The question refers to cats but could equally apply to dogs and other animals. I don’t think that it would apply to all animals and less so to wild animals. However, in respect of cats and dogs there is no doubt in my mind that the majority of us would be more concerned and distressed if these companion animals were abused and harmed than if an adult human was similarly treated. If the victim was a child our levels of empathy would be similar to those of abuse against cats and dogs.
Why is this? Because companion animals are usually helpless in the face of human abuse. The same goes for young children. And of course cat and dog lovers relate to their animal companions as members of the family. How many times have you seen people refer to their cat as a ‘fur baby’? Also particularly in relation to dogs, they are very trusting of their ‘master’. Abuse of dogs by their owner is exceptionally distressing.
Also scientists have concluded that when a person is victimized and hurt people initially attach some blame to the victim. For cats and dogs, on a rational level, it is impossible to do that. Although cat and dog abusers will sometimes, irrationally, try to justify their abuse by blaming the animal’s behaviour. However, animal behaviour is natural and instinctive. They are blameless. It is this innocence which elicits our sympathy when animals are abused by humans.
I had thought I might be in the minority on this but I am not. In general people think the same.
These thoughts are mine and they were reinforced by an article in the Times which itself is based on a research study by Harrison’s Fund, a medical research charity, published in the journal Society & Animals. Although the study concerned dogs I am sure that it is reflective of human attitudes towards all companion animals and perhaps on occasions wild animals when victimized by people.