Supernormal Stimulus and Cats

Supernormal stimulus and cats

Supernormal stimulus and cats. Photo of Exotic Shorthair copyright Helmi Flick. Baby photo by efleming

Cat breeders are trapping themselves….by breeding emotionally desirable cat features, consciously and subconsciously.

It’s part of the need for emotional onanism in humans. Cats that trigger their own parenting instincts get more nurturing, and are then often used to breed more just like it. Large eyes give a cat infant-like features. Breeders are captives of their own minds. The more a cat gives them some kind of emotional pleasure it then becomes a desirable trait for more of the same.

[Note: emotional onanism is emotional masturbation. The word “onanism” means masturbation. Sorry if that is a bit rude but I believe it needs to be explained]

These are very enlightened comments from a visitor who commented on the large eyes of purebred cats article I wrote. I simply said that people have a tendency to overdo things which is why cat breeders tend to breed to extreme, one result of which is overly large eyes.

The person who made the comment (username: PleaseGetThingsRight) went far beyond my simple observation and I am sure (s)he is correct. Thank you for the comment. It warrants further discussion, hence this page.

As I understand the comment, some cat breeders are breeding children rather than giving birth to children. Cat breeding is a way of creating a baby that appeals to you rather taking pot luck at it. Those are extensions of the argument and possibly exaggerations too. Am I indulging in supernormal stimulus 😉

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Breeding cats to extreme is a way for some breeders to find emotional support and satisfaction. Cat breeding is a crutch for some people. That would seem to be the conclusion. If this is true it is shocking and an abuse of the cat. Mind you, if I am truthful, I have always felt that cat breeding is wrong under the current circumstances. I apologise to cat breeders in saying that but I have to be honest with myself.

Important: That does not mean that I don’t respect certain cat breeders because we are all human. Also not all breeders indulge in supernormal stimulus.

The concept of supernormal stimulus would also appear to be common to humankind and any animal.

Wikipedia provides a nice example regarding junk food and television. Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett says that television is “as an exaggeration of social cues of laughter, smiling faces and attention-grabbing action”. Television is like junk food. I guess we are craving emotional stimuli (support) and the normal world doesn’t do it for us. We need to add salt and flavourings to the normal world to make it acceptable.

Heavens, humankind is more of a mess than I originally thought. Something went wrong.


Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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2 Responses

  1. Marc says:

    “emotional onanism” – fantastic Michael, I am going to use this word alot since I use the other more derrogatory one alot and people get a little flustered. Very nice. I agree with the article as far as I understand it. I think you are right. What are infact the features the breeders crave – those which are more human? or taddy bear like. Something. I just went to check on some kittens today and the lady was picking them up like they were little teddy bears – putting her face right in/on them and just talking loudly. Not something I can bring myself to do. They are not toys or teddy bears or human babies. I always put out my finger with my head far back and if they wish to advance and sniff my finger then I take it from there. They surely do after a certain age but the little ones that just opened their eyes don’t and I believe one should not invade their space. Alot of other things happened that bothered me – I wont go into it – but it follows the same pattern that is being pointed out in this article. That humans often wish to ‘consume’ cats as if they were small children or babies, or teddy bears that move. They will behave and do exactly as they please with little regard for the cts or kittens. I’ll mention one more thing. The white kitten is apparently chosen for a little girl as a gift. I was shocked to see a photo of the excited little 5 year old girl holding up the kitten like it was some kind of toy xmas present. The lady said ‘aw isn’t that sweet’ – and I bit my lip. I hate it. I worry about where each one goes. One of Red’s siblings disappeared – stupid reason – long story – stupid people shouldn’t have cats or animals of any kind.

    • Michael says:

      “emotional onanism”

      I must say, I liked it too and the theory. I think it is an excellent argument. It sort of explains everything with respect to cat breeding. Big eyes are a classic baby face feature. Breeders like big ears too on the skinny cats but that is not good for children 😉

      However, round faces and small ears of the Persian makes it the most popular breed according to the CFA. The article was about overly large eyes and that is the feature that most applies to the application of emotional onanism in the cat breeding world as it makes cats look like babies.

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