The BBC has a webpage on the topic as to whether domestic cat judge people. It got me thinking. It’s a tricky subject but I think you have to refer to how people judge other people if you want to answer the question about cats. And when you delve into the world of how people judge other people it is a complicated topic. It’s a very involved human process.
People make judgements about other people based on how warm and competent they are. And the “warmth” element concenrs two ‘sub-judgements’: morality and sociability.
On the issue of morality, we measure a person against society’s norms. Is their treatment of others correct and principled? And honesty, sincerity and trustworthiness are morality judgements.
Do you think a domestic cat process all this to make a quick decision about your behaviour and whether it is morally acceptable? Do you think domestic cat decide whether you are competent or incompetent? On the issue of warmth, they would have an opinion or more accurately they can recognise it.
Domestic cats don’t recognise the concept of warmth in terms of personality but they do recognise the products of warmth namely that they are being given food and treated nicely. In short, whether their human companion is friendly or non-hostile.
The point is that domestic cats don’t judge us. They interact at a shallower plane which is not to criticise them. They don’t crosscheck a person’s behaviour with a grid of society’s norms to work out instantly on a scale of 0-100 how moral they are and whether they have integrity or not.
I guess people don’t do that either, sometimes. A lot of people act instinctively and disregard society’s norms or partially disregard them which results in them behaving badly. And when people judge others, they often do so in a stereotypical manner which misleads them badly. Stereotyping is a terrible barrier to evaluating others and it happens all the time. It leads to racism and ageism, for example.
Often people can’t judge others properly either. Do, you think a domestic cat can do it? I don’t think so.
If domestic cats don’t judge us, how do they relate to us? They relate to us on a mutual benefit basis. This goes back to the origins of the domestication of the wildcat. This was about mutual benefit. Around 10,000 years ago, the semi-domesticated N. African wildcat kept down the rodent population on farms and the farmer ensured that the wildcat was fed and to a certain extent protected. That’s mutual benefit including a bit of companionship as evidenced by cats being buried with their human companions.
That working cat relationship has disappeared and now domestic cats are nearly always about companionship and entertainment for their human companions. But in return for that companionship people give them a home, they love them, feed and cherish them. That’s the relationship between people and cats and neither the person nor the cat judges the other. They just enjoy their relationship. It is one which does not dig deep into morality judgements.
There is nothing more to say. This article should be at the intellectual level of the domestic cat: simple and straightforward. The innocence and uncomplicated behaviour of the domestic cat is what we treasure. It is often superior to the overly complex shenanigans of humans. We love the fact that they don’t judge or have preconceived ideas. It is the simplicity and directness of the human-to-cat relationship which is a joy.
There is probably another point to make: domestic cats are still essentially solitary animals. Although they are more sociable than people give them credit for. But this solitary attitude certainly works against any notion that they might be evaluating people. They don’t have those social skills.
Please join in the conversation. We have to guess the answer to these sorts of questions. Other viewpoints are useful and welcome.
SOME MORE ON THE HUMAN TO CAT RELATIONSHIP: