Sunday 25 February 2018

You Can't Pretend to Your Cat That You Are Dead

This is an amusing video on YouTube in which the tabby cat's owner fakes his death on the floor of his home to discover how his cat would respond. Would his cat respond in a way consistent with believing that he had died? We have seen, on the Internet, cats grieving for the loss of a fellow cat companion. I remember clearly a very well-known video of a street cat pawing at the lifeless body of another cat who must've been his best friend. He was trying to revive his buddy. It was a heartbreaking video. Most enlightened cat owners and non-cat owners believe that cats grieve and feel the loss of a companion. But what happened in this case?

Well you can see readily from the video that this man's cat is 100% certain that her human companion has not died but has simply decided to have a snooze in an unusual place. As a consequence, she sniffs him and rubs her cheek against his hand as it is at a convenient height and then plonks herself down next to him, in a way almost copying his behavior and then rolling over on her back in the most relaxed of manners in the complete certainty that her human companion is alive and well.

Don't take this video as an example that cats don't grieve or care if their owner dies. It is a difficult subject, there is no doubt about it because we can't read the minds of cats. However, where there is a close bond between cat and human companion and the human dies there is no question in my mind that the cat will feel that loss. He or she may initially feel confused and uncertain and then settle in to her change in fortunes and lifestyle. Associated with that will be a feeling of loss (and grieving) to a lesser or greater extent. We can't be specific.

But you can't fool your cat by faking your death. It makes me think of a cat called Oscar who "worked" in a hospice. He could tell whether one of the patients was dying or not. If the patient was dying he'd jump on his bed and stay with him. Can domestic cats sense when a human is dying? We can't be sure is the answer but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that cats are very sensitive to illnesses in their owners. I'm convinced that your cat will know if you genuinely are dead and lying on the hall floor. In which case her behavior will be different to that which you see in the video!

I can also recall the story of a cat who lay on her owner's grave for a long time after his death. And indeed in another story I recall a cat hanging around the grave of her deceased human companion who had died sometime before. She kept coming back to the graveyard. We are only learning now about some of the specialist skills that domestic cats possess based upon their extreme sensitivity.

One of these, on a different subject, is their ability to track their way home if they have been displaced sometimes by many miles. It is believed that cats can sense the Earth's magnetic field which guides them home but also, in my opinion, they are able to map the geography of the area using landmarks such as major roads to find their way home through those landmarks. This indicates that domestic cats have good memories.

It has been found conclusively using GPS radio transmitters that pigeons find their way home using a variety of tools one of which is the position of the sun, the other is the Earth's magnetic field and the third is the ability to map the geography of the landscape between where they were taken and their home roost. People should not decry and criticize the humble homing pigeon because they are incredibly skilled animals. And they can fly at 60 miles per hour.

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