Do we, inadvertently, nearly always anthropomorphise the domestic cat? I believe that we have difficulty with dissociating the cat as a family member from human family members. I believe that all too often without realising it people judge cat behaviour from the standpoint of human behaviour. They measure cat behaviour in reference to the behaviour of a young child. If you do this you invariably come to the wrong conclusions. One such conclusion is that a cat can be naughty and should be punished. Naughtiness followed by punishment is classic anthropomorphisation of the domestic cat. Another example is people asking: “why are cats mean?”. That don’t know what “mean” means!
For many people animals are humans “without our failings and vices”. Anthropomorphise: To ascribe human characteristics to things not human.
I recently wrote an article about attention seeking behaviour in cats and after I wrote it I realised that the concept of attention seeking behaviour is one that really relates to people. I am not sure that it is at all in the minds of domestic cats that they need to seek attention in order to get what they want.
Yes, domestic cats do ask, in one way and another either by vocalisations or for example tapping you with their paw, but these are requests. The domestic cat has to make a request because they are reliant upon the human caretaker for everything particularly when they are full-time indoor cats. In contrast, cats that are allowed outside are probably more likely to make fewer requests and therefore may in the words and concepts of human beings be less attention seeking.
A well-known writer about cats says that cat scratching is a form of attention seeking. Perhaps I’ve misinterpreted what she has written but there is simply no connection between a cat scratching some furniture, for instance, and seeking attention. Cat scratching is a form of feline behaviour. It has many purposes and they are all founded in wild cat behaviour. This is inherited behaviour from the wild cat ancestor and when a cat scratches there is no reference to human beings in what he or she is doing.
Also, the domestic cat does not do naughty things deliberately to catch a person’s attention. I believe that is also anthropomorphising the domestic cat. Being naughty deliberately is the sort of thing that a child might do. We know that. But to cross reference that form of human behaviour to cat behaviour is obviously incorrect.
The fact of the matter is that for the majority the relationship of human caretaker to domestic cat is really one of parent to child. Even from the cat’s perspective people are seen as mother cats because they provide food and shelter. offThe adult domestic cat has somewhat the mentality of a kitten. This encourages us to believe that the domestic cat is a child.
If people relate to their domestic cat as a family member but as a child then there’s bound to be a breakdown in expectations on the human’s behalf. This can lead to relinquishments to animal rescue organisations.
It is vital that cat owners have realistic expectations and ones which are firmly rooted in genuine cat behaviour which means understanding wild cat behaviour as well.
I believe that a lot that is wrong with cat ownership stems from anthropomorphising the domestic cat inadvertently and unintentionally. People cannot be blamed particularly because often people who anthropomorphise their cats are very good people and wish to do right by their cat but misguided good hearted cat caretaking is not going to great for the cat.
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