I’ve been thinking about the fact that people relate to their domestic cat companion as a child and as a member of the family but accept the fact that they can’t communicate with their cat as they would a child. If only we could communicate with language to our cats, how much better the relationship would be. Or perhaps it wouldn’t? There might be more argument, disagreements and friction!
The barrier in communicating with our cat is because of their cognitive abilities and their inability to learn human language. But it is said by the experts that an adult domestic cat has the intelligence of a 2-year-old toddler.
And the reason why babies are much less intelligent than their adult counterparts is because they have to be born with underdeveloped brains to allow them to pass through the birth canal. It’s a practical, size issue. It is expected that a baby’s intelligence will develop outside the mother’s womb. That’s why babies are relatively unintelligent compared to adults.
In between the ages of two and three most children speak two and three word phrases or sentences. They might use around 200 words or even as many as 1000 words. They might start to ask basic questions. In short, they can communicate in human language.
But as mentioned according to experts a 2-year-old toddler has the brainpower of an adult cat. Knowing this, it tells me that if we could communicate with cats in a human language, they would be able to communicate back in that language. The relationship between human and cat would be transformed.
You could ask them to do certain things rather than ‘hitting and hoping’. You could explain to them that they’re going to be safe when they go to the veterinary clinic rather than watching them be terrified because you simply can’t explain what’s going to happen.
Or you might be able to suggest to your cat to do certain things to improve their life. I mean you could communicate your knowledge and intelligence to your cat through language.
That’s not to say that we don’t communicate with our cat. We do through body language, hand signs, sounds, habits, life rhythms etc. – all combined. You can even teach your cat sign language which, by the way, proves that they probably are about as smart as a two-year-old toddler.
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But it is the barrier of human language which interferes with the human-to-cat relationship the most. I’ve referred to “human language”. It could be argued that it is up to humans to learn cat language. But cats don’t have a language. They make sounds and it can be quite a wide range of sounds. We all know the meow, normally a request for something like food. This is a learned vocalisation which evolved during the domestication of the cat. Between themselves, cats don’t meow anywhere near as much as they do between themselves and humans.
But we can’t meow back at them and have a conversation! We can’t learn and employ their language because they do not have a language as such. That said, humans do learn cat communication which as mentioned is a combination of behaviours. However, it is limited. It is a relatively blunt method of communication compared to the refinements of language.
And this limitation is a barrier to developing the relationship. We relate to our cat as a family member. Some people, like myself, interact with our cat on an equal footing to other humans. They have equal rights and are fully integrated into their family. But, and it’s a big but, the barrier to developing the relationship is in language; not so much the cat’s intelligence.
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