Dogs have always been known for their bravery in protecting their owners. What about cats? Do they have the same urge to ensure the safety of their owners? Is there such a thing as a protective cat?
Are cats protective of their owners?
Yes, cats can be protective of their owners. Cats are typecast to a specific role in media and pop culture. Cats are cold and indifferent, while dogs are cuddly and friendly. It’s a tale as old as time. But is this stereotype based on actual facts?
The truth is, cats can be as protective of their humans as dogs. A study in 2011 showed that the relationship between humans and cats are very similar to human to human relationships.
Cats are very observant, but are often very quiet and just prefer to sit atop a chair or a table silently looking over everything. Humans fail to recognize that this is the cat paying attention to what is happening around them.
When cats protect their family, they are doing so against something they consider to be dangerous, such as an intruder or animals they feel are encroaching into their territory.
There have been stories about hero cats who saved the young children in their families from a dog attack, cats who have alerted their human to carbon monoxide poisoning and even cats who gave their owners a heads up about a medical issue which turned out to be cancer.
Although we might want to romanticize the idea of our kitties coming to our rescue, we have to understand that the motivation behind the cat’s actions may not be what we perceive it to be. Cats do not think or feel like we humans do. If they do protect their humans, it is an instinctive behaviour from the cat.
Signs of an overprotective cat
These are the signs that tell you when your cat is in bodyguard mode:
- Pupils are dilated
- Ears are turned out to maximize their sense of hearing
- Quick and snappy tail movements
- Crouched position
- Claws and teeth are exposed and bared
- Lots of vocal sounds like growling, hissing, and screeching
- Scratching and biting the threat
How to handle an overprotective cat
You have to remember that a cat in protective mode is also full of fear and is running on pure adrenaline and instinct. Try to deal with your cat in a calm manner which will hopefully help to calm her.
Do not reward or punish your cat as these approaches are not productive. Do not console the cat because they will see that as a reward for their aggression. Do not retreat or show fear because the cat will see that as them winning over you. Punishing a cat will only sow resentment because they do not know that what they are doing is wrong as they do not have an understanding of what they did wrong.
The best thing to do when your cat is being hostile and protective is to ignore them. Act like they are not there and go about your day. The cat should calm itself given some time.
Hero cats who saved the day
Here are some famous cases of a cat coming to the rescue.
Gwen Cooper rescued the blind kitty Homer, named after the blind Greek poet. He protected Gwen when she was asleep and an intruder entered her Miami home. Homer, despite his disability, scratched at and scared the intruder away.
Greg and Trudy Guy’s fur baby Schnautzie alerted her owners in the middle of the night by smacking Trudy’s nose repeatedly until the couple had no choice but to wake up. They immediately noticed the sound of a gas pipe leak. If they weren’t awoken by their cat the whole house might’ve exploded. The fact that they were saved by Schnautzie was almost serendipitous, because they had planned on adopting a puppy, but saw the kitten instead and took her home.
13-year old tabby, Baby, saved both Josh Ornberg and his pregnant girlfriend Letitia Kovalovsky. They had fallen asleep in their living room when a backroom in their house went up in flames. The normally chill senior cat sprang into action and leapt onto Josh’s lap to wake him up. The couple was able to escape the fire just in time. Not only did Baby save her pet parents, she also saved their unborn twin babies.
One of the most famous hero cats, Tara saved his human baby brother, Jeremy, who was playing outside their home in Bakersfield. She noticed a dog walking up to the child and biting Jeremy’s leg and came to the rescue by chasing the dog away.
Do cats want to protect us?
Yes, our cats want to protect us. Like mentioned above, cats and humans have a relationship that is much deeper than what most people think.
In a study conducted in the University of Vienna 41 cats and their owners were videotaped over four sessions. They took note of all the interactions and came to the conclusion that human-cat relationships mirrored those of human-human relationships, almost like a parent and its child.
A co-author of the study, Dorothy Gracey, said that “a human and a cat can mutually develop complex ritualized interactions that show substantial mutual understanding of each other’s inclinations and preferences.”
Another study in 2017 made cats choose between four choices: Food, toys, scents or human interaction and the majority of cats preferred the social interaction with humans.
Image: istockphoto.com / Magui-rfajardo