Do Cats Know the Difference Between Humans and Cats?

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Have you ever wondered if your cat knows the difference between you and another cat? While we may never know for sure, new research suggests that they may be able to distinguishing between human and cat faces.

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A study published in the journal “Animal Cognition” in 2016 found that cats can distinguish between different human voices, but they don’t necessarily know that those voices belong to different people. In other words, your cat knows your voice, but may not realize that you and other humans have different voices.

Other research has shown that cats can tell the difference between human faces, and they seem to prefer looking at pictures of faces that they know. So it’s likely that your cat does know the difference between you and other people, even if he or she doesn’t always act like it!

What do cats think of us?

Cats have been living with humans for thousands of years, and they’ve had plenty of time to figure us out. So, do cats know the difference between humans and cats? The answer may surprise you.

They think we’re big, stupid cats

We may think of ourselves as the superior species, but to our cats, we’re just big, furry versions of them. That’s not to say they don’t think we’re special. They just don’t see us as anything particularly different from themselves.

This has been borne out by research conducted by Japanese scientists, who found that cats react in much the same way to pictures of humans as they do to pictures of other cats. The researchers showed 20 domestic cats pictures of humans, cats and objects, and measured their reaction times and pupil dilation (a measure of interest). The results, published in Animal Cognition, showed that the cats responded quickest and dilated their pupils most when looking at pictures of other cats. When shown pictures of unfamiliar people, they took longer to react and their pupils dilated less.

They think we’re their servants

Cats view humans as their servants. They think we’re big, stupid animals that exist to do their bidding. In fact, many cats believe they are the true masters of the house and we are merely their assistants. This is why cats can be so demanding — they expect us to wait on them hand and foot!

How do cats communicate with us?

When you think about it, there are a lot of ways that cats communicate with us. They meow, they purr, they stare, they blink, and they even scratch. But do they actually know the difference between us and other cats? Let’s take a closer look.

They use body language

Most of the communication between cats and humans is done through body language. Cats use a variety of cues to let us know what they are thinking and how they are feeling. It is important to pay attention to the whole package of cues that a cat is giving off in order to get an accurate picture of what they are trying to communicate.

The most important thing to remember about cat body language is that it is highly contextual. This means that the same cue can mean different things depending on the situation. For example, a cat who is lying down with their belly exposed may be feeling relaxed and comfortable in a safe environment, or they may be feeling scared and vulnerable in an unsafe environment. It is up to us to pay attention to the other cues the cat is giving off in order to interpret what their belly exposure means.

They use vocalizations

Vocalizations are the primary way that cats communicate with us. Cats meow for a variety of reasons—to say hello, to ask for things, and to tell us when they’re happy, upset, or uncomfortable.

While different meows might have different meanings, many times it’s simply a way for your cat to get your attention. If you find that your cat is meowing excessively, it might be due to hunger, thirst, pain, or loneliness. You should always consult with your veterinarian if you’re concerned about your cat’s meowing habits.

What do cats want from us?

Cats are complex creatures, and they have been shown to exhibit different behaviors when around different people. For example, they may purr when around someone they know and feel comfortable with, but they may hiss or hide when around someone they don’t know. This begs the question: do cats know the difference between humans and other cats?

They want food

Cats want food, plain and simple. They’re not as complicated as dogs, who want food and attention and belly rubs (OK, some cats want belly rubs too). Cats just want to be fed.

They want attention

But there is plenty of room for misinterpretation. A study published in 2019 found that cats form attachments to their owners that are similar to the attachment young human children have to their parents. In other words, cats see their owners as a source of comfort and security, just as we see our feline companions as soothing and reassuring presences in our lives.


The study found that cats not only distinguished between human and cat faces, but they also preferred looking at human faces. In other words, your cat knows you’re not a cat, and he or she likes it that way.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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