I’ve called it “domestic cat facial stereotyping” but it needs explaining. What I’m saying is that the domestic cat evolved to have a very impassive some would say, enigmatic face. Although a recent study tells us that the domestic cat has 276 facial expressions! It’s hard to believe it because normally we see a face which is less expressive than the human’s. And people are used to looking at humans and therefore we tend to measure the domestic cat against the human and this applies to facial expressions as well. It also means that we anthropomorphise cats and expect them to behave like little humans sometimes.
Domestic cat facial stereotyping refers to people sometimes stereotyping the cat as having a certain character because of their impassive face.
Relating to cats as toddlers is unsurprising because to many people, they ARE little toddlers and an essential part of the family unit. But I would argue that the domestic cat’s impassive expression has become a kind of stereotype by which we assess the domestic cat. To some people it can be a little unnerving. This might happen in homes where the human-to-cat relationship is not great. We have to accept that there must be a wide range of degrees of bonding between human cat which always depends on the human’s level of concern and affection for their cat.
The human dictates the relationship and controls the environment which colours the cat’s behaviour which also affects the relationship. My thoughts about the domestic cat facial stereotype comes from an article today in my newspaper, The Times.
It’s entitled: “How certain features leave criminals facing longer sentences”. Yes, it’s about humans and in fact murderers who look untrustworthy. They are more likely to be executed for murder in the US where the study was conducted.
The difference is between the baby-faced murderer and the arch-criminal type murderer with the square wide face which is very much an alpha male sort of face created by piles of testosterone (c.f. the jowly unneutered male cat face).
It’s the latter sort of expression, stereotypical of a criminal, which might encourage a court to punish them more severely as in the US juries have a role in sentencing in death penalty cases. Facial stereotypes can lead to hidden biases in the human world and I think it can lead to human biases in the cat world as well.
RELATED: Stereotyping cats because of their coat colour – stereotyping can also occur because of the cat’s coat colour.
The domestic cat does have certain characteristics which both lend it to great relationships with humans and also sometimes create a barrier to the relationship. People need to recognise them. They need to get beyond the facial stereotype and enjoy the warmth of the relationship.
Cats can be very expressive in their behaviour towards their caregiver. I’ve just written about domestic cat hand signals; the paw tap request as one example of communicating between cats and people.
Body language, and behaviours in context are great forms of communication. They facilitate the human-to-cat relationship but the fact that the domestic cat is a top predator and is armed with weapons; claws and teeth, presents a barrier to the relationship. The barrier is so great for some that they remove their cat’s claws which for me is a horrific operation and indicative of human failure and a failure in cat domestication.
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