How Does A Cat Choose You?


I’ll never forget the day I walked into the animal shelter and a tiny grey kitten leapt into my arms, curled up under my chin, and started purring. As I looked into her bright green eyes, I knew in that moment that she had chosen me. The volunteer laughed and said, “Well it looks like you’ve been adopted!” That kitten, who I named Luna, has been by my side for years now.

The phenomenon of cats seemingly picking their human companions has fascinated cat lovers and scientists alike. How exactly does a cat decide that “this is the human for me”? While we can’t get inside the mind of a cat, research has uncovered some interesting clues into how and why cats bond with certain people. The way cats form attachments and choose their “preferred persons” reveals a lot about cat behavior, psychology, and social dynamics. It’s a peek behind the curtain into the mysteries of the feline mind.

In this article, we’ll explore why some cats may bond more strongly with particular humans over others. We’ll look at the evidence behind cats adopting humans, not the other way around. Understanding cat selection can strengthen the bond between pets and owners. Plus, it’s simply intriguing to find out why some cats seem adamant about choosing their one human above all others.

Cats Use Scent to Identify Humans

Cats have a powerful sense of smell and rely heavily on scent to gather information about their environment. A cat’s nose has 200 million odor sensors, compared to only 5 million in humans (1). This gives cats an extremely advanced ability to detect and recognize scents.

Cats use their sense of smell to identify other cats, humans, and locations. According to Reu’s Corner, cats can recognize individual humans by scent (2). Cats have scent glands on their cheeks, tails, and paws that secrete pheromones. When a cat rubs against a person or object, it leaves its scent as a way to mark its territory and familiarize itself with smells (3).

Each human has a unique scent profile that is distinct to cats. While humans may smell similar to each other, cats experience a complexity of smells from each person that allows them to tell individuals apart (4). Everything from our natural body odors to the smells associated with the products we use contributes to this distinctive scent.


Cats Bond Through Positive Interactions

Cats form bonds with humans through positive experiences and interactions, especially those involving pleasure, play, and rewards. When humans regularly spend time playing with, petting, and feeding cats, the cats learn to associate their owners with feelings of enjoyment.

As cats receive positive attention like petting or treats from a human, they begin to see that person as a source of affection and gratification. A 2019 study by researchers at Oregon State University found that, like dogs, cats form secure and stable attachments to their human caregivers when they have regular pleasant interactions together. The cats in the study were more likely to seek out their caregivers for attention or comfort when frightened or stressed after having strong positive engagement through playtime and petting (source).

By initiating friendly social activities like playing with cat toys, providing tasty foods, or giving gentle pats and scratches, humans can build up a cats’ trust and lay the foundation for an enduring human-feline bond. With regular positive contact, your cat is likely to seek you out and show affection as they form a close attachment.

Cats Respond to Personality Compatibility

One of the factors that influences a cat’s choice of human is personality compatibility. Research indicates that cat personalities tend to match and complement their owner’s personalities[1]. For example, cats often choose quiet, gentle humans who move slowly and speak softly. This is because cats have sensitive hearing and typically prefer calm environments to loud noises and chaos. Their natural timidity and cautiousness make them feel more comfortable around humans with laid back, easy-going personalities.

Cats are observant of human behavior and they pick up on energy and body language. Anxious, loud, or aggressive humans make cats feel uncomfortable and unsafe. On the other hand, patient, predictable humans allow cats to gradually acclimate to their presence and build trust over time. The fact that cats are selectively social by nature means they gravitate towards introspective individuals who respect their boundaries. Ultimately, cats often seem to choose companions whose energy and lifestyle matches their own.


Cats Select Humans Who Respect Their Needs

Cats need a certain level of space and independence. Despite domestication, most cats do not enjoy prolonged human handling and petting like dogs do. According to some experts, a cat may tolerate a maximum of 3-4 minutes of petting before getting overstimulated. Picking up a cat and holding it when unsolicited can sometimes lead to bites or scratches.

Instead, most cats prefer humans who respect their boundaries and let them dictate terms of engagement. For example, cats often initiate contact such as rubbing up against legs or jumping into laps on their own terms. Humans who refrain from forcing contact and wait for the cat to approach first are more likely to gain a cat’s approval and affection. These humans understand a cat’s independent nature and need for personal space.

Cats Choose Humans Who Care For Them

Cats form strong bonds with humans who provide consistent care and attention to their basic needs. According to an article on WebMD, cats appreciate having a daily routine of feeding, grooming, and litter box cleaning ( When humans regularly feed a cat, clean their litter box, brush their fur, and attend to their health needs, a cat learns to trust that human. The routine care and nurturing forms the foundation of the human-cat bond.

An article from Zoetis Petcare explains that when cats receive positive, gentle care from a human, they begin to form a mutual bond of affection ( The article states that a cat who enjoys a caring, attentive relationship with their human companion has been shown to experience less stress and have an overall better quality of life. Therefore, consistently meeting a cat’s basic needs not only helps build trust and bonding, but also benefits the cat’s wellbeing.

Cats deeply appreciate the humans who take time to properly care for them. By feeding, grooming, cleaning litter boxes, and tending to other needs, humans demonstrate their dependability and earn a cat’s loyalty and love.

Cats May Remind You of a Previous Cat

Many cat owners find that a new cat reminds them of a beloved previous cat that has passed away. We naturally associate cats with the positive memories of our past pets. When a new cat exhibits some of the same endearing qualities and behaviors as your previous cat, it can help provide comfort after the loss.

For example, if your previous cat loved to cuddle in your lap, a new cat that also enjoys lap time can evoke those warm memories. Or if your last cat had a unique meow, hearing a similar meow from a new cat can feel like a bit of your previous companion still remains. Even something as simple as a new cat having the same coloring or eye color as your former pet can create a sense of connection.

According to pet experts, associating a new cat with a previous cat is very common. As social creatures, humans tend to look for similarities as a way to bond. If a new cat reminds you of one you loved before, it doesn’t take away from the uniqueness of either cat. Instead, it can provide comfort through fond memories while still allowing you to form a new, special relationship as well.

When the time is right after a loss, a cat that evokes positive recollections of a previous pet can help many owners open their hearts to loving again. The reminders of the joy they once shared can make the grief feel less acute.

Cats Pick Humans Who Need Them

Cats are very perceptive and can often sense when a human is in need of comfort, support, or companionship. According to this study from Catonsville Cat Clinic, cat ownership has been shown to reduce feelings of loneliness and provide a sense of companionship. Cats may be especially drawn to humans experiencing anxiety, depression, grief, or other challenges.

The comforting purrs, head rubs, and snuggles from a cat can have therapeutic effects for humans going through difficult times. Having a cat provides a source of unconditional love and acceptance. The Catnip Times explains how cats can improve mental health through their companionship and ability to reduce stress. For those feeling lonely or in need of support, a loving cat can provide a helpful source of comfort and reassurance.

So when a cat chooses you, especially during a difficult period in life, it may be their way of sensing you need them. Their companionship and comforting presence helps provide the support humans need when facing anxiety, depression, grief or other challenges.

Cats Adopt Humans, Not the Other Way Around

Contrary to popular belief, cats were not domesticated by humans the way dogs and livestock were. Instead, felines integrated themselves into human civilization by choice. Cats were originally wild animals that began taking advantage of the rodent-attracting grain stores and human settlements in the Near East around 10,000 years ago. As humans transitioned to agricultural societies, granaries and storehouses offered plentiful resources. The cats likely started habituating there to hunt for rodents, which were attracted to the grains. Over time, the least fearful and friendliest cats among these visitors were tolerated and welcomed by humans. These cats eventually adapted to living closely with people and even relying on them for food and shelter. So in a sense, the cats invited themselves into our homes and lives. As evidence of this, domestic cats are still capable of surviving and even thriving in the wild on their own, unlike many livestock breeds humans have selectively bred to depend on us. So next time you wonder how your cat chose you, remember – you didn’t choose your cat, your cat chose you!



In summary, there are many different factors that play a role in how cats seem to choose humans. Cats have a strong sense of smell and use scent to identify people that are familiar and form bonds. They seek out positive interactions and personalities they are naturally compatible with. Cats will choose humans who respect their independent nature and care for their needs. Sometimes a human may remind a cat of a previous caring owner. Cats may also select those who need companionship. While the process remains somewhat mysterious, what’s clear is that cats are the ones who ultimately choose their humans, not the other way around.

Cats choose who they want to bond with based on scent, compatibility, being cared for, and fulfilling a need. There’s still an element of mystery involved in how cats decide a human belongs to them. But one thing is certain – it is the cat who does the adopting, not the human.

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