Could you identify your cat in a police lineup, identity parade? I could because my cat has three legs. Fine. But could you, for sure, with absolute certainty identify your cat if 8 other very similar cats were lined up with him/her?
I ask because there is a nice story about a woman in England who let her black cat roam. One day she was told he had been run over. She dashed out, scooped his body up off the road and buried him in her garden with a ceremony and headstone.
Next day her black cat turned up for breakfast. The first thing she did was to check the grave to see if he had risen from the dead.
Seeing that he had not, she realised she had buried someone else’s cat.
The point is, she did not distinguish her cat from the dead cat on the road. The dead black cat was the same size, shape, colour and had the same face, she says. The face seems to be key but are they similar fairly often?
I think black cats can be particularly difficult to identify because there are no identifying coat markings.
The interesting thing for me is, could we recognise our cat’s facial features if our cat was in a police line up? My black cat has a long, Siamese face so even if he had four legs I would hope to be able to identify him but I could not 100% guarantee it, I feel. I don’t know, perhaps I could. I feel, however, a lot of people could not identify their cat in an ID parade. The voice is an important identifier but for the purposes of this test that characteristic is excluded.
By contrast, I could guarantee identifying any person who I had lived with for a long time. There is no question about that.
If it is harder to identify a cat from appearance, the question is, “Why?” The answer must be because cat appearance is less distinct between individual cats than human appearance. The same could be claimed for dogs and other animals. What about parrots for example? Or goldfish. I bet you could not identify your goldfish in a police lineup 😉
So what does that tell us? It is probable that cats do have fine facial distinctions that are as distinct as humans but they are covered by fur. Secondly, people don’t pay quite so much attention observing a cat’s facial features. We don’t, after all, observe a cat’s expressions as we do a human’s expressions to gauge body language.
Perhaps cats do not have such an evolved face in terms of it being a means of communication through expressions because they rely a lot more on smell to identify another cat. I feel that is the answer. Cats identify cats through scent and therefore the face has not evolved to be so distinct.