Why don’t cats have addictions like us?

A colleague of mine asked, “Why don’t cats have addictions like us?”. This is my attempt to answer the question.

Addicted cat

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Human intelligence and dissatisfaction with life

Humans are meant to be intelligent. However, collectively and individually we can look very stupid sometimes. Unlike animals, we have used our intelligence to create drugs which bring us pleasure. Many people are unsatisfied with the pleasure that a natural life can bring.

These drugs can become addictive because they bring instant pleasure: there is a reward in taking them. Some people have addictive personalities while others can control the desire to seek instant pleasure. It depends, too, on whether the person is suffering from conditions such as depression and anxiety.

So the reason why people can become addicted and not cats it’s because people have created drugs (including alcohol and cigarettes), which provide instant gratification. Many humans need to do it because they are unable to tolerate day-to-day living without some sort of pick me up which can lead to addiction.


Cats accept their life unquestioningly. And there are no options or alternatives for the domestic cat. Humans created artificial ways to obtain pleasure. Of course once you buck the natural world there are consequences.

Domestic cats are intelligent too but in a different way. They don’t have the ability or indeed the desire to create drugs which provide instant pleasure and don’t know the meaning of the process. They don’t know about there existence. Like all animals, they obtain satisfaction and contentment from natural events and by doing natural things.

Can domestic cats become addicted?

The question is: can domestic cats become addicted to drugs? I don’t know for sure, but the physiology of the domestic cat is quite similar to that of humans. You could argue that some domestic cats have become somewhat addicted to certain types of food. For example, dry cat food can become a little bit addictive to domestic cats.

Reward behaviors

Some cats prefer to eat dry cat food over better quality cat food because of the ‘addictive’ ingredients that manufacturers put in it. Some cats become ‘addicted’ to treats such as prawns and other human foods. This indicates to me that domestic cats have the ability to become addicted which makes sense because their brains in that way are similar to ours i.e. the dopamine reward system. Research indicates that animals ‘engage in behaviours that increase dopamine release’.

Therefore, if domestic cats had the kind of intelligence that humans have they might become addicted to chemicals which provide instant gratification and pleasure and which would temporarily take them out of the world in which they live. 

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