What Are Herd Cats?

Cats that herd humans display behaviors like walking in between their owner's legs, rolling over someone's feet or simply laying down in front of someone walking. This herding behavior, or marking, is designed to manipulate a person's behavior, according to pet and animal website The Dodo. Feline expert Dilara Goskel Parry suggests that cats exhibit marking behavior when they want food or if they are excited.

Darting and rubbing a person's leg starts out as excitement until a human responds to the cat's behavior. When the cat receives something afterward, felines learn how to herd humans to achieve a desired result.

Cats mark against other objects and animals to get a reward. When humans respond quicker to the cat, the animal learns to engage in marking even more. That means the herding behavior may become more frequent and more fervent.

"Herding cats" is an expression that means to do something impossible. Cats, in general, do not possess a herd instinct like sheep, horses or cows. The reality television show "Mythbusters" attempted to take on the task of herding eight cats into a pen and failed. Electronic Data Systems aired a Super Bowl commercial that played on cats' inability to be herded. The commercial showed rough and rugged cowboys herding cats on the range, much like a cattle drive in the American Old West.