Here are three points about anthropomorphising cats. Anthropomorphism is the “attribution of human mental states (thoughts, feeling, motivations and beliefs) to nonhuman animals”. Let’s say, though, that cats have emotions and therefore I’d argue they have feelings too. So some anthropomorphising is just a true recognition of cat behaviour and senses. That’s my personal point of view.
This tendency of humans to make cats little humans may be a way of humans trying to obtain human companionship from cats in order to use them as “alternative sources of social support”.
In addition, this human trait may have put pressure on purebred cat breeders to create cats which have as near as possible physical and behavioural traits like humans (think round faces and large eyes – Persians). Further it has been argued that humans may have placed pressure on the domestic cats themselves over the thousands of years of evolution such that the cats developed behavioural traits that facilitate the attribution of human mental states to cats.
One aspect of this might be that domestic cats continue to act like babies even when fully adult. Humans keep domestic cats in a perpetual kitten-like state. This is facilitated by their cuddly appearance, soft fur, small size and the willingness of most cats to be picked up and petted by humans. This also leads to mishandling cats (treating cats as infants).
It is said that the collecting of cats by cat hoarders is a bye product of anthropomorphisation. A scientist, Serpell (in 2002), stated that when the human-like expectations are not met or when people over-empathize with animals abuse and hoarding may result.
A portion of the American population believes that female cats need to experience the birth of kittens (parturition) before they are spayed. A study in 1996 found that a little over 20% of cats gave birth to kittens before being spayed. This is a major source of unwanted cats.
P.H. Kass writing in The Welfare of Cats writes:
“The reasons for this belief are unclear: among some individuals the tendency to anthropomorphise their parental instincts onto their pets may be the reason…”
This seems to be saying that cat owners, through their female cats, wish to become parents again of humanised kittens. It is an expression of the human female maternal instinct thrust upon the domestic cat.
In the early 19th century illustrators of wild cat species portrayed their subjects as human characters almost because at that time the wild cat species were far less well-known. This is an early example of anthropomorphising cats. Click on the image to read more on this.
Do you have some ideas on this? Please leave a comment.
Update: I’ll add a fourth point as an afterthought. The above suggestions are just that. The point is that some people will truly see their cats as little humans and sort of get mixed up. Others will be at the other end of the spectrum and disagree that cats even have emotions. I don’t think it is a bad thing to anthropomorphise one’s cat as long as it does not lead to mishandling and dietary issues which might be detrimental to a cat’s health and welfare.
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