Sunday 25 February 2018

Who Said Cats Don't Have Emotions?

Here's a video of two cats who I would say are closely related. They have similar coloration and they are clearly very close emotionally. The larger and perhaps senior cat is, on the face of it, comforting the other cat.

They are both in a stressful situation. It is a time when at an emotional level they need some comforting and it is being provided. It is impossible not to believe that these cats are feeling emotions, particularly the emotion that goes with being caged in a cat shelter with noises and strange things happening; anxiety.

The reaction is an emotional one, a desire to comfort and a desire to receive comfort. It is a charming video which I believe supports the view that domestic cats have emotions.

Little by little there is a gradual awakening to the fact that domestic animals feel emotions and indeed a very substantial proportion, well over 50%, of concerned cat owners believe that their cat can feel compassion and a similar percentage although slightly lower believe that they can feel jealousy. These people have a closer bond than usual with their cat.

I'm not sure that this depth of emotion is true or whether the cat owners are projecting their emotions upon their cat but anecdotally it could be argued that domestic cats have the ability to feel what are described as secondary emotions.

The other day I was out for a walk with my neighbor. She has a cat. We discussed cat emotions. She was adamant that cats do not feel emotions. She said that domestic cats behave instinctively. Yes, domestic cats do behave instinctively but that does not preclude the possibility that they feel emotions.

The point that I'm making is that a lot of cat owners are unaware that it is likely that domestic cats feel emotions. The real debate is how deep and how complex they are. It is obvious that domestic cats feel contentment and can feel depressed (often through chronic illness) although pretty well all of us now realize that domestic cats instinctively hide their vulnerabilities in the interests of survival.

There is another argument concerning how over the 10,000 years of the domestication of the cat that they have evolved into possessing a strong ability to learn from their human companions. They observe and learn. This, for example is where we see some domestic cats opening doors by turning the door handle. The point I'm making here is that it may be the case that the domestic cat has developed his or her emotions during domestication. Their behavior is less instinctive than that of their wildcat ancestor. It is more learned in a highly domesticated humanized environment. This should encourage the development and refinement of emotions.

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