up against their owner’s legs to get pets and praise (Hill’s Pet Nutrition, 2022). This attention-seeking behavior shows that the cat desires positive reinforcement and care from their human companion.

Cats enjoy being petted, especially around the head, chin, and base of the tail. They will purr and nuzzle into pets as a sign of contentment. Some cats even drool when they are petted, which is a response stemming from early kittenhood associating pets with nursing from their mother. When owners give their cat praise and affection, the cat learns that they’ve done something good (Quora, 2021). This positive reinforcement makes the cat more likely to repeat behaviors that result in attention and approval.

Cats often become more vocal and demanding of attention if their needs are not being met. An attention-seeking cat may meow persistently or engage in other behaviors like waking their owner up in the middle of the night. Providing ample quality time, play, petting, and praise can curb attention-seeking behaviors. Overall, a cat’s desire for their owner’s attention and touch shows the bond and affection shared between pet and human.

We Reinforce Cats’ Beauty

Humans absolutely reinforce the idea that cats are pretty creatures. Owners frequently call their cats “beautiful,” “gorgeous,” and “so pretty” when petting or talking to them. Many cat owners can’t resist taking photos of their feline companions to share on social media, especially when they are sleeping or posing in cute positions. According to one Reddit user, “Humans definitely reinforce cat beauty by taking photos of them and thinking they’re cute, which the cats do recognize” [1].

In addition, cats are often groomed regularly by their owners, reinforcing the idea that their appearance is important. Brushing a cat’s fur, trimming their nails, and even putting accessories on them sends the message that looking good matters. One psychology professor notes that “Cats learn to associate being groomed by their owners as affection, which reinforces their beauty in their eyes” [2].

Breed Standards Emphasize Looks

Cat breeds are evaluated and judged based on specific aesthetic features that are outlined in breed standards. For example, breed standards from organizations like The International Cat Association (TICA) and the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) describe ideal features like body type, coat length and texture, eye shape and color, ear shape and set, and overall appearance. Adherence to the breed standard is essential for cats being shown or bred. This emphasis on aesthetic traits reinforces the idea that beauty and appearance are highly valued in cats.

Cats Recognize Smiles and Praise

Research shows that cats are able to recognize certain human facial expressions like smiles and frowns, especially when interacting with familiar humans up close. According to a 2020 study published in PMC, cats can cross-modally match emotional human faces with related vocalizations. This means cats can connect a smiling human face with a praising tone of voice. Cats also seem able to detect human emotions through other cues like body language, pheromones, and tone of voice.

When a human smiles at their cat, the cat often recognizes this as a positive social signal. Smiles usually mean the human is pleased with the cat’s behavior. Cats learn to associate smiles and praise with rewards through conditioning. If every time you smile at your cat, you also pet it or give it a treat, the cat will come to expect rewards when it sees your smiling face. This is how cats learn that your smile signals approval and affection.

Cats Have Complex Emotions

Recent studies show that cats have a complex emotional inner life. According to research from Oregon State University published in Current Biology, cats form strong attachments and bonding to their human caregivers, similar to human children bonding with parents. The researchers found that most cats solicited attention from their humans, exhibited signs of separation anxiety when apart, and reunited joyfully when back together. This demonstrates cats have an emotional need for companionship and affection.

Additional research from universities in Italy and the UK studied cats’ abilities to recognize human facial expressions and vocal tones. The findings, published in Animal Cognition, showed cats integrate visual and auditory signals to distinguish between positive and negative emotions in both humans and other cats. When exposed to angry voices and faces, cats showed caution and avoidance behaviors. But they approached and sought contact from smiling faces and praising voices. This shows cats have some understanding of human and feline emotions.

While more research is still needed, these studies demonstrate domestic cats have a complex inner emotional world. They form bonds, feel separation anxiety, and recognize basic emotions in humans and other animals. This emerging understanding of cats’ emotions will help strengthen the human-feline relationship.


Based on the evidence presented, it seems reasonable to conclude that cats likely have some awareness of their physical beauty and appeal to humans. Their self-grooming habits, tendency to seek out mirrors and reflected surfaces, and desire for our affection all point to an understanding that they possess qualities we find visually pleasing. Breed standards that prioritize appearance also suggest cats are valued for their good looks. Studies show cats respond positively to smiles and praise, indicating they associate these reactions with their appearance. Given what we know about cats’ emotions and cognitive abilities, it seems plausible they feel pride and confidence when receiving admiration for their beauty. While we can’t get into the mind of a cat to know for certain, the preponderance of evidence suggests cats do seem to know they are pretty, at least insofar as they recognize we appreciate their aesthetic qualities.

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