A lot of news media have reported on a study, as I have, about domestic cats in which there were compared to domestic dogs. The conclusion of the study was that domestic cats do not evaluate third parties who interact with the companion animals’ owners. To be more specific, if a person interacts with their owner in a negative way the cats do not alter the attitude towards that person whereas dogs do. The dogs sense the negativity and unhelpfulness of people who fail to assist their owner and therefore don’t take food from them. The domestic cats took food from them whether these people were helpful or not.
The scientist said therefore that the cats don’t ‘evaluate’ the third parties by which they mean assess the motivations and behaviour of these unhelpful people who refuse to come to the assistance of their owner. That’s the background and you can read what I say about the study by clicking here.
What I don’t like is that reporters and journalists working for online news media outlets are colouring this research to reflect their personal views about cats, it seems to me. Either that, or they are hyping up the headlines to get more readers. Either way they are presenting the domestic cat in an unhelpful light. Sometimes they are denigrating the cat on the back of this research.
For example, the writer, Ed Cara, on Gizmodo wrote the headline, “Cats Are Just As Disloyal As You Suspected, New Study Suggests.”
If that isn’t denigrating the cat on the back of some scientific research, what is? You can’t say cats are disloyal. That’s extending the study findings beyond reason. And, anyway, we live with cats for companionship. We don’t ask them to fight for us.
Perhaps these journalists feel they can justifiably criticise domestic cats in reference to the dog as their behaviour looks poor. They are not supportive of their owners at a time when they might be.
But in support of the domestic cat, I believe that this is an unfair assessment. The differences in behaviour between the domestic cat and domestic dog under these circumstances partly originates in human behaviour, in conjunction with the solitary nature of the cat compared to the more social and group nature of the domestic dog.
But humans used dogs as working animals starting it is believed about 20,000 years ago. This created a relationship between people and animals which makes them more susceptible to being in tune with what is going on before them in terms of their owner’s interactions with strangers. So part of this difference between cats and dogs as discovered by this study emanates from human behaviour.
And of course we all know that the domestic cat is essentially a solitary animal as inherited from their wild card ancestor. However, the domestic cat is becoming more sociable and has done so over 10,000 years of domestication. Give them another 10,000 years and they will probably behave like domestic dogs under the circumstances of this study.
A lot of the behaviour of cat is in the hands of the behaviour of people and if you agree that then it is difficult to criticise cats.