Size difference between humans and cats makes them vulnerable and fearful, a dog study suggests

I have always believed that we don’t give enough credence to the possibility that the size difference between humans and domestic cats can make them feel vulnerable and potentially fearful depending on their confidence levels. I believe that this size difference is a major underlying factor in the quality of our relationship. It’s a factor which we almost totally ignore because recognise it mainly because we are so much bigger. It does not present a problem to us. But what if we lived in the home of a giant who was 10-20 times taller than us and every object in it was super-sized? How do you think we would feel?

In fact, you could add to that feeling of potential vulnerability by stating the obvious, namely that the domestic cat is entirely dependent upon their human caretaker. They are dependent upon their owner for their food, security, safety and warmth; you name it. This places the domestic cat further into a position of dependence and therefore vulnerability.

Domestic cats may feel vulnerable because of the enormous size difference
Domestic cats may feel vulnerable because of the enormous size difference. Ragdoll looking up. They are always looking up at us. Image by Blue-Heaven from Pixabay .
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

My point, which I have repeated quite a few times (I apologise the repetition), has been reinforced, I believe, by an article in The Times newspaper today, May 5, which lists the most aggressive and least aggressive dogs. The overall conclusion is that small dogs are the most aggressive. And the suggested reason for that finding is that some small dogs may be fearful due to their vulnerability which in turn is due to their diminutive size.

Bill Lambert of the Kennel Club said: “They are more vulnerable, even to being trodden on. They live in a world of bigger things, so there is a possibility that they may be more fearful to start off with”. A common sense conclusion. It is not fact but a suggestion.

The human analogy is the competitive, vertically challenged man who feels that he has to be more competitive than a normal-sized man because size counts in the male human world. Therefore to make up for their size-disadvantage they are more competitive and sometimes more aggressive. I think this human analogy fits in quite well with the arguments presented above.

The study, which was conducted at the University of Helsinki, found that the most aggressive dogs are:

  1. Rough collie
  2. Miniature poodle
  3. Miniature schnauzer
  4. German shepherd
  5. Spanish water dog
  6. Lagotto Romagnolo
  7. Chinese crested

The least aggressive dogs are:

  1. Labrador retriever
  2. Golden retriever
  3. Lapponian herder
  4. Shetland sheepdog
  5. Staffordshire bull terrier
  6. Jack Russell terrier
  7. Smooth collie

If I am correct, what should we do about it? I’m drawn to the obvious conclusion which is that we should behave gently when interacting with our cats. We should occasionally get down to their level. Interestingly, from my perspective, we automatically get down to their level if they join us on our bed. This is another reason why we should allow our domestic cats to come onto our bed.

The other, which I have cited often before, is that our bed clothes smell very strongly of us and therefore this item of furniture is particularly attractive to a domestic cat. They can immerse themselves in that scent and perform ‘scent exchange’ which means they put their owner’s scent onto them and their scent onto the bed clothes. So let your cat go onto your bed with you at night and in the morning and evening. Or do a bit of Pilates on your living room floor because your cat is almost bound to join you.

And, do what I do and feed your cat on the kitchen counter! That will rile a lot of people but at least it puts your cat up to your level and therefore, arguably, they will feel more relaxed when feeding. That may encourage feeding for all I know. Overall it is simply a question of taking note of this possibility that domestic cats may feel this size difference more than we believe or are aware of.

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