I would like to discuss the statement, “Animals are just like humans.” The statement was made by Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times (2nd Jan. 2011) in the context that there is a “vast market for adults who believe that animals are just like humans.” For many people animals are humans “without our failings and vices”, he says.
He is correct but we should not put the true cat lover (or animal lover) into this vast pot of human beings who anthropomorphise cats.
The true cat lover sees their cat companion as a different species of animal, felis cats, and his or herself as a species of animal with the scientific name, homo sapiens. These two species of animal can get along fine and form wonderful relationships. It is a excellent example of a symbiotic relationship. A definition of the word “symbiotic” would be, a close and often long-term interactions between different biological species that is “mutualistic”. The word “mutualistic” means: the way two organisms biologically interact where each individual derives a benefit from the other’s presence1.
If a cat owner – I prefer “cat caretaker” – believes animals are just like humans he or she is more likely to have misplaced expectations about their cat and have lower tolerance levels as to cat behaviour. This can lead to the more vulnerable partner, the cat, being abused. A typical example is punishing the cat for behaving normally. You know how cohabiting couples like to change each other, invariably leading to tensions. Well, declawing a cat is a version of that. The person sees the cat as a human family member. The person is scared of claws and doesn’t like scratching. Let’s change that, (s)he says. And he or she can as the cat has no say in the matter.
A person who sees animals as a different species of animal to ourselves is more likely to respect the cat, be more aware of the cat’s needs and behaviour patterns and thereby create a better relationship.
If there is a problem in a relationship with a domestic cat it is our problem, one we created. Cats see us as another animal and are highly predictable and consistent in behaviour. They relate to us the same way every time. It is humans who sometimes see their cat companion as a human without human vices or a fluffy “object” to cuddle and no more. These are misdirected sentiments.
We should love our cat as a cat, respect him or her and accommodate their physiology and behaviour. The cat doesn’t try and change us. We shouldn’t try and change the cat if there is to be a balanced, truly symbiotic, relationship.
These are my views. I expect others to have different ideas and I respect that.
1. Wikipedia® authors.