I’m going to play devil’s advocate. Don’t get me wrong, I am very much for the domestic cat and the domestic cat’s welfare but it does occur to me that we are living with one of the world’s top predators which begs the question whether we should be. The domestic cat is hardwired for predation. It’s their whole being; their raison d’être. It is what they are designed to do. They have to do it. It is part of their life but it is subdued by domestication. It is subdued almost to the point where it is not apparent in full-time indoor cats. But the desire is still there and unsatisfied within very many domestic cats. And I think that people loose sight of this. We tend to look at domestic cats as fluffy, cute, independent creatures who are companions to us which is true; but and it’s a big but, we are living with a top level predator who needs to express the desire to hunt and kill. This is why sometimes domestic cats attack people’s hands or feet. This is why they need to play which is basically hunting. This is why they arguably need to go outside and not be confined. This is why in Britain cat owners like to let their cats roam because they feel that they need to express their predatory instincts. But if you do that you place the cat in a hazardous environment, so we have a dilemma, an intractable dilemma which can never be resolved.
There is another aspect to this argument which comes to mind. The human’s predilection for good-looking objects has led us to breed wild cat hybrids with startlingly beautiful coats such as the Bengal cat. There’s wild cat genes in these cats. This makes the cat even more of a predator; the cat has a more outward desire to express his or her predatory instincts. Going forward in the 21st century is this a good idea? I think people need animal companions which are more suited to indoor living. We need companion animals who have less of a predatory instinct and are more attuned to companionship. Let’s also not forget that domestic cats, although adaptable and have become quite good at communal living, are essentially solitary, independent animals. They don’t get on that well with other cats. We have a topline predator who doesn’t get on with other cats and we’re living with this animal. Is that a good idea?
I think these conflicts do create a problem in our relationship with domestic cats. It is an underlying reason why quite a lot of people relinquish their cats to cat shelters. They don’t get on with their cat. Behavioural problems are an issue for some people. They love the look of a cat or a kitten and then fall out of love with their cat when he or she demonstrates her natural behaviour which is underpinned, as I’ve said, by a desire to hunt and be solitary.
Domestication of the cat is changing the cat and therefore perhaps in 200 or more years time the domestic cat may have lost his desire to hunt and arguably at that time there will be a better relationship between human and domestic.
There are too many people who adopt cats who are not really fully attuned to domestic cat behaviour. And all the toys in the world designed for cats cannot substitute the real thing. Even a nice compromise such as a fully enclosed garden to allow a domestic cat to have indoor and outdoor space does not really meet the cat’s needs. The compromise is in some respects a failure. It is a compromise which suits the cat’s owner because it brings peace of mind. But a cat doesn’t realise that he is being protected, that he is safer in confinement. He just wants to express his inherent desires and is unconcerned about the potential dangers. Cats don’t care about death, that’s the argument I made in a previous article. It is people, cat owners, who are concerned about the cat’s death
Should we live with a topline predator? There was a time at the beginning of the domestication of the wild cat when the fact that the cat is an efficient predator was very useful. It was their purpose. They did not live within the home but within the community and provided some companionship as well. The primary purpose of the relationship was to reduce the rodent population for the benefit of farmers. Now the primary purpose of our relationship with the domestic cat is companionship and the predation element of the cat’s character becomes a nuisance. It is an obstacle to a calm relationship and it places demands upon the cat’s guardian/caretaker which can get in the way of a solid relationship.
What is the purpose of this article, you may be asking? It is to make people more aware of what our feline companion really is. To make people more aware of the domestic cat’s behaviour and what they have to do to be content. In general, cat owners, I believe, need to be more sensitive and aware of what is going on inside their cat’s head as it will improve our relationship, improve cat welfare, reduce cat relinquishment, reduce the number of unwanted cats and therefore reduce the number of feral cats.