John Bradshaw “one of the world’s leading experts on animal behavior” says that whereas dogs have been bred over thousands of years to get along with their human companion, cats are still too wild. The cat is still a solitary predator, concerned with protecting his territory and unable to live in the modern, human urban environment without becoming stressed. Illnesses that are caused or exacerbated by stress are cystitis and dermatitis both of which are common in the domestic cat.
He also says that the cat’s predatory behavior is working against the cat in the modern world. He is correct in saying that there is a growing and vociferous anti-cat lobby that, cumulatively, is having a negative impact on how the cat is perceived by people who don’t care for a cat. Bradshaw describes the criticism from the anti-cat lobby as a “rolling campaign”. I agree with that.
I agree that cats are a whisker away from the wildcat but that, for most cat owners, is a positive. It is part of the cat’s charm but a negative for non-cat owners. This is a problem with people not the cat.
I also disagree with Mr Bradshaw when he says that cats should be bred to be less predatory and better suited to life in cities and towns. I don’t even know how you can achieve that.
“I think it would be useful to look at whether there is a genetic basis for why cats want to hunt…..If we could breed cats who would rather play with a feather on the end of a stick than hunt birds that might be good…”
I see the argument but his argument is about trying to tailor the cat to fit in with the human. What about training the human to try a bit harder to fit in with the cat’s behavior?
Another thing that John Bradshaw has completely wrong is the cat’s solitary nature. The domestic cat is or was a solitary character having inherited it from the wild cat ancestor. But this is one area where the domestic cat has successful adapted. They often live in colonies and groups that are relatively harmonious.
Bradshaw says that cat owners:
“….think that the more cats the merrier…but the truth is that the more you have the more the difficulties escalate….Two cats don’t have a party, they have a fight…”
I don’t happen to automatically agree with that. It is too simplistic a viewpoint. Cats that are well selected can get along very nicely. What about three siblings living together, for example. Marc’s cats get along fine and I am sure there are visitors to PoC who can attest to successfully keeping a contented cat colony in their home. Ken and Helmi Flick used to have four cats (Sky has sadly, recently died)and I have seen them living successfully together; two British Shorthairs and two Maine Coons. Lisa James’s household is another example.
If there is one area where the domestic cat has adapted well it is his ability to live with other cats in groups. I am not saying it works all the time. I agree that cat owners can tend to put cats together carelessly and there are failures but it is not as black and white as Bradshaw says.
Conclusions? John Bradshaw argues that domestic cats should be more domesticated. If they are not, one day, they may be banned in some places. He makes some good points but his viewpoint is limited. Also I think it may be dangerous. For example it may encourage declawing of cats.
My counter argument is that people should be more tolerant and accepting of the cat and cat owners should make sure they understand the cat, respect the cat and care for them in a highly responsible manner. The burden for adjustment should be on people not the cat.
Note: John Bradshaw has a new book to come out in August 2013: Cat Sense: The Feline Enigma Revealed. You can pre-order on Amazon.