Do cats understand if you accidentally step on their tail or paw? A lot of people profess to know the answer to this question but the truth is we don’t know for sure. We can guess by a cat’s reaction but even then we can’t be certain and text books written by experts don’t help. Therefore what I write here is open to discussion.
Intent versus accident
My gut feeling is that cats don’t understand if you accidentally step into them because they don’t comprehend the concept of ‘intent’ but their standard attitude is that if an animal does something it is done deliberately.
If a person deliberately steps on a cat’s tail he has the intent to aggravate or hurt the cat. If he does it accidentally intent is absent. Cats don’t get this difference, in my view.
I’d argue that a domestic cat’s default attitude (standard or automatic attitude) is that there is a purpose in the actions of animals because this applies to all animals including the human animal. It is also inline with the meaning of ‘accident’. Accidents are not meant to happen.
I am not sure cats understand the concept of ‘accident’. Doing something deliberately is far more likely to be understood by a domestic cat because their wildcat ancestor has to survive in the wild and that requires a constant level of intense intent. In deciding what a domestic cat thinks we have to try and figure out what an African wildcat would think because our cat companions have inherited the wildcat’s characteristics.
Although domestic cats don’t comprehend the concept of intent their instinct leads them to believe that all actions have purpose.
Cat decisions based on cat’s behaviour
Also a cat will make decisions like these based on what he or she would do. Their decision is an extension of their behavior. I would argue that domestic cats don’t hurt other cats purely by accident. Therefore they think that other ‘cats’ (human companion acting as surrogate mother) do the same in which case they instinctively believe it is a deliberate action.
A cat will normally trot away or even run away if you accidentally hurt her. Not all cats will though. We have to be clear on that.
In running away a cat possibly has one of two thoughts in her mind (a) my big cat companion (human owner) has been aggressive towards me and it hurt and I am confused as to why it happened (b) he or she did not mean to hurt me but I am going to get away because it’s dangerous. I favour (a).
This morning my cat followed me closely into the kitchen and he was at my feet when I turned around and I had no idea that he was there (it was dark). I walked into him. He made a sound indicating that he felt it and was unhappy about it. He ran into the corner under the cat tree for protection.
I apologised and called him. After about 3 mins he came out and we had a cuddle. I felt that he believed that I had done it on purpose but I may be anthropomorphising him.
The good point it that cats forget quickly and return to their usual trusting self quite soon afterwards normally provided the relationship is a good one. This might in part be because cats don’t hold grudges or do they…..? We are not altogether sure what is going through the mind of our cat companions so we can’t be overly confident when we discuss these topics.
[weaver_breadcrumbs class=’alt-class’ style=’inline-style’]