Cats are beautiful and elegant pets that often seem to be aloof to our human love and affection. However, they are also vulnerable and do need our daily care.
I had never heard of the term “cat imprinting” before I had my furry friends. I learned that imprinting generally refers to the way a cat shows affection for its owner.
This can look differently for each cat and owner.
In this article, I’ll explain Do Cats Imprint on One Person, and I’ll also talk about some of the disadvantages of this imprinting behavior.
- 1 Can A Cat Imprint On The Pet Owner?
- 2 Signs Of Your Cat Has Imprinted On You
- 3 At What Age Start Cats To Imprint?
- 4 How Long Does It Take For A Cat To Imprint?
- 5 Can A Cat Imprint On More Than One Person?
- 6 Do All Cats Have A Favorite Person?
- 7 Is There A Disadvantage To Cats Imprinting?
- 8 Can A Cat Remember Its Previous Owner?
- 9 Final Thoughts
Can A Cat Imprint On The Pet Owner?
Although cats aren’t known for their loyalty and love for their owner, cats can imprint on one person for life.
This means they associate their caretaker with food, water, and a dry place to rest. They also learn to trust them as well.
The process of an animal imprinting on someone usually happens when they are young. It’s common for kittens to be able to recognize their mother at birth.
If the kitten doesn’t bond properly with its parent, it may lead to socialization issues when the cat is grown up.
Signs Of Your Cat Has Imprinted On You
As a cat lover who had kittens as well as rescue cats who came to me as adults, I always wondered about the point when a cat had adopted me as their “parent”.
Here are some of the signs that I spotted when my cats had imprinted on me.
Deep Eye Contact
I noticed particularly with my adult rescue cat that when he first came to me that he was absolutely frightened.
Whenever I looked into his eyes, he would bolt and run as fast as he could. I learned this is a cat’s instinct in the wild.
When cats look into each other’s eyes, they show aggression. This usually happens when they are fighting over food, territory, or a mating partner.
As a human, this felt so unusual to me but I noticed over time that my cat would start looking into my eyes.
Then I would look into his eyes, and he didn’t run away. So, from my experience, a cat that has imprinted on you will look into your eyes all the time.
This behavior is very similar to human babies looking into their parents’ eyes.
I learned that the best way to approach any cat is by slowly blinking. This shows them that you don’t mean them harm.
And I found that whenever I blinked at a cat, it slowly moved its eyes and blinked back at me.
Cats that have imprinted on humans need to feel safe around us, and by looking into our eyes, cats secretly tell us that we have their trust.
Apart from sleeping, a cat spends most of its time grooming and licking itself clean.
Kittens learn how to groom themselves from their mothers, and I have also seen siblings often groom each other.
With grooming being such a big part of a cat’s life, there are quite a few signs here that I spotted when my fur babies had imprinted on me.
My kittens never had an issue with grooming because they came straight from their mother that taught them all the cat essentials.
However, some of the adult cats that came to me as more mature cats weren’t grooming themselves at all in the first weeks.
At first, I thought there was something wrong, or the previous owner simply didn’t look after them.
But I realized after some time that these cats were simply stressed and anxious. They had to keep an eye open for danger all the time.
This meant that they didn’t have time anymore to groom themselves.
So, a cat grooming itself is a definite sign that the cat is relaxed around its owner.
A step further from this is when the cat starts grooming its owner.
As mentioned, even siblings often lick each other clean and when a cat does this to its owner or someone, then it trusts its new favorite person.
This sign of affection is important because the cat integrates the owner into its daily routine.
The tummy is one of the most vulnerable and sensitive body parts of our furry friends. For this reason, most cats try to protect it as much as possible.
Only its favorite person has the privilege of seeing a cat’s belly if it chooses to show it.
When a cat rolls around on the floor next to its owner, then this means that it feels calm and safe around the person.
It’s good to keep in mind that some cats also show their tummies as a gesture of submission or defense.
However, this usually only happens when the cat is a stray, or shows other signs of anxiety, such as hissing or waving its tail.
Cats and humans communicate in very different ways, and on so many different levels. Eye-to-eye contact is one way to communicate with a cat.
Another kind of cat language is when cats are purring, chirping, chattering, or trilling.
It’s only our pet cats that use verbal communication with us. Wild cats rarely use any verbal cues to communicate with their companions.
Saying this, purring is used only by kittens when they are around their mother. Adult cats don’t ever purr at each other.
So, when my cat purrs when I stroke her, then she replicates this mother-kitten bond. A purr is one of the biggest tell-tale signs that a cat feels comfortable and calm in a person’s presence.
Our feline friends also communicate in other ways, too. I heard some pet owners say that their cats also chatter and chirp in their owner’s presence, and this often sounds like they are responding to their owner.
Cats are by no means like dogs when it comes to following their owner. However, they can be quite clingy and attached.
This depends very much on the cat’s personality. Some of my cats prefer to be on their own most of the time, while the others follow me all around the house.
This is the typical behavior of kittens. They follow their mother around wherever she goes. So when a kitten or an adult cat goes where you go, then it trusts its owner as much as its mother.
When a cat follows you, then this is a big sign of trust. You are not just its source of food but you also provide motherly warmth and care.
Another sign I noticed when my cat started trusting me is kneading. Although this depends on your cat’s personality and activity levels, most of our furry friends love kneading.
Kittens usually gently knead their mother’s belly to stimulate her milk flow. Similar to some other cat behaviors, a cat kneads its owner because it’s feeling comfortable and cozy.
I also heard that there are scent glands in a cat’s paws, so kneading could also be a way for cats to mark their favorite person.
Some cat breeds are more prone than others to bring gifts to their owner. Some cats enjoy carrying around their favorite toy and then dropping it at the cat owner’s feet.
Other cats go out hunting and bring back a mouse, rat, or bird. Although these gifts seem very strange to us (and don’t feel like gifts at all!), in a cat’s eyes, these are tokens to say that they feel at home with their owner.
They trust their favorite person so much that they are prepared to share their valuable food with them.
At What Age Start Cats To Imprint?
Imprinting usually happens during the first few weeks of a cat’s life. This is why kittens need to spend lots of time with their mothers and littermates.
If you want to know if your cat has imprinted on you, then it’s best to start observing the cat’s behavior from the age of 3 months onwards.
This is usually also the time when kittens get adopted by their new family.
How Long Does It Take For A Cat To Imprint?
It can take some time and patience for a cat to imprint on its owner. This depends on many different factors, including the age of the cat, its previous circumstance, and the new living conditions.
If a kitten arrives into a new family, then imprinting usually happens quite quickly because the kitten is looking for a mother replacement.
Adult cats with a history of different cat owners or homes commonly take a little more time to imprint.
This is because they may have had bad experiences with human companions in the past.
And just like us humans, when we feel let down by someone, it can take a while to forgive sometimes.
This is not to say that adult cats will not come round. With the right care and attention, mature adult cats can form an equally strong bond as younger cats.
It’s important to bear in mind that cats are independent creatures with different needs. It’s impossible to force affection onto them, or out of them.
It’s best to observe your cat’s body language and wait patiently for them to approach you.
Can A Cat Imprint On More Than One Person?
What I haven’t mentioned so far is that imprinting happens with every cat but it can look slightly different with each cat breed.
Having had an Egyptian Mau in the past, I can say they are much more focused on one person, and imprint on one favorite human only.
However, other breeds, such as Persians and Ragdolls, are often much more friendly and open, even to strangers.
This means that they seem to be able to imprint on more than one person.
However, this also depends on the cat owner’s home setup. As a single-person household, there is only one person a cat can imprint on.
If there is a family around and other family members feed and care for the cat, then there is a greater chance that the cat may imprint on more than one person.
Do All Cats Have A Favorite Person?
As mentioned, some cats may be able to imprint on more than one person. Generally, the majority of cats have a favorite human who they always return to as a food source and for safety.
However, this does depend on the cat’s personality. Some cats may have had such bad experiences with humans that they will naturally distrust all humans.
These cats are usually feral or semi-feral. They often accept humans feeding them but they will not allow further contact.
Is There A Disadvantage To Cats Imprinting?
Although we may not think about this at first because we are so keen on cuddling our fur babies, there can also be disadvantages to imprinting.
One of the most common issues with imprinting is separation anxiety. When a cat suffers from separation anxiety, it will become distressed and anxious when its valued human isn’t nearby.
Cats that suffer from separation anxiety can become aggressive if they don’t get enough attention.
They may start to urinate outside of their litter box and scratch furniture. This is the time to act and help your feline companion.
Separation anxiety can be managed very well by following a better routine. The cat will need to understand that its human is going to return.
It’s best to speak to an animal behavior expert about this as he will be able to give specific advice and put a plan in place.
The second issue with imprinting is territoriality. If a cat has imprinted on you, it may attack any other people who try to interact with its favorite person.
Some cats may show aggression towards visitors who enter their territory. These cats need to learn that they cannot control visitors entering their space.
Another issue with cats imprinting on one person is mental illness. It’s important to note that mental illness can affect anyone, including pets.
There are many different types of mental illnesses. For example, depression can cause a cat to feel sad and it may stop eating or behaving as normal.
Can A Cat Remember Its Previous Owner?
Yes! A cat does remember its previous owners and interactions with other humans.
This is not so obvious in cats that live with someone from the time when they were a kitten, but adult cats that end up in animal shelters often end up having different behavioral issues.
This is often because they were treated badly or they didn’t get the care they deserved.
Now that you read “Do Cats Imprint on One Person?” hopefully you you understand that Imprinting is something that happens naturally in every species. It’s how babies bond with their parents, and it works also with kittens that build a strong relationship with their mother.
Many of these signs that a cat is imprinted on its owner is thanks to this strong motherly bond.
Therefore, we should always remember that our fur babies are a bit like that: babies that deserve our love and attention.