Cats React to FAKE Cats! Are they reacting to a cat or a strange object?

There is a Cole and Marmalade video on the internet entitled: Cats React to FAKE Cats! The intention of it is to see how domestic cats react to fake cats. It’s about amusing ourselves on how domestic cats perceive cats that are not real and living. It kind of gets into the head of cats and we like to do that. We are always trying to understand domestic cats better.

Cole meets plush tiger
Cole meets plush tiger. Screenshot.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Well, I am going to throw my hat into the ring and speculate that Cole and Marmalade didn’t see this large, plush tiger toy as a cat but as a large, unknown and potentially dangerous object. The first reaction is at least caution and for Marmalade it was to hide and then reemerge to check it out gradually. Playing safe is the best course of action.

One aspect of the experiment is that the cats’ guardians are present when the large fake cat is introduced into their lives. This is potentially reassuring for the cats.

And you can see the different reaction of Cole and Marmalade. The black cat, Cole, is more confident than Marmalade. That’s just his inherited character. He wants to sniff the toy to ascertain what it is exactly. I guess he’ll immediately know that it is not living by the smell.

I’d expect both cats to react more calmly to the smaller plush toys. They may sniff them and then ignore them. Size is a big issue and rapid movement. Dangling legs can cause concern.

I don’t for a minute believe that Cole and Marmalade see the tiger as real. They see jangling long objects (the legs) and a large bright object coming in the front door. The size will prompt a concerned reaction offset by the fact that it is carried by a human they know and trust.

However, we don’t know but can guess whether they see the toy as a cat. Do they recognise the face as that of a cat? As I said, I don’t think so and people will have their own views on this.

If they had carried through the door a large plush toy of anything the reaction would have been the same. Or if they had brought in a large suitcase with some straps that were dangling down, the reaction would have been the same too.

It is about the unknown. The famous banana videos are the same too. Placing a banana or cucumber behind a domestic cat provokes real anxiety when the cat spots it because it is an unknown object. Initially they don’t know if it is alive and dangerous. They look a bit like a snake and cats know in their DNA that snakes are dangerous because they mimic the snake in their behaviour to ward off hostiles.

The dangling legs of this plush toy tiger are a bit like a snake too, which may have been a factor in Marmalade’s anxiety.

Cats have this innate caution to protect them from injury because in the wild injury can mean death. Set against that caution is the drive to explore (the inquisitive cat) to find prey.


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