Cats are strange companions. We never quite know where we stand with them. They're creatures that are by turns the best friends we've ever had — and the condescending overlords who use us for our can-opening skills. They inspire admiration for their ability to oscillate between fits of enthusiastic play — careening around the house after the red beam of a laser pointer — and their standoffish self-assuredness. Cats are not so much pets as complicated equals, and over the years they have inspired a few insights into our love, and confusion, about these regal, domestic companions.

Cats have never really left deity status.
Cats have never surrendered deity status. (Photo: Masyle/Shutterstock)
The secret overlords...
The secret overlords... (Photo: SP/Shutterstock)
Cats don't just decide where to sleep... they plot it.
Cats don't just decide where to sleep ... they plot it. (Photo: Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock)
The evolution of the cat is a lesson in human psychology.
The evolution of the cat is a lesson in human psychology. (Photo: 2happy/Shutterstock)
Life lessons learned from cats.
Life lessons learned from cats. (Photo: Smit/Shutterstock)
Cats know you CAN always get what you want.
Cats understand that you CAN always get what you want. (Photo: Nailia Schwarz/Shutterstock)
Curiosity and the cat.
Curiosity and the cat. (Photo: Tanya Little/Shutterstock)
Cats know the value of silence.
Cats know the value of silence. (Photo: MNStudio/Shutterstock)
It's like herding cats...
It's like herding cats ... (Photo: Viorel Sima/Shutterstock)

Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.