As all cat-owners know, feline affection can feel maddeningly fickle.
But there’s a scientific explanation for why cats and humans don’t always understand each other, says Tony Buffington, a veterinarian at Ohio State University. Unlike dogs, cats evolved as solitary hunters with little need for reading social cues and often lack the cognitive ability to connect their actions with human feedback. Take your admonishment for scratching the couch, for instance: “To the cat, you’re this crazy primate who is attacking him for no reason,” Buffington tells Wired.
Many human behaviors stress our cats out (such as petting their bellies or putting the litter box too close to the humming refrigerator). The best cure, according to Buffington, is learning to listen to your cat, offering choices and creating a calming environment with your cat’s nerves in mind.