Categories: companionship

What is the purpose of cats?

The question is directed at domestic cats. The purpose of domestic cats has changed since they were domesticated but they hang on to their original role. This has caused a certain amount of consternation among some cat owners and the wider public. The original purpose of cats from about nine thousand years ago was for them to be independent hunters and rodent controllers. This working relationship with humans held good for thousands of years.

Companionship. Picture in public domain

Nowadays the primary purpose for the existence of domestic cats is to be a companion to humans in their homes and to make them smile. They usually carry out this role admirably. But as mentioned it is a changed role. Some owners aren’t tolerant of domestic cats retaining their previous role or merging the two. The domestic cat is still on a journey of domestication. Their former self holds them back in terms of being a companion.

Under these circumstances the domestic cat’s normal behaviour may become inconvenient to their owners. Some owners will regard natural domestic cat behaviour as problematic. They will try and modify it to suit themselves. Or it may involve the modification of the cat’s social and physical environment to accommodate natural feline behaviours. Normally, however, natural feline behaviours have to fit in with a human environment which is not altogether suited.

When a cat does try and fit in to the human environment it may cause stress leading to problematic behaviour with accompanying detrimental aspects such as over grooming, inappropriate elimination or indoor marking. This may lead to punishment. We know that punishment is inappropriate for a domestic cat. It may well make matters worse. It might alienate the owner from the cat at its worst.

The point being made is that the purpose of the domestic cat is to be a companion. However, the domestic cat’s personality is has not entirely evolved into that role. Domestic cats are still playing the original role when they can i.e. when the opportunity arises such as when they have access to the outside. If they don’t have this facility this innate desire is contained and subdued within them. This is a potential point of friction, a problem. It is, therefore, worthwhile asking the question as to the purpose of cats in the modern age.

It could be argued that their purpose as a companion is not entirely compatible with their natural desires and behaviour. Or to put it another way, companionship is one aspect of their character but they need more outlets and in some instances they are not given those outlets.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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