When domestic cats kill insects are they causing pain to their prey?

A reliable source, Nathan Winograd, tells me that cockroaches can physically suffer. They have a central nervous system i.e. a brain and nerves, and a peripheral nervous system which connects the brain and the spinal cord to the rest of the body. They also have a sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for autonomous responses such as flight or fight. Altogether, this clearly indicates that they can physically suffer. Nathan Winograd says that they can psychologically suffer too. He says this to ask humans not to attach our compassion solely to cute and fluffy animals.

Cat plays with grasshopper
Cat plays with grasshopper. Grasshoppers are non-toxic to cats. Image: Getty.
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.

So, the hardy cockroach can feel pain of a sort. We don’t think that they have a nervous system which allows them to feel pain as humans do. But it seems that they can feel pain in their own way. It’s a bit like cats themselves. We all know that cats feel pain but it is how they interpret it which is important. They seem to be able to interpret it in a way which makes it more tolerable because they’re more stoic than humans. That’s my interpretation.

A plausible explanation on the Reddit.com website states that insects do not have a conscious phenomenology like humans so they won’t feel pain like we do. Phenomenology is the science of phenomena as distinct from that of the nature of being. Does that help? Alternatively, it is described as “an approach that concentrates on the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience”. Does that help?

Anyway, insects have pain receptors so they process pain but once again we question how they process that pain. It might be better described as “adverse stimuli” rather than pain. The purpose of feeling pain is to protect the integrity of the body. To tell the brain that something is wrong and something needs to be done to aid survival. And the purpose of being able to sense adverse stimuli is the same.

It is suggested that pain for insects is a series of stimulus-response actions like the kind of action that people make when they withdraw their hand quickly when they feel a lot of heat.

And we can be fairly sure if not totally sure that insects do not feel emotional pain like people. That’s going too far.

So, if we conclude that insects can feel pain in their own way, when our cat is killing them for fun, we can make the presumption that they are causing pain. That won’t make a jot of difference to how people perceive the domestic cat’s hunting behaviour. It is just a thought. It is extending the range of our beliefs, ideas and perceptions about domestic cats.

A lot of people think that fish don’t feel pain. That’s why we can kill billions of individual fish annually without any conscience whatsoever. They are just inanimate objects swimming in the oceans and seas of the planet. But studies have found quite positively that fish do feel pain.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to be able to somehow create a visual image of one unit of pain? And if you could do that you could add up all the units caused by the pain suffered by fish when they are asphyxiated to death after being removed from their habitat. We would create a mountain of pain made up of billions of units. It might make the point. It’s an important point because there are millions of anglers who like to fish for their entertainment. In enjoying themselves they are causing pain. It’s a thought.

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