Do children have an innate desire to like domestic cats? Or do they have the opposite innate feelings: a fear of domestic cats? Are children born with a particular attitude towards domestic cats? I guess that that is the question I’m asking because I am unsure of the answer to the other questions ?. The wider question is whether it is possible for children to be born with an innate fear or liking of a particular species of animal?
National Geographic reports on a Max Planck Institute research programme which investigated whether babies are born frightened of spiders and snakes. We know that about 5% of the entire human population has a strong fear of spiders and snakes. So, is this learnt or is it inherited?
The Max Planck Institute research indicated that infants had an innate fear of spiders and snakes but the conclusion was not certain. They consistently reacted with larger pupils when they were shown images of them. Diluted pupils are linked to that part of the brain that deals with stress. Measuring the size of a person’s pupil can help to determine a range of mental and emotional stresses in adults. So, they demonstrated a stress response. Although, it is not clear that they are born with this.
One scientist said that infants possess a specialised fear mechanism which means that they are prepared to learn quickly that spiders and snakes are linked with a specific emotional or behavioural response.
Note: This is a video from another website which is embedded here. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.
I believe that over millennia it is possible to pass down inherited memory in the DNA. As over a few hundred thousand years humans have found that certain snakes and spiders can be poisonous, they have inherited this innate fear. It is often overcome through rational thought by which I mean the person tells themselves that this is an irrational fear. In short, they learn through experience to unlearn what was given to them in their DNA.
And I also believe that there is possibly an innate fear of cats in humankind because also going back millennia to the beginnings of homo sapiens the large wild cat species presented a genuine threat to their existence. I think that anxiety is embedded in us. But, in respect of domestic cats, it’s in competition with rational thought and a natural love of things which are cute, fluffy and cuddly.
That competition is played out in that objectionable veterinarian operation called declawing. Some people insist on turning their cats into cuddly fluffy plush toys whereas others accept that their cuddly, fluffy companion accept the claws and teeth and they get around the problem.
I have to come to a conclusion as to whether children are born with an innate fear or liking of domestic cats or whether they have a neutral starting point upon which experience dictates whether they learn to love or dislike cats. My gut feeling is that children are inherently attracted to small animals, particular ones which are cuddly and attractive. I think that that is the starting point. The starting point is on the positive side of neutral in their attitude towards the domestic cat.
I don’t think the innate fear of the larger cats plays a role here (if it exists at all). Although, I think it does for people who hate cats. I believe that people who hate cats are actually frightened of them and they respond to their fear by wanting to kill them. It is said that what you are frightened of you want to kill to eliminate the cause of your fear. One reason for the fear is that they don’t understand cats. Ignorance breeds fear.
I’ve seen too many children thoroughly enjoying their relationship with the family cat. The natural inquisitiveness of children lends itself to being drawn towards a domestic cat and to interact with him or her. Natural inquisitiveness must be a factor as to how children relate to the family cat. The same goes for the cat by the way. You will see on the Internet domestic cats being immediately attracted to a new baby in the family. They approach cautiously and sniff and explore the new child.
Having thought about an answer to the question in the title my current thought is that children are not born with a liking for domestic cats. But I would argue that all children quickly learn to like domestic cats until something happens to them which erodes what has been learned. That may be a bad experience with a cat because they interacted poorly and the cat responded with aggression or their parents teach them to dislike cats.
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